For most families, if a car for a teen is in the budget at all, the car will almost certainly be used. However, new cars include advanced technology that keeps teens safe, technology lacking in many used cars. The following guidelines help parents choose a new or used car that will keep their teens safe and won’t jack up their insurance rates.
Find the Right Balance
Teens gravitate toward good-looking cars with power. Parents are often constrained by budget and safety concerns. It’s not necessary to appease a teen’s desire for a sports car or a pickup truck. But parents should also avoid going too cheap. Old cars are often called “clunkers” for a reason. Instead, parents should opt for the newest and most reliable used car model they can afford.
Why newer cars are the safer choice
Both new and used cars for teen drivers should include key safety features, according to Ronald Montoya, Senior Consumer Advice Editor for Edmunds.
“For teen drivers, your goal should be to find a vehicle that strikes the balance between reliability, vehicle size, and standard safety features. Look for a midsized sedan or a smaller SUV for example. Stick with the base engine that offers enough power to get around but not enough to get into too much trouble. Keep an eye out for safety features such as blind-spot monitoring, stability control, and backup cameras,” Montoya said.
Curtain airbags and electronic stability control (ESC) are a must, according to Consumer Reports. ESC uses a car’s brakes to prevent sliding during a turn. Consumer Reports also recommends cars with forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking. Cars.com adds recommendations for lane departure warnings, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert. The latter feature is activated when backing up to spot objects behind the car.
Choosing the Right Car
Japanese manufacturers like Toyota have a long-standing reputation for producing outstanding models. However, American manufacturers also produce excellent cars, according to Carlos Lago, Editor at Edmunds.
“Though not a specific model, GM has teen driving safety features available across its lineup. The suite of features does a variety of things, like locking out shifting after key-up if a seat belt isn't buckled, makes visual/audio warnings when a set speed is exceeded and has limits for speed (85 mph) and the top audio volume,” Lago said.
Whether searching for new or used cars, the internet is a powerful research tool. Websites such as Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book, and Consumer Reports provide a wealth of. Parents should also research individual dealerships to compare individual vehicles.
In shopping for a used car, parents should be aware of the Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975. Commonly known as the “Lemon Law”, it provides protection against vehicles that fail immediately after being purchased. Each state and the District of Columbia has its own version of the Lemon Law. A summary is available through the Better Business Bureau.
5 Great Used Cars
The following five used cars are highly rated, budget-friendly, and include important safety features, often as standard equipment.
2014 Honda Accord
The Hond Accord features a rearview camera and right-side blind spot camera as standard features. Lane departure and forward collision warning systems are optional. The average price is about $16,000.
2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid
The Ford Fusion Hybrid features airbags and available inflatable seat belts. Prices range from about $15,000 for basic models to $18,000 with added features.
2013 Volkswagen GTI
The Volkswagen GTI features precise steering and handling — important features for teen drivers. Six-speed manual transmission is standard; an automatic transmission is optional. The average price is just $14,000.
2014 Mazda 3
The Mazda 3 features available blind-spot monitoring, a rearview camera, and forward-collision warning. It averages about $13,000.
2016 Toyota Rav4 Crossover
The Rav4 Crossover features available all-wheel drive, which is very desirable for rough terrain or inclement weather. It averages about $21,000.
5 Great New Cars
If the budget allows for a new car, the following five models are tough to beat for safety and value.
The Kia Soul features optional forward auto-braking, blind-spot and lane-departure warnings, and adaptive cruise control. Average price $18,000.
The Elantra features optional forward auto-braking with pedestrian detection and lane-keeping and blind-spot monitoring features. Also priced at about $18,000.
Subaru Impreza hatchback or sedan
The Impreza features standard all-wheel drive. Optional features include adaptive cruise control, forward and reverse auto braking, lane departure, lane-keeping, blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive headlamps. It costs about $20,000.
The Corolla includes forward auto-braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning with steering assist, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high-beam headlights, all standard. Its base price is about $20,000.
Kia Sportage Crossover
The Sportage is stylish and features optional all-wheel-drive, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, and lane departure warning system. Its based model is priced at about $25,000.
The Best Cars for Teens (and Parents' Budgets)
The idea of a newly licensed teen behind the wheel is anxiety-producing for many parents. Adding teen drivers can also be expensive where insurance is concerned. Choosing the right car can reduce both anxiety and the hit to household auto insurance rates. Whether new or used, cars should include basic safety features such as airbags. Shopping around helps to ensure that parents get the best value for money — and a safe car for their teens.