The Problem with a Teen’s First Car

2005 Volvo XC90 V8

I’m lucky I survived into adulthood.

I was like a baby sea turtle as a teenager. On their long journey from the nest to the ocean, seagulls snatch many little turtles up before they ever get a chance to thrive in the water. Baby sea turtles aren’t familiar with their surroundings and don’t know to be afraid. All they see is a flat beach and water on the horizon, and they try to get there as fast as they can.

Same with teenagers. Unleashed on the world with the ability to freely travel wherever they choose, they often forget, or don’t realize, that danger resides around every corner. I was reckless and aggressive as a teen driver, a truth I’m not proud of, but something that’s made me a better driver today.

With experience and technology, I hope we can greatly reduce the number of teen deaths on our roads. The problem is that safety costs a lot of money.

Tragically, too many teenagers lose their lives in car accidents. An article by the New York Times says teens’ cars are partly to blame and recommends that teenagers don’t drive small, unsafe cars. The article says parents,

should consider four main points when choosing a vehicle for a teenager: Avoid vehicles with a lot of horsepower, since those can tempt teenagers to drive too fast; look for larger, heavier vehicles, which provide better protection in a crash; get a vehicle with electronic stability control, which helps a driver to maintain control of a vehicle on curves and slippery roads; and choose a vehicle with the highest possible safety rating.

That’s pretty basic advice, but it doesn’t take into consideration one thing: cost.

Large heavy vehicles with electronic stability control and the highest possible safety ratings don’t fit into a teenager’s budget. Old Ford Fiestas fit into a teenager’s budget.

If parents want their teens to drive the safest possible car, they will have to buy a vehicle as new as possible. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released a list of the best used cars for teens, but there’s nothing older than 2005 and nothing cheaper than $7,300; most are closer to $20,000. The least expensive is a 2005 Volvo XC90, the most expensive is a $19,900 2011 Buick Enclave.

There’s also a list of what the IIHS calls “good” choices, which tops out with a $9,900 2009 Subaru Legacy and ends with a $4,000 2005 Saab 9-3.

All the cars IIHS mentions are available used and can, with proper driving skills, get you or your teen to the ocean safely. I’d recommend choosing the model you like best, then taking advantage of finding the best deal possible on CarGurus.

What’s the best choice for a teen’s first car?


Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

Used Ford Fiesta
Used Volvo XC90
Used Buick Enclave
Used Subaru Legacy
Used Saab 9-3

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