HOW TO PICK THE RIGHT CAR FOR YOUR TEENAGER
If you’re in the market to buy that first vehicle for the teen driver in your family, this may be an opportune time to be kicking the tires.
Auto dealers typically roll out deals after Labor Day to move new and used cars off their lots before the end of the year. Market conditions for used cars look particularly favorable, experts say, partly because of a glut of 3-year-old vehicles coming off lease programs.
“Power appears to be in the hands of the buyer,” according to a recent WalletHub analysis of the new and used car market.
And while interest rates for new and used cars have inched up this year — and are expected to continue to rise — they still remain relatively low by historical standards.
For example, the interest rate on a four-year new-car loan is averaging 4.74 percent, while a 60-month loan is 4.80 percent, according to Bankrate.com. For used cars, a three-year loan is averaging 5.34 percent, Bankrate said.
If you are considering borrowing, the best terms are typically available from credit unions, regional banks and car manufacturers.
Of course, your best bet may be to skip the dealer lot and buy from the guy down the street who’s looking for a quick sale.
When shopping for your teen’s first car, the main thing parents should take into account is lack of driving experience, said WalletHub auto analyst Jill Gonzalez.
“Mistakes are bound to be made,” Gonzalez said, “so safety should be the primary thing to look for.” And in that regard, she added, bigger vehicles “with a low center of mass tend to be safer.”
Consumer Reports recommends safety features such as electronic stability control and ample airbag protection for young drivers. If possible, the magazine suggested stretching in price for a model that has forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking.
Do your homework on the models you’re considering. How did a certain make and model perform in crash tests? Use the vehicle identification number to check for any history of crashes and recalls.
And even if you’re buying from a friend or neighbor, ask to see receipts for oil changes and other standard maintenance.
To get the most for your money, also look at gas consumption, Gonzalez said. If your teen is going to be responsible for keeping the tank full, is a gas-guzzler really ideal?
Gonzalez offered one final shopping tip: Find a car that likely won’t need too many repairs and one you expect will last a long time, at least through the high school and college years.
Which comes back to the question of what are the best used cars for kids?
Let’s start with what isn’t recommended for young drivers, namely large pickups and SUVs because they can be more difficult to handle. On the other end, smaller sports cars increase the risk of speeding and accidents. Likewise, experts recommend steering clear of compacts and subcompacts.
That leaves mid-size cars without too much horsepower as the top choice for teens, as long as the vehicle is not too old. That’s perhaps not what your teen had in mind, but mid-size vehicles are big enough to protect occupants in a crash and small enough to be easy to handle.
Insurance also is a consideration, because rates for teen drivers often are high. In 2013, for instance, teens caused $10 billion in total costs of motor vehicle injuries, according to the CDC. Smaller and mid-size cars with safety features have better insurance rates.