Choosing the Best Used Car for Your Teen

It's typically nerve-wracking when your teen gets their first car. As a parent, you can take some steps to make the process easier. New drivers may want the car that fits with their lifestyle -- but you want one that keeps them safe. Look for these factors in a new car and consider some of the makes and models recommended by reputable reviewers.

What to Look for in a Car for New Drivers

So, what makes for a safe car? It's what you might think -- additional features that may not be flashy but contribute to a secure ride. You can find these in used cars as well as newer models.

Focus on Low Speed

It takes some time to learn how to manage velocity on the road. Choose a car that has less horsepower capability. This reduces the chances of an increasing speedometer while your teen is still developing their driving technique.

Maximum Airbags

Front and back airbags may come standard but an even safer vehicle has side or curtain airbags that can reduce the impact of a crash. Look for this additional protection in the car's specifications.

Mid-Size is Safest

Small vehicles may be trendy, but a slightly bigger vehicle has better crash protection. A mid-size sedan is more secure compared to cars with smaller frames. They are also safer than large models like SUVs, which have the highest rollover risk.

Electronic Stability Control 

A car with good traction control and anti-lock brakes improves reaction time. This can help your teen to avoid serious damage or injury in an emergency. Newer models also have electronic stability control, which has been mandatory on cars sold in Canada since 2011.

Up-to-Date Maintenance

Once you've chosen the best used car, you still want to have a mechanic give it the once-over. Even if the car comes with a clean maintenance report, it's useful to have a professional take a final look for any potential issues that might happen on the road.

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The Safest Cars for Teen Drivers

Two reputable organizations, Consumer Reports and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), compile lists of best car models for teens. These organizations look at the same factors you might want to consider, like safety. Here are some they recommend:

Mazda 3

Consumer Reports lauded the Mazda 3 for its forward collision warning (FCW) and automatic emergency braking (AEB) mechanisms.

Toyota Corolla

Like the Mazda 3, the Toyota Corolla has FCW and AEB. Both cars have good fuel economy, meaning it should cost you -- and your teen -- less at the pump.

Kia Forte

Focusing on the newer model, Consumer Reports noted the Kia Forte has responsive handling. This should be ideal for a newer driver to navigate unfamiliar roads.

Hyundai Elantra GT

The Hyundai Elantra also gets high marks for handling. It's an easy ride for teens just learning how to be comfortable behind the wheel.

Keeping Teens Safe on the Road

Getting your teen started off right with driving is easier if you can choose a safe, reliable used car. Do a bit of research and visit a body shop to make sure there are no hidden hazards in the car you buy. As your teen gets used to being on the road, they'll become a skilled driver who can protect themselves and their passengers.

As much as parents and teens alike would probably like to buy a new car with all the bells, whistles, and safety features, adding another vehicle to the household isn’t always realistic. It’s no secret that having a young, inexperienced driver under your policy can drive your car insurance premiums higher. But this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to find reasonable rates for teen drivers if you compare rates for car insurance before you add them to your policy.