For a teen, getting a driver’s license is a milestone, and getting that very first car is just as exciting. They’ve worked hard to earn their driver’s license, and now they’re ready to hit the road all on their own. But just what they hit the road with—their car, that is—is another matter altogether. There are a lot of things to consider, whether you’re a parent looking to buy your son or daughter their first set of wheels, or a teen doing your own research. Be sure you think about these points before you settle on one vehicle.
New or Used for Teens?
There are advantages and disadvantages to both of these options. While new cars have more advanced safety features and often fewer problems, it is more expensive to insure a teen driver on a new vehicle, and all of the technology in a new car can become a major distraction. Used cars offer affordability, and so long as they aren’t ancient, they should be reliable, too. The financial aspect is a major factor when deciding between a new or used car, so go with the option that suits your situation. And if you are a parent who plans on having your teen pay you back for their first car, you might want to advise them to go for a less expensive model.
First-Car Suggestions for Used Cars:
- Honda Fit
- Ford Fusion
- Volkswagen Golf
- Hyundai Sonata
First-Car Suggestions for New Cars:
- Scion tC
- Subaru Impreza
- Toyota Corolla
- Hyundai Elantra
Go for Safety
Obviously, whether you’re a first-time driver or you’ve got decades of experience, having a car that makes you feel safe is key. And as a parent looking at vehicles for your child, safety becomes even more important. There are plenty of websites that let you read about vehicle safety ratings like safercar.gov and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s website—be sure to take advantage of them while you research different cars. And when shopping for a vehicle, whether it’s new or used, look for quality safety features, such as:
- Antilock brakes
- Front and side airbags, and
- Electronic stability control.
Not only will these features make a huge difference in the event of an accident or near-accident, but they can even earn you an insurance discount. Check with your insurance company to find out if they offer such discounts and if you (or your teen) qualify.
First-Car Suggestions Based on Safety Ratings:
- Honda Civic
- Ford Focus
- Toyota Camry
- Kia Optima
Reliability Is Essential
Since teens are the most inexperienced drivers on the road, it’s important for them to have cars that they can count on. After all, dealing with a car breakdown is stressful enough when you’ve been driving for years—it’s even more traumatic when you’re a newbie behind the wheel. Some vehicles are notorious for breaking down a lot, and on top of this, some are very expensive to repair (especially luxury and high-performance cars). This is something to consider before you make a car purchase.
First-Car Suggestions Based on Reliability:
- Honda Fit
- Hyundai Accent
- Subaru Impreza
- Volkswagen Golf
With gas prices routinely creeping up, a small sedan might be a better choice than a gas-guzzling truck. Always do your research on fuel economy before you make a decision on a car—you might eliminate some vehicles from your list of options before even looking at them if you find that the MPG is not what you want it to be. If you can afford to opt for a hybrid vehicle, you can get over 50 MPG in the city and over 40 on the highway.
First-Car Suggestions Based on Fuel Economy:
- Toyota Prius C
- Scion iQ
- Ford Fiesta SFE
- Toyota Corolla Eco
Big or Small?
The size of a vehicle has an impact on its gas mileage, among other things. After all, a large minivan isn’t going to get the same MPG as a subcompact. But bigger vehicles like SUVs can offer drivers improved visibility and often an increased level of safety in crashes. So how do you know which one to choose? Again, it comes down to a number of factors, including what you (or your teen) will be using the car for. There are high-quality vehicles in all size categories.
First-Time Car Suggestions Based on Size:
- Honda Fit (Small)
- Toyota Corolla (Small)
- Buick Enclave (Large)
- Chevrolet Traverse (Large)
Again, the vehicle you ultimately end up going with will depend on all of these factors combined. As long as you do plenty of research and weigh your options, you’ll do just fine. Good luck on your search!
See Also — How to Sell Your Car to a Private Party