How to choose the right vehicle for a teenage driver

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This article was originally posted on economical.com.

For a teenager, a driver’s licence is more than a new card for their wallet –– it’s a rite of passage. For many, once they’ve got that permit in their hands, they turn their sights to finding a vehicle of their own. Even if they work hard to purchase it themselves, parents will often take part in helping with the selection of their vehicle. So how do you choose the right vehicle for your teenage driver? Consider these factors before making a decision.

Should you buy a new car or a used car for your teen?

When it comes to finding the right car for a teenage driver, there are pros and cons to both new and used vehicles — but ultimately, your decision will likely come down to budget and your teen’s driving habits. If they will generally be staying close to home, a basic (but reliable!) used vehicle might be all they need. But if they’re going away to school and plan on driving a fair distance to come home every weekend, a new vehicle that gets better gas mileage and is equipped with the latest safety features might be a smarter choice (if it fits in your budget). At the end of the day, a gently used vehicle will likely do the trick for most new drivers — and it’ll probably be more affordable, too. If you do decide to go the used car route, consider these tips to make sure the vehicle you’re considering is the right one for your teen.

What safety features are important for teenage drivers?

Many modern vehicles are equipped with built-in safety technology, from rear-view cameras, which help drivers back up safely, to blind spot detection technology, which assists with safe lane changes. While all of these driver assistance systems have benefits, when it comes to teen drivers, the most critical might be a hands-free cellphone connection. According to Statistics Canada, distracted driving contributed to an estimated 21% of fatal collisions and 27% of serious injury collisions in 2016. It’s also been estimated that you are 23 times more likely to be involved in a collision if you text and four times more likely if you talk on a cellphone while driving. While staying off your device entirely while driving is the best option, having a hands-free connection is an important consideration when choosing a vehicle. While many safety features lead to built-in savings when it comes to insurance premiums, check with your group’s broker to see if your teen could qualify for any car insurance discounts if they install any after-market safety products (like a security system, for example).

What should you look for when taking a test-drive with your teen?

Whether you’re considering a new vehicle or one that’s been previously owned, it’s important to do your due diligence by researching the vehicle’s features, safety ratings, and reviews. Regardless of what you find out, the best way to determine if a vehicle is right for your teen is to put them behind the wheel to see how they’re able to handle it. Here are a few things to consider during the test-drive:
  1. Determine how comfortable the vehicle is for your teen to drive. For example, how easy is it to adjust the driver’s seat and steering wheel? If they’re over six feet tall, a compact car might not be the best option, even if seats are pushed all the way back.
  2. Pay close attention to the vehicle’s brakes. Are they touchy, or do they require a more forceful foot to stop quickly? Make sure your teen is comfortable with how the brakes feel before you commit to making a purchase.
  3. Look for how your teen is able to manage the vehicle’s steering. How well does the vehicle respond to sharp turns or quick maneuvers?
  4. Test how well they can manage the vehicle for a variety of scenarios. Have your teen try out parallel parking, backing into a parking spot, and merging onto a highway.

If you’re unsure about anything, from warranty to safety standards, ask the salesperson for clarification.

How can you make sure you're getting the right price for your teen's vehicle?

Make sure you’re getting a fair price on your teen’s vehicle by spending some time doing research before stepping foot onto a car lot. With numerous credible resources available online, a little research should give you a good handle on what’s available in your price range and help you recognize when a vehicle is overpriced. If you’re looking at purchasing a new vehicle, search for the invoice price versus the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). The invoice price is what the dealership will have paid for the vehicle, which could come in handy if you’re looking to negotiate. If you’re considering a used vehicle, research recent resale prices in your area for that specific make, model, and year. Arming yourself with these details will help ensure that you’re getting the best price for the vehicle you choose.

What should you know about buying car insurance for your teen's vehicle?

Before finalizing your decision, speak with your group’s licensed car insurance broker to find out what insurance costs will look like on a new or used vehicle, and ask if your teen qualifies for any car insurance discounts. For example, some insurance companies offer discounts for students who get good grades in school, and others if a new driver has completed a certified driver’s training course. And remember, it’s important to make sure that when you get insurance, the right name is on the policy. For example, if the vehicle ownership is in your name, but your teenager is the one driving the car on a daily basis, they need to be listed as the primary driver. On the other hand, if the vehicle ownership is in the teen’s name, they need to purchase the insurance policy to go with it and be listed as the primary driver. If you have any questions about insuring your teen’s vehicle, contact your group’s broker today.

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