The Drama, The Trauma and the Joy -- the First Car!

It’s back-to-school time and many parents are considering buying their teen their first car. This is both exciting and terrifying. You worry, not only because of their inexperience, but because of other drivers and their bad habits. Picking out a car can be difficult. Your teen wants a cool ride, while you’re on the hunt for a cool price tag. There are a dizzying array of safety features, tracking systems and car-assist functions that make it difficult to decide what’s necessary and what’s an expensive add-on.

Educate Your Teen

While a Driver’s Education course is a requirement to get a permit in Louisiana, it is important that you make sure your teen takes this seriously. Plus, it can save money on insurance rates. Your teen’s most powerful influence is you. Be aware of your own driving behaviors. If you speed, tailgate, text or yell at others on the road, there’s a greater chance your child will do the same thing.

Buy a Car That Embarrasses Your Teen. Well, Sort Of.

While your teen may want flashy colors, big engines and room for lots of kids, research shows that the risk of a crash increases with multiple kids in the car. Throw in an engine designed for speeding and you have a recipe for disaster. Look for a car that is big enough to provide crash protection, an engine that won’t break the sound barrier and one that a teen won’t be too excited to show off to their friends. Big, boring, slow -- safety before vanity, sorry, not sorry, teens.

Do Your Research

  1. Get Your Teen Involved. Searching on your own may seem like an easier route, but getting your teen involved can be time well spent. They learn about the auto industry (i.e. fuel economy, safety ratings, etc.) and budgeting skills (credit scores, credit reports, insurance, registration fees) Let them be involved in the test drives and compare pros and cons of a vehicle.
  2. Look for Safety. Getting a safe car is essential. Per mile driven, teen drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are 4 times more likely to crash than older drivers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sheer size isn’t the most important factor. Consider crash test results and the safety features the vehicle offers. Crash test information can be found at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Look at quality and reliability ratings from J. D. Power and Associates.
  3. Look for features such as Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Forward Collision Warning, Electronic Stability and Curtain Airbags. Electronic Stability control reduces the risk of injury at a level comparable to wearing a seat belt according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

New or Used?

Of course, your teen wants the latest style, BUT, there are some things to consider.

New vehicles are more reliable, cost less to maintain initially, come with the latest features, can be customized and usually have a bumper-to-bumper warranty. The biggest upside for a used vehicle is economic. Most cost less than a new one. Insurance cost are lessened. Be sure to have it checked before you buy. While the choice is up to you, most financial experts recommend buying your teen a used vehicle within reason. A vehicle between 3 and 5 years old will come with a more affordable price tag and still include effective safety technology.

A Few More Thoughts

  1. Share the Costs. Find a way your teen can share in the expenses of the car by contributing to the costs for gas, insurance of a portion of the payment. This can be with cash from a part-time job or from jobs and responsibilities at home.
  2. Prioritize Fuel Efficiency. Look for a car to reduce the cost of a fill-up. If your child has to pay for their own gas, they will thank you.
  3. Technology Features. Some are great, some you may want to think about. Phone to car interfaces can provide hands free talking, but be sure it doesn’t make it easier to read or send text behind the wheel. One car manufacturer will notify the vehicle’s owner if the car has been driven beyond certain boundaries or after certain hours. Some features, like the radio turning off when a car is over the speed limit can be helpful to your teen. You can also get text alerts when your teen is speeding. Consider a GPS system.

Chances are you will never be completely ready to send your child off on their own in a car, but that time will come none the less. It may help a little to know that you helped them get the skills they need to feel confident behind the wheel, provided them with the safest vehicle possible and taught them to appreciate the privilege of driving.

Sources: www.bankrate.com; www.scarymommy.com; www.goauto.ca/blog (*Annual Percentage Rate. Some Restrictions Apply. Limited Time Offers)

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