Last updateTue, 17 Oct 2017 5pm

On The Road

How to find a safe car for your teen

A recent survey commissioned by USSA Insurance indicates that 81 percent of parents put reliability first when choosing a vehicle for a teen, followed by a high safety rating and affordable auto insurance.

The insurer offers the following tips to help parents and teens settle on a car that fits their budget and offers peace of mind.

New or used?

The price may be right for used cars, but they may lack technological safeguards. Newer cars tend to have the high-tech safety systems that reassure parents. Electronic stability control, which helps drivers maintain control of a vehicle, is standard in all 2012 cars. Front air bags are mandated, and though not required by the government, side air bags are standard in many new cars. Some models have backup collision intervention that can apply the brakes before the driver does.

The bigger picture

Looking beyond technology, enlist young drivers to help conduct a bit more research before making a purchase.

Whether new or used, make sure the price is right. Use online resources to compare the sticker price, which the dealer wants you to pay; the invoice price, which is what the dealer paid; and the true market price. USAA Car Buying Service offers research tools and a network of dealers to help identify the right car at the right price.

Check crash-test ratings. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety releases its Top Safety Picks each year.

If you’re buying a used car, get the CARFAX Vehicle History Report. The report, found through a car’s vehicle ID number or license tag number, can alert you if a car has been totaled in a previous accident or damaged in a flood.

Ask a trusted mechanic to inspect a used car – inside, outside and underneath.

Investigate insurance costs. While affordable insurance ranked third as a key factor in the USAA survey, some aspects are beyond your control. Boys typically cost more than girls to insure, and teens more than adults. But good grades and driving records can reduce overall costs for your family, as can some of the safety features available on today’s vehicles.

Teach responsibility

Once parents and teens have decided on a car, parents should explain the final requirements before the young drivers take the wheel. For instance, insist that they learn basic car maintenance, such as how to check the oil and tire pressure, change a tire and use tire-inflating products.

Also discuss how teens can help pay for insurance and gas, and establish the rules they will follow on the road together.

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