Guidelines to Buying Your Teen the Best Car Possible

Excitement builds in a teen as they grow closer to getting their license and owning their very own car. While the teen fantasizes about a flashy, fast sports car, their parent pictures something more along the lines of an army tank.

To help navigate this age-old dilemma, Christian Brothers Automotive is continuing its series of 10 important lessons for teen and first-time drivers with helpful guidelines to choosing a teenager's first car.

Here are three considerations when buying a teen's first car.

Whether to buy new or used

In purchasing a car for a teen, one of the of the most difficult steps is finding a car that qualifies as safe, reliable and economical, and one that won't shoot your insurance premiums through the roof. While buying a brand new car might seem like a wise choice, a new car cannot meet all necessary qualifications.

A new car will protect against immediate breakdowns and repairs, but you're paying a high cost for that protection. New cars lose an average of 60% of their value in the first 5 years, and often come with sky-high insurance premiums. The cost of a new car simply isn't worth the status symbol.

Nowadays, there are even ways to get the warranty benefits while buying used. According to Jack Nerad, executive editorial director for Kelley Blue Book. “If you buy a certified pre-owned car you get the advantages of a new-car like warranty, and perhaps, better financing rates.” A flashy new car might be your child's desire, but a used car is the more logical choice.

New or used, check for these three safety features

There are three non-negotiables when it comes to your child's safety:

  • Antilock Brake System (ABS)
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
  • Side Airbags

Antilock brakes have been standard on most cars for some time, and are a vital safety element. When you slam on your brakes, have you noticed the car continues to move forward? That's because the ABS prevents the wheels from completely stopping, or locking up. Even on slick surfaces (like in the rain and ice), you will be able to maintain steering control.

Electronic stability control (ESC) did not come standard on older cars, so it's important to check for this feature before buying used. ESC is an important safety element that prevents a car from rotating. This is crucial when a teen takes a turn too fast or is driving during bad weather.

Side airbags provide head protection during a side impact. If your teen is T-boned by another car, the side and side-curtain air bags will keep their head from hitting the side window. Side air bags are not standard, so you need to check for this feature before purchasing any car.

So, what's the best choice?

A last consideration is the fact that large trucks and SUV's are not recommended for inexperienced drivers. SUV's especially are more likely to roll over and both have a much higher center of gravity than smaller cars. Likewise, sports cars have a higher rate of speeding tickets and accidents, as well as higher insurance premiums than more reasonable cars.

A good place for further research is In 2014, Consumer Reports sent out a list of the best new cars for teens, including the Acura TSX and the Hyundai Elantra, as well as the best used cars for teens, including the Ford Fusion and Honda Accord.

New or used, there are many elements to consider before purchasing a car. Remember that insurance companies are more likely to penalize sports cars while bigger engines will be more expensive to fuel and maintain. While fancy add-ons may look impressive, they could compromise the vehicle's safety and reliability. If you're financing a car, the insurance premiums will be higher than when you buy outright. Used cars are more cost effective, more reliable and will keep your insurance rates reasonable.

Regardless of your teen's ultimate driving fantasy, it's your duty as the parent to keep your teen safe. Whether you buy used or new, Christian Brothers Automotive's guidelines to buying a teen's first car will help you make the best choice for your new driver.

Other posts in the series

1. 8 Driving Safety Tips for Teen and First-Time Drivers

2. 5 Important Driving Practice Conditions For Teen and First-Time Drivers

3. Teen and First-Time Drivers’ 6 Steps to Obtaining Your License

4. 12 Steps to Buying a New Car for Teen Drivers

5. 6 Steps to New Vehicle Registration for Teen and First-Time Drivers

6. What Parents Need to Know About Teen Driver Insurance

7. Guidelines to Buying Your Teen the Best Car Possible

8. More Than Texting and Driving: The Top 10 Driving Distractions Teen and First-Time Drivers Need to Eliminate

9. The 3 Most Common Reasons Cars Breakdown (And What Teen Drivers Need to Do When it Happens)

10. The 8 Most Important Car Maintenance Services Teen Drivers and First-Time Drivers Need To Know