DeAnn Owens
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What Teen Drivers Need in a Car

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a "student driver" attached to the rear of a vehicle
Photo: The News Wheel

There is no limit to parental anxiety when a teenager grabs the keys to the car. But you can lower your stress level by choosing a vehicle that supports the needs of your inexperienced driver. Even if you’re working with a strict budget, you can find a quality vehicle when you focus on a few key attributes.

“For teenagers the combination of immaturity and inexperience makes driving especially risky. If they’re going to drive, choosing a safe vehicle is key,” reports the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

High safety ratings

Safety tech designed to alert your teen to road dangers and obstacles when moving forward, backward, and while parking can help your teen avoid an accident. Even recent used car models boast impressive safety technology, and unless you’re looking at significantly old cars, most models at least have a backup camera. You can further understand how effective the safety tech is in a particular model with some quick research. Check out the ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In addition to reviewing how driver assist technologies perform, be sure to check collision ratings and additional safety systems.

Performance and reliability

The vehicle you choose for your teen should be reliable and deliver performance that increases their confidence behind the wheel. A vehicle that won’t start or acts up when the weather turns or fails to handle corners or on-ramps well isn’t worth anyone’s time, especially your teen’s. Check out driver reviews to learn about its reliability and performance.

“Look for safety features like airbags, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control,” advises Allison Martin, writer for

V6 engines are best left for older, more experienced drives, she adds.

Style, size, and manageability

Although it might be your instinct to invest in a tank-like vehicle for your teen, a big vehicle like a truck or full-size SUV might decrease their success on the road. Martin warns that a bigger vehicle poses handling challenges and, in the event of an accident, can seriously harm or kill pedestrians.

Take the time to find the right vehicle for your teen, one that prioritizes safety, reliability, and confident performance.