Christie's Car Keys

 

Happy Mother's Day!

So your child is ready for their first car. It's exciting and scary and you can't believe they're old enough to reach the pedals. So where do you start?  Here are some things to consider.

Safety First

Since your first concern will be your child's safety, you should start by doing some research. Here are a couple websites where you can check out safety ratings on vehicles: www.safercar.gov/Safety+Ratings or http://www.nhtsa.gov/.

You might also look into having them attend a driving safety course that exceeds the basic Driver's Ed, one like Tire Rack's Street Survival Course, http://www.streetsurvival.org. Their closest facility in NC currently is in Raleigh but you might be able to locate other similar options locally.

Gas Mileage

An obvious consideration is fuel economy. And this might come into play even more if they will be commuting to college later.

New or Used

This is most often a budget-driven decision. And cost applies not just to the price of the car, but also to the cost of maintenance, repair, and insurance. Even though a used car might be more budget-friendly and may cost less to insure, be sure it has up-to-date safety features such as airbags, anti-lock brakes, and traction control.  It's also very worthwhile to get a Vehicle Inspection done before you purchase. It will give you peace of mind that your child is at least starting off driving a safe vehicle.

Insurance

A daughter can be slightly less expensive to insure than a son, although that gap is narrowing. But either way, insurance can be costly and your premium can be affected by the vehicle you choose. This website www.carseek.com/articles/teen-car-insurance.html offers some helpful tips about insuring your teen. And this site http://www.iihs.org/research/hldi/composite lists insurance losses by make and model for vehicles built prior to 2010. Vehicles with lower auto insurance losses will typically have lower insurance rates while providing more protection in a crash.

Automatic or Manual Transmission?

Although manual transmission can use less gas and some people maintain they may even keep the driver "engaged" and less distracted, others say the teen should only have to focus on where they're going and getting there safely.  Some teens may not handle learning to drive a manual at the same time they are learning the basics of driving so choose based on your teen's skills.

What Are Their Driving Needs

Keep in mind how they will use the car; do they need to carry bulky items such as musical instruments? Maybe a hatchback would be a good option. Will they be driving other family members?  Is the stereo easy to manipulate?

Write up a Contract

Safety experts recommend a night-time curfew, zero alcohol involvement, and that the parent use a contract or something similar, writing up the driving privileges of the young person-when, where, with whom.  Review it with them and possibly even ask them to sign it to show their commitment to it.  Include these kinds of things:

  • No TextingRequire your child to turn off the phone before they get in the car. Specify where the phone should be when they're in the car and when they may turn it on. Distracted driving kills teen drivers; have a frank conversation with your child about that.

  • PassengersLimit the number of passengers your teen can have in their car at one time. You know how distracting four of their friends might be talking to them from the backseat.

  • Loaning out their carAt some point, one of your teen's friends may ask to borrow their car. Create a rule that no one but your child is allowed to drive their car.

  • Seat BeltsThere's a lot of research out there that proves seat belts save lives. Make it a house rule that anyone in your teen's car must fasten seat belts.

And last, share your own driving experience with them on things such as:

  • what to do if their car hydroplanes, fishtails, or how to steer in snow or ice
  • what to do after an accident or if they have car trouble
  • how to change a flat tire - show them how now and put instructions in their glovebox

Your child will value this advice, and be safer because of it.

Christie Walin is Director of Marketing for Modern Automotive. You can reach her with questions or comments at askchristie@modernauto.com.
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