Putting Your Teen Behind The Wheel

Tips for choosing and insuring the right vehicle

Teen drivers spend countless hours dreaming of owning their first car. A fast sports car conjures exciting images, while an SUV has ample room for all of their friends. Both vehicles have one thing in common; neither is a good choice for teens.

If you’re the parent of a teen driver, you may be wondering what you can do to help ensure his or her safety. Aside from knowing and honoring the rules of the road, safe teen driving involves operating the appropriate type of vehicle. In addition to researching auto insurance for teens, there are five tips to consider when choosing your teen’s first car. Designed to help protect young drivers, these suggestions focus on safety, which also helps to lower the cost of car insurance for teenagers.

Tip 1: Watch the speed. Driving fast cars with turbochargers and high horsepower carries significant risk for teen drivers. Car accidents are the leading cause of death among 15- to 20 year old. In 37% of those accidents the primary cause is speeding.1 Help protect your teen by choosing a vehicle with a four-cylinder engine and average horsepower, which may cost less to insure and could save lives.

Tip 2: Grounded in reality. When it comes to buying a car, many parents mistakenly presume that big equates to safe. The opposite is often true for young drivers, as SUVs and pick-up trucks can pose significant dangers for teen drivers. These vehicles have a high center of gravity, which makes them less stable and more prone to rollover than traditional mid-sized sedans, especially for inexperienced drivers.

Reality check: Pick-up trucks are two times more likely, and SUVs are three times more likely, to rollover than traditional passenger cars.2

Tip 3: Buy 1997 or later. While pre-owned cars are less expensive, older models may be more costly to insure because they often do not have modern safety features found on newer cars. Although many parents can not afford new or almost new vehicles, they should focus on models manufactured in 1997 or later. This is the year airbags were required in all cars. Other important safety features include side airbags, anti-lock brakes and roll stability control.

Tip 4: Know the score. Whether shopping for a new or pre-owned vehicle, always check crash-test scores. All vehicles are rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which provides ratings on a vehicle’s ability to withstand a front or side impact. Although these scores are approximate, they provide an excellent appraisal of a model’s structural integrity. To access crash-test scores, visit the NHTSA’s website at www.safercar.gov.

Tip 5: Ask for a rate quote. Before you go buy a car, inquire about car insurance for teens. Find out how much it will cost to insure your teen in his or her new car. Rates can often vary by hundreds and even thousands of dollars based on the chosen car.

Following these tips will help reduce the risks often associated with teen driving as well as lessen parents’ anxieties.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2009, Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System
2 Safercar.gov, Rollover FAQs