buying a car for your teenWhether you’re doing the buying or whether your child is purchasing with his or her own money, getting that first vehicle is a big deal. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety indicates that used vehicles comprise 83% of purchases for first-time owners. Because price is often the most overriding consideration, wise choices aren’t always made, resulting in the purchase of a car that is poorly matched to the teens’ driving skills.

The IIHS’s 2014 survey found that teens most often drive small or subcompact cars that don’t offer good crash protection along with older cars from model year 2006 or older that don’t have as many safety features like electronic stability control or side air bags. Statistics show that among drivers aged 15 to 17 who were fatally injured in crashes from 2008 through 2012, 29% were behind the wheel of small or subcompact cars.

When shopping for used cars for teens, parents should take the following guidelines into consideration:
• Avoid vehicles with high horsepower that will tempt your young driver into speeding or participating in drag racing
• Choose larger vehicles with sufficient mass to protect occupants in the event of an accident
• Find vehicles equipped with electronic stability control, which helps drivers of all abilities maintain control on curves, turns and on slippery surfaces
• Make sure that the vehicle you are considering for purchase has been repaired if it has been on a recall list

Late-model used cars will have front and size airbags, anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control. At the same time, their power and performance won’t overwhelm new drivers. Vehicles such as Mustangs and similar sports cars, BMWs and SUVs are big and powerful and are difficult for even experienced drivers to control. In the hands of younger drivers, they can become deadly.

IIHS found that parents spend an average of $9,800 on a vehicle for a teen; median point of purchase for teens is far lower at $5,300. The institute recommends that parents consider the risks that teens tend to take and consider paying more for a vehicle. IIHS developed its list of best used cars for teens by reviewing crash ratings and safety features along with price data from Kelley Blue Book. The list of vehicles considered “best choices” for less than $20,000 have good ratings for side crash protection, head protection and seats for rear rash protection. Vehicles considered “good choices for less than $10,000 have good or acceptable side crash protection and head restraints rated better than poor.