Choosing a Car for Your Teen Driver

Choosing a Car for Your Teen Driver

It’s a rite of passage that few Americans ever forget – getting their very first car. You probably remember all of your parent’s safety lectures and your trip with them to the used-car lot to kick tires.

Well, guess what? Now it’s your turn to do the same with your teen driver!

If you and your spouse are ready to launch your search for a perfect first car for teen drivers, you’re in luck. Just follow some of these handy tips to make sure your final choice is a smart one.

First Car for a Teen Driver: Preliminary Considerations

Finding that first car for your teen doesn’t need to be a distressing experience. Consider some of these primary factors, and you’ll find the best first car that keeps your child safe and your mind at ease.


Consider having a trial period where your teen needs to demonstrate their consistently responsible driving performance. Earning this privilege on their own will boost their confidence and teach them just how important this skill can be.

When they complete their teen driver’s education, they are on their way to being responsible motorists. This fact alone can give you the peace of mind that you can trust them on the road, without you.

Timing – What’s the Rush?

Handing a teen their very own car keys before the printer ink dries on their brand-new Driver’s License is rarely a good idea. Parents should consider what their own values are related to driving. Do you see driving as an automatic entitlement, or do you see it as a privilege that you earn with experience and responsible behavior?

Purpose – What Will the Car be Used For?

Ask yourself, “how is my teen going to use this car?” Knowing the short-term goals for the intended vehicle will help inform your purchase. Is the goal to give your teen the means to transport themselves to a part-time job downtown or across the country to start college?

New or Used

There may be some debate over whether a car for teen drivers should be a new or used one. A used car can be an economical choice but buy one that’s not too old.

Auto safety features have improved over the last six to twelve years, making newer cars in this age range a better bet as the first car for teenagers.

First Car for a Teen Driver – What to Look For

Are you still asking yourself, “what is a good first car for teens?” Safety should be the goal for picking the first car for your teenagers, so consider the following tips to choose the safest model possible for your new driver:

Car Models

Avoid fast cars that have a sporty image. Vehicles with powerful engines or other high-performance features might encourage speeding or reckless driving to test the car’s performance.

Another consideration is to avoid buying a car that seats a lot of people. If your teen’s first car can carry many passengers, their friends may ask or pressure them to transport others around. Too many people in the car is a huge distraction that your teen driver doesn’t need.

Safety Features

It would be nice if a superhero would protect your son or daughter when they’re on the road. But you’re going to have to settle for the car’s safety features to keep your teen safe.

Look for a car that has side airbags in the back seats along with the standard front-seat airbags for the driver and front passenger. Opt for vehicles that have Electronic Stability Control (ESC) that helps your teen driver keep steering control on curves and slippery roads.

Ensure the car has an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) that prevents sliding and wheels from locking up during heavy braking. Now is also a good time to re-familiarize yourself with car safety rating systems.

You can find rating information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIH.)Vehicles should have a 4 out of 5-star rating from NHTSA and a “good” rating from the IIHS rating system.


When choosing a new car for your teen, find one that you know will be reliable. Teens are notorious for not monitoring tire pressure or remembering when oil changes are due.

Choose a vehicle that won’t need frequent repairs that could put your child’s safety at risk. Be sure to check out any potential first car’s rating on the Consumer Reports’ car reliability ratings. Look for scratches and dents and check the tires and engine or other items that might fail sooner rather than later.

Heavy car body

Choose big, heavy cars that can offer crash protection like later model, mid and full-size passenger vehicles. Smaller cars may be more appealing but offer far less protection because of their lighter size and weight.

The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) reports that teen drivers are less likely to crash or experience a rollover in large, heavy-body vehicles. Tall, narrow vehicles like sport utility vehicles or pickups are not ideal choices for your teen’s first car either.

They may appear heavier than some of the smaller coup models. But these vehicles, however, have a higher center of gravity which makes them more susceptible to rollovers.

Teen Driver Technology

Some parents might consider vehicles that have programming installed called teen driver technology. Teen Driver Technology refers to special features installed into vehicles that help teens maintain safe driving habits.

Some of these features include blind-spot assistance, radio volume control, and seatbelt reminder alarms that mute the car’s radio speakers until the driver buckles their seatbelt.

Ready to Ride! - Final Takeaways

Ready to start your search? Steer your teen towards the mid-size car range. Make sure it has Electronic Stability Control and an anti-lock braking system.

Pick a vehicle with the best safety rating possible. Avoid sport utility vehicles and their higher centers of gravity. These cars may be sleek, but they can’t handle abrupt steering maneuvers from novice drivers and are prone to rollovers.

You can also test your teen’s attitude by looking through everything DriverZ has to offer you and your teen driver on your shared journey toward safer driving.

We want you (and your teen) to be happy with this big decision you’re about to make.

Liam Hoch researches and writes about safe driving for DriverZ. Having been a passenger in multiple near-catastrophic vehicle collisions, Liam knows first-hand the dangers of distracted, reckless, and unsafe driving. Passionate about our core principles of helping to make safer drivers and, ultimately, saving lives, Liam stays at the forefront of driving safety innovation and research.

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