When the time rolls around to hand the keys over to your new teen driver, it’s perfectly normal to feel a large sense of responsibility. After all, your child — who it seems was just in diapers yesterday — is now maneuvering heavy machinery all on his or her own. It only makes sense that you’d want to make sure they’re as protected as they can be when they head down the road.

The Case for a Used Car

Buying a brand new car for your brand spanking new driver can be a budget buster, so is it really necessary to go new when purchasing that first set of wheels? As it turns out, most parents don’t believe so. According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), 83 percent of parents who had purchased a vehicle for their teen went with a used vehicle. Based on this information, the IIHS put together a list of vehicles for your teen1, ranging from less than $5,000 up to $20,000, based on safety recommendations meeting the following criteria:

  • Young drivers should avoid vehicles with lots of horsepower, as they’ll be tempted to push it to the limit.
  • The bigger and heavier the vehicle, the safer it is.
  • Consider electronic stability control (ESC) — which is a feature that helps drivers maintain control of their vehicles on slippery roads and curves — an absolute must.
  • Look for the highest safety ratings possible, whether it’s through the IIHS, Kelley Blue Book, J.D. Power or other reliable sources.

As you’re doing your research, keep in mind financial considerations such as depreciation, fuel costs, and maintenance and repairs. ConsumerReports.org2 recommends that if you decide to go with a used car, you’ll want to have the vehicle inspected by a trustworthy service shop.

Considering a New Car

If you’re considering purchasing a new vehicle for your teen, there are plenty of safe and affordable options, as well. Kelley Blue Book gathered a list of the 10 suitable vehicles for teens3, all starting at less than $20,000. Their suggestions range from the all-weather-ready Subaru Impreza to the fuel-efficient Toyota Prius, with the 2015 Honda Fit landing the number one position, combining affordability with style and comfort in a subcompact package.

Insurance Costs

When choosing a vehicle for your teen, keep in mind that with either a new or used vehicle comes insurance. Don’t forget to calculate those costs into your decision, understanding that insuring your new driver will cause your rates to rise. Allstate4 recommends looking into available discounts, such as the good student or full-time student discount.

Esurance.com lists some additional insurance factors to keep in mind when considering insurance within your budget:

  • Your location can affect your insurance premiums if you live in a high-traffic, high-theft area.
  • The type and age of vehicle you drive, whether it’s highly rated for safety and the value can raise insurance costs.

Repairs and Maintenance

According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles5, the highest rate of traffic incidents occurs with drivers between the ages of 16 to 19 due to factors such as risk-taking, the presence of passengers who may tend to encourage them to take more risks, as well as the presence of drugs and alcohol in the driver’s system. With that in mind, it makes sense to consider and research average repair and maintenance costs for the vehicle you’re choosing to purchase with your teen.

No matter what you decide, new or used, it’s important that you feel safe and comfortable with your decision. Do your homework and if you have any questions regarding the right vehicle for your new driver, consult your local dealership.