Teen drivers are inexperienced drivers. They are the drivers who are most likely to admit to texting behind the wheel. They are also the drivers most likely to be involved in a serious auto accident.

When you hand over the keys to the new driver in your home, you are taking a risk. Putting your teen in the safest vehicle possible can only work to calm your nerves as you see the teen head off to school or work behind the wheel.

Parents often buy a used vehicle for their new driver. Rarely are teens driving the latest car models. It is understandable that parents want to save money. However, older vehicles simply are not always the safest.

Old Vehicles, Old Safety Technology

Technology moves at breakneck speeds. This is definitely true in the auto industry. New safety features evolve with each model year. Still, while parents definitely want their child to be safe, they rarely take safety into consideration when choosing a vehicle for them.

Between 2008 and 2012, nearly 30 percent of fatally injured drivers ages 15 to 17 were behind the wheels of small cars or mini-cars. Also, 82 percent of those fatally injured teens were in vehicles that were at least six years old.

However, a new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) states that, among 500 parents who participated in a recent survey, 28 percent bought small cars or mini cars for their teen drivers. More than half of the purchased cars were from the year 2006 or earlier.

Guidelines for Buying Your Teen a Used Car

In order to help parents make safer choices when buying a used car for their teen drivers, the IIHS makes several recommendations:

  • Choose a vehicle that is big and heavy. Small cars and mini-cars may fit your child’s personality and may be more cost-effective, but they are far less likely to protect your teen in the event of a crash.
  • Avoid vehicles with high horsepower. Fast cars are fun to drive, but teens do not need the extra speed. Stick to those with more modest engines.
  • Only consider those with electronic stability control. ESC helps a driver maintain control of a vehicle and can reduce injury risk at a level on par with wearing a safety belt.
  • Always review a vehicle’s safety ratings. Some vehicles are simply safer than others. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and IIHS both offer safety ratings that are worth checking before you sign on the dotted line.

Dealing with Cost Concerns

Not all parents can afford to purchase their teen a vehicle with the latest technology and features. But that should not preclude parents from choosing a vehicle that is safe. In its latest list of the safest vehicles for teens, the IIHS provides numerous options under $10,000 and even a few under $5,300.

When you consider how your insurance costs will rise with a teen on your policy, saving money on a car seems like a logical trade-off. Just be certain the bargain you find won’t put your child’s safety at risk in the long run.


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