Think back to when you were first learning to drive. Getting your first car was a memorable experience, right? Your teen’s experience with their first car is going to be exactly the same way. As a parent, though, considering the safety, price and reliability options can keep you up at night. However, your teen’s first car experience doesn’t have to be stressful for you. In fact, it can be all the wonder and freedom that it should be, starting with the basics.
Deciding whether to buy a new or a used car for your teen is one of the first considerations you need to make. Newer cars usually have more safety features, but they’ll be more expensive. Still, it’s nice to have a warranty in case something breaks.
Used cars can have an exceptional value because they’ve already been depreciated — but be wary of the age. Classic cars and older vehicles may be affordable, but they lack many of the safety features that even late-model used vehicles are equipped with, such as airbags, anti-lock brakes, tire pressure monitoring or electronic stability control. Up to five years old is a good starting point.
Ask most teens for a description of what they are looking for in their first car, and you’ll hear something along the lines of “cool” or “fast,” but “safe” isn’t usually on their list. There’s nothing wrong with something fun to drive, but your teen may not be ready for the keys to a 500-horsepower sports car.
Check out the specs on any car you are considering. More power generally translates to more speed, and it’s all too tempting for a teen driver to test his/her limits. The problem is experience, and teens just don’t have it. It takes years to develop the driving skills needed to control that much power, and it doesn’t take much inexperience to push a car past its limits.
Size is important for a couple of reasons. A larger car means there’s extra room for more friends and ultimately more distractions. More distractions can increase the risk of an accident. Econo-coupes and pickup trucks only have room for two people, which can greatly reduce distractions. SUVs are typically seen as safer, but they’re also top-heavy and potentially dangerous if not handled carefully.
Perhaps the best thing you can do for your teen is to set a good driving example, which they’ll hopefully imitate. Spend time in the car with your teen, both as a driver and as a passenger, and open the lines of communication about driving. Talk about the great responsibility that your teen’s first car entails. Then relax and enjoy the ride!
Check out all the maintenance parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on picking out your teen’s first car, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
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Ben has been taking things apart since he was 5, and putting them back together again since he was 8. After dabbling in DIY repairs at home and on the farm, he found his calling in the CGCC Automobile Repair program. After he held his ASE CMAT for 10 years, Ben decided he needed a change. Now, he writes on automotive topics across the web and around the world, including new automotive technology, transportation legislation, emissions, fuel economy and auto repair.