Like graduation day, the day your teenager gets their first car is another major rite of passage. Teaching your teenager responsibility may seem like a full-time job.
When your child asked you for a puppy, or worse, returned with a stray puppy, you heard the age-old pronouncement of “I’ll take care of it, I promise!” The real question was whether mom and dad wanted a puppy, because children don’t understand the kind of responsibility that comes with taking care of a pet. In the end, you probably took care of their first furry friend, but you’re not going to take care of their first car, are you?
Starting With the Right Car
Unsurprisingly, teenagers typically want a stylish car, or something similar to what their friends are driving. Whether they have their heart set on a practical sedan or a classic car, teach them how to choose the right car: one that has a combination of safety and reliability. This certainly doesn’t have to mean “a new car,” but more simply, a well-maintained car from a reliable automaker.
- Safety: After looking at some of the newest car safety features, one might jump to the conclusion that buying the newest model is key to having the safest vehicle. There are plenty of used cars that offer exceptional safety. Help your teenager do their research to find a car with acceptable safety features that are within their budget.
While active and passive safety features offer an extra safety margin, good driver habits can make those systems even more effective. For example, airbags and electronic stability controls are nice, but aren’t nearly as effective if your teen doesn’t wear their seat belt or has a lead foot.
- Reliability: While some studies have shown that the most reliable cars are Japanese, this doesn’t rule out some American or European cars. When considering a used car for your teen, be keen on looking for a well-maintained vehicle, no matter what the brand. Encourage your teen to take test drives and to have their car checked by a mechanic.
Keeping That First Car in Good Condition
After your child plunks down their hard-earned cash — and maybe even some of yours — on their first car, teach them how to take care of it.
- Maintenance: All cars, like all puppies, need regular maintenance. Make sure your teen knows the consequences of not keeping up with a maintenance schedule. No oil changes means no engine. Teach them to check and adjust tire pressure weekly to keep tires from wearing too quickly and maintain optimal fuel economy. In addition to setting aside a maintenance budget, help your teen recognize the need to save for the unforeseen, such as a tire blowout or a check engine light.
- Be Observant: Teach your teen to be observant. Make sure they get plenty of time behind the wheel of the family car so they will know how a good car handles and sounds. Teach them how to observe unusual sounds, smells or sensations in their own car. Paying attention to these will prevent costlier repairs in the future.
Teaching your teenager responsibility is the most crucial job you have as a parent. You’ve already taught them to be safe while driving, so don’t forgot how vital it will be to ensure they know their way around their first car. It will save money and help keep them safer as they explore the new freedom that comes with owning their own car.
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 car maintenance, 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.