If your teenager has passed her driving test, practiced driving and demonstrated that she’s a responsible driver, she’s probably going to ask that question you’ve been dreading for 16 years or so: Can I have my own car?

There’s a lot to consider, when choosing a car for your teen driver. She’ll want something impractical and pretty; you’ll want something that’s safe and affordable. If you’re in the market for your teen’s first car, the following tips may be helpful:

Choosing a car

You’ll need to decide whether a new or used car makes the most sense for your family. While new cars might offer more safety features, used cars can be just as safe – and much more affordable. If you find a used car you like, you can check its safety rating online.

Even though most teen drivers wouldn’t know what to do at 130 mph., they will almost always want a flashy car that can go that fast. Movies, commercials, and the entire world have told them “fast is good.” You know better.

Go with one of the models experts recommend for teenage drivers. Also keep in mind that teens have different needs and a different lifestyle than adults. Is the interior easy to clean? Or, does the material come in a dark color that hides dirt and spills? Is the stereo or music system functioning and easy to manipulate while driving? Will your teen be hauling around bulky music instruments or school supplies?  If so, perhaps a hatchback is the way to go.

These small considerations can go a long way in making your teen’s driving experience a positive one. It can ease the blow of not receiving that flashy red sports car that will cost more to insure. Lastly, always consider gas mileage. The commuter car may be great for high school, but commuting to college may mean lengthy road trips.

House rules

Finding the right car is just one part of protecting your teen behind the wheel. You’ll need to go one step further, and create rules that promote safe driving.

Because teens are more likely to text while driving, put in writing your rule requiring your child to turn off her phone before she gets in the car, and make her sign that agreement. Specify where the phone should be when she’s in the car and when she may turn it on. Distracted driving kills teen drivers; have a frank conversation with your child about that.

Limit the number of passengers your teen can have in her car at one time. You trust your daughter with the car –you’ve witnessed her focused, alert and safe – but you also know how distracting four of her friends might be talking to her from the backseat.

At some point, one of your teen’s friends may ask to borrow her car. Create a rule that no one but your child is allowed to drive her car.

There’s a lot of research out there that proves seat belts save lives. Make it a house rule that anyone in your teen’s car must fasten seat belts.


While you can’t necessarily anticipate emergencies, discuss every conceivable possibility and have a plan in place for each, like:

  • What to do after an accident. Inform your teen about not leaving the scene of an accident, exchanging insurance information, taking necessary pictures, and – most importantly – assuring that everyone is safe.  
  • What to do in hazardous weather conditions. Snow, rain and ice significantly affect road conditions. Discuss how to reach safety if caught in sudden changes in weather.
  • How to change a flat tire.  While you don’t want your daughter changing a tire on the shoulder of a busy interstate, there may come a day when she’s got to change her own tire. Show her how to do this now.

Discuss the skills you’ve learned as an experienced driver – like the first time you hydroplaned, or the first time your car began to fishtail in the snow. Your teenager will value this advice, and be safer because of it.

Lindsey Harper Mac is a professional writer living in the Indianapolis area. She specializes in writing guest posts on social media and education on behalf of American InterContinental University. Currently, Lindsey is completing work on her master’s degree.

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