Our daughter, Melissa, recently turned 16 and we went through the same emotions most parents experience when their teen receives a driver’s license. Fear because “She’s driving!” and joy because “I don’t have to drive her everywhere anymore!” As owners of Pellman’s Automotive Service one of the most frequent questions we get asked is “What car would you recommend for my teenager?” And, now we know first hand what it’s like to go through the process of researching, selecting and buying a used car specifically for a teen.
When we started shopping for our daughter we were looking for a car with these qualities:
- Safe and able to withstand some abuse from an inexperienced driver
A few months after our daughter, Melissa, got her license a driver ran a stop sign and slammed into the side of her car. Fortunately no one was injured and the car was easily repaired. But we are grateful we paid close attention to selecting a car for Melissa with as many safety features as we could find.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says, 16- to 19-year-olds have four times the risk of being involved in a car crash than older drivers.
“Young novice drivers are at significant risk on the road because they lack both the judgment that comes with maturity and the skill that comes with experience,” according to the ILS. That’s why we suggest a mid-sized car as a teenager’s first car. A teenager’s desire for a sporty car or top heavy SUV are frequently at odds with their skills as drivers. A high performance car or heavy SUV are actually harder to handle in unexpected and emergency situations. Many mid-sized cars perform as well as heavier cars in crash tests. You can review crash test records of the make of car you are considering on the National Highways Traffic Safety Administration website.
Air bags, and if possible, side-air airbags (SABs), are a safety feature we prefer for young drivers. (Learn more about SABs.) SABs became available in 2004, but are still not required by law. If you want this safety feature in the car you select be sure and verify it has it. Other safety features to look for are anti-lock brakes, and traction control.
Young drivers have enough to focus on without dealing with breakdowns. Fortunately you can get excellent information on auto reliability through Consumer Reports auto surveys. You can check them out at your local library or subscribe online (there’s a month-to-month option for only $5.00.) For an additional fee you can get detailed reports on the specific model, make and year of cars you are considering along with suggested sales prices based on the condition of the car.
The following are the most commonly recommended, highly rated used cars: Acura Integra, Toyota Corolla (1999 or later), Honda Civic EX and Honda Accord EX (1998 or later), Infiniti G20, Subaru Forester 2.5X, Toyota Camry XLE (V6) and LE (4 cylinder), Mazda 3, Mazda Protege (1999-2003), Nissan Altima 2.55 (4 cylinder, 2003 or later). We like the 2004 and newer models of Honda, Toyota and Subaru because of their reliability and enhanced safety features.
This is the million-dollar question for most people. When you are considering your budget you need to take into account more than just the purchase price. Consider these costs:
- Car registration
- Immediate maintenance/safety needs
- Long-term maintenance and repair
- Gas mileage
Once you’ve narrowed your search you can start shopping. Try Craigslist to see what’s available locally. There are also car-buying services which are particularly useful if you are strapped for time. Check out cars.com or The Auto Answerman, a locally based service, orAAA.
Many of our customers obtain history reports on the cars they are considering. These reports provide information about reported accidents, recalls and sometimes repair information for the specific car you want to purchase. You can find these useful reports atAutoCheck or Carfax.
One of the most important things you can do when you are considering a car is have a professional technician check it out. Pellman’s offers inspection services for cars you are considering. We do a full inspection of the vehicle and give you a detailed listing of what condition we think it is in and what repairs and maintenance items are needed. This information can also help you negotiate the purchase price of a car.
We hope this helps you find the right car for your teen. We’re already keeping our eyes open for when our son turns 16. Maybe they’ll be making cars with top and bottom air bags by then!