Hot wheels vs Smart wheels
Friday, May 18, 2012

How to find a safe car for your teen

When the time comes to purchase a car, your teenagers might be dreaming of hot wheels. They may be thinking sporty, while you’re looking for reliability and affordability.

In the US, according to a recent survey commissioned by United Services Automobile Association (USAA), 81 percent of parents put reliability first when choosing a vehicle for a teen, followed by a high safety rating and affordable auto insurance.

Mother of two and 
automotive expert Lauren Fix understands those results. “I can replace cars, but I can’t replace a kid,” says Fix, known as The 
Car Coach.

Use these tips to help you and your teen settle on a car that fits your budget and offers you peace of mind.

New or used?

The price may be right 
for used cars, but they may lack technological safeguards. Newer cars tend 
to have the high-tech safety systems that reassure parents. Electronic Stability Control (ESC), which helps drivers maintain control 
of a vehicle, is standard regulation in all 2012 cars. Front air bags are mandated, and though not required by the government, side air bags are standard in many new cars. Some models have back-up collision intervention that can apply the brakes before the driver does.

There’s no retro-fitting for most safety features, notes Fix. “You can always tint windows and add seat covers,” she says. “You can’t add ESC or air bags.” Rearview cameras can be installed after the fact, but Fix warns the monitor is typically smaller than manufacturer-installed versions.

The bigger picture

Looking beyond technology, enlist your young drivers to help with a little more research before you make a purchase. Whether new or used, make sure the price is right. Use online resources to compare the sticker price. Ask a trusted mechanic to inspect a used car. Also, investigate insurance costs.

Teach responsibility

Once you and your teens have decided on a car, explain the final requirements before your young drivers take the wheel. For instance, insist they learn basic car maintenance, such as how to check the oil and tire pressure, change a tire or at least use tire-inflating products.

Also discuss how teens can help pay for insurance and gas, and together establish the rules they’ll follow on the road.

You want your children to drive a car that’s not in and out of the repair shop and that’s safer on the road. But you also want them to take responsibility for the vehicle. “You want to make sure your teen has a vested interest in the car,” Fix says.


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