Teenage drivers are already at a higher risk of accidents than adult drivers are – they don’t need unreasonably dangerous vehicles making crashes even more likely. Car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One of the best ways you can protect your teenager while he or she is on the road is with the safest possible vehicle. Follow these tips to select the right type of car for your teen. It could end up saving his or her life.
Look for Excellent Crash Protection Ratings
Before opting for the cheapest vehicle you can find for your teen driver, consider how safe the vehicle would be in the event of an accident. No parent likes to think about the possibility of a crash, but the reality is that thinking ahead and preparing for the worst could save a life. Look at the crash safety and vehicle safety ratings for the vehicle you’re thinking about purchasing.
You can also search ratings by manufacturer or use the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)’s vehicle comparison tool to see how one car stacks up to the competition. Aim to purchase the vehicle with the best safety and crash ratings within your price range. That way you can still get a good deal without compromising your child’s safety in the event of an accident.
Purchase Used Cars With Care
A report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) revealed a surprising fact: 83% of parents are buying used cars for teen drivers – more than 50% of which are model years 2006 and older. Older vehicles do not have the safety features newer cars possess, such as side airbags. While used cars aren’t necessarily dangerous for teens, they can be if they lack important safety features or come with a poor maintenance history. A vehicle that has existing (possibly hidden) issues could lead to a crash in the future.
The IIHS put together a list of vehicles it considers safe for teens and affordable for parents on a budget. The vehicles on the list stay between less than $5,000 and $20,000. Vehicles included are the Volkswagen Jetta (2009 or later) for $8,200, Volvo S80 (2007 or later) for $9,000, and Dodge Journey (2010 or later) for $11,200. Keep in mind that the IIHS published the report four years ago, so tack four years onto the recommended model years.
Go With Mid- and Full-Size Passenger Cars
The IIHS report also found that 28% of parents purchase small or mini cars for their teenaged drivers. While smaller vehicles might be better on gas, they aren’t always the safest option. Smaller vehicles are more likely to sustain significant damage in a wreck. Going large just for the sake of size, however, can be equally dangerous. Pickup trucks and SUVs, for example, have high rollover risks. The best choices are mid- to full-size passenger cars that have reasonable size and weight but low rollover risk.
Search for Safety Features
Finally, search for a vehicle with top-tier safety features to keep your teen safe. Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is one of the most important features for teenage drivers, as it helps them maintain control of the vehicle. Side airbags, an antilock braking system (ABS), and seatbelt reminder systems are also important.