Is there any better feeling than being handed the keys to your very first car? Only if that car is bought and paid for by mom and dad! But buying Junior’s new ride often comes with a ton of questions – mainly how safe is it on the road and how light is it on the wallet? Lorraine Sommerfeld of Driving.ca and Lorraineonline.ca shares her expert tips on how to balance safety with your budget when buying a car for your teenager.
What Makes a Car Safe for a Teen
It’s not shocking that most parents claim safety as their top priority when buying a vehicle for their teen driver, but figuring out what make and model is safe AND affordable can get tricky. Sommerfeld recommends parents stay away from passing down luxury vehicles like BMW and Mercedes as putting that much power in the hands of an inexperienced driver isn’t always the safest bet.
Used cars aren’t a bad option when trying to keep costs low, but only go for dealership-certified used vehicles if possible (there’s a lot less risk involved with those that are up to provincial standards). That being said, a tight budget can still get you a great new car – and a full warranty is always a nice choice for a new driver.
“If your car-buying budget is $20,000, it’s better to buy a new entry-level vehicle, that comes with full warranty, instead of a $20,000 used luxury car,” Sommerfeld says. “On the other hand, if you only have $8,000, considering putting that down on a car that costs a few thousand more; the newer the car, the less likely you’ll face costly repairs in the near future.”
And when it comes to those all important safety features, Sommerfeld recommends concentrating on safety ratings and in used cars, things like tires and brakes instead of entertainment. Hands-free features are great, but can be just as distracting as hand-held, especially for a new driver. “Look for things like lane departure warning and brake assist. They can help your young driver avoid simple mistakes and avoid a crash,” she explains.
Never Compromise on Safety
“The best way to determine which vehicle is right for you is to test-drive all the options and see what feels best,” Sommerfeld explains. “The safety standards are there for every new vehicle. So, even if you buy one that costs $15,000, you will still get a well-equipped car.” Things like sight lines and seat adjustments can only be experienced by driving the car.
Most manufacturers have decently-priced options for families on a budget, and you can check used cars for how well they hold their resale value. Sommerfeld notes that the best choice is always one that fits your lifestyle (and test-driving a few makes to narrow those choices down will makes things a whole lot easier)!
What Your Teen Should Know
Is it really that surprising that most teen drivers want to sit behind the wheel of a super luxe vehicle? But the models that Sommerfeld thinks are a teen’s best first car bet tend to run a tad cheaper (win!), and are probably safer in the hands of your new driver, too.
“The Elantra, Focus and Fusion are all great choices for a teen…any compact to mid-size car with four doors would be best,” she says. “Smaller cars are also easier to maneuver for newer drivers; SUVs can be intimidating, especially for parking and urban areas.”
But ultimately, it’s a free car from some pretty thoughtful parents, so whatever vehicle you choose is sure to be appreciated, even, Sommerfeld notes, if that ride just happens to be her first choice first vehicle: a minivan.