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Tips for choosing the first car for your teen to drive

Beginning drivers are at highest risk of a crash, so help them be safe.

When your teenager is ready to drive, finding the right car is a vital decision. The right car can help your teen make wise decisions on the road and help protect them in case of a crash. Some of the factors you'll want to consider are safety, reliability and price.


Some tips to consider to keep your child safe are:

  • Avoid cars that have a sporty, performance-type image that might encourage young drivers to speed and test their performance.
  • SUVs and pickup trucks may seem a safe choice because of their size and weight, but they're actually more likely to roll over in a crash. A teen driver's high crash rate and an SUV's high rollover rate can be a deadly combination.
  • Later-model mid- and full-size passenger cars are good choices since they offer sufficient weight, as well as updated safety features. Small cars offer less crash protection because of their size/weight.
  • Look for a car that has other air bags in addition to the standard driver and passenger airbags: Side and curtain air bags add an extra measure of crash protection.
  • Other safety features that might benefit your teen are Electronic Stability Control and Anti-lock Braking System, as well as intelligent seat belt reminder systems that remind drivers all occupants should wear seat belts.
  • When you find a car that seems like a good choice, be sure to check safety ratings with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.


Before buying any car you'll want to make sure that it is dependable. Some things to ask before you buy are:

  • Does the car have a warranty? If so, what does that warranty cover and for how long?
  • Has the car been water damaged? Water damage may decrease the life of a car.
  • Is the mileage high on the car? If the car has more than 12,000 miles for every year of its life then the car may not last as long as you think.
  • Are there records to prove that regular maintenance has been performed on the car?
  • Are there any recalls on the car? You can check for vehicle recalls at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations recall website.

Price and responsibility

  • Shop around for your car and your loan. The car dealer may not have the best loan terms.
  • When shopping for a used car always have the vehicle inspected by a trusted third party mechanic.
  • Your teenager should be aware of all of the costs of car ownership including loans, insurance, maintenance and gas.
  • Knowing how much traffic fines can be is a strong incentive for improving driving safety.
  • Parents can use the costs associated with driving as a bargaining point. For example, a parent can agree to cover gas, as long as the teen adheres to the terms of a parent/teen driving agreement. (You'll find a great examples with the Steer Clear® driver discount program and Drive Safe and Save™).

For more information about teen driver safety and tools for new drivers, visit State Farm® Teen Driver Safety.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with State Farm® (including State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates). While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. State Farm is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites that might be hyperlinked from this page. The information is not intended to replace manuals, instructions or information provided by a manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional, or to affect coverage under any applicable insurance policy. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.

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