June 16th, 2020 by Fix Auto USA
What kind of car to get a new driver is a decision that can be fraught with anxiety and apprehension. Because a vehicle is a sign of independence, parents naturally have mixed feelings. You want to encourage them to fly out of the nest, but your parenting impulse is to protect your children. How should parents approach the topic of finding good first-time cars for new drivers? Let’s see if we can help you sort through this decision-making dilemma so you can make the best decision possible for your new driver.
We are not trying to cause you undue worry, but facts are facts. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens from 16 to 19 years old, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2017, 3,225 teens died in fatal car accidents. More than half of those teens who died were not wearing seat belts during the collision. This means two things for parents: the car you choose for the new driver in your family must be safe; and, that same driver must be educated about safe driving behaviors.
So, what are the best cars for new drivers? Well, it depends on a few factors. In an ideal world, parents would simply pick out the nicest, most attractive, and safest car for new drivers, without regard to cost. But in reality, parents have to weigh several factors. Often times, they just can’t afford a new car and end up purchasing a less expensive, used model without all the bells and whistles. Other times they pass down the older family car that’s been sitting in the garage.
In seeking the best cars for new drivers, parents should pick the best and safest car that is within their budget. It’s always best to err on the side of safety, especially when it comes to younger, less experienced drivers.
Searching for the safest car for new drivers
Many parents will search for an affordable used car that also ranks high on safety. There are plenty of safe used cars, and you might even find some websites that rank best used cars for new drivers.
However, if safety is your primary concern, you have to at least look at some of the new cars on the market. Newer vehicles come equipped with modern technologies and features that promote safety, reduce the risk of an accident, and give parents peace of mind.
New technologies are intended to give drivers advanced warning of potential hazards and help them avoid collisions. New features like blind-spot detection and automatic emergency braking – which can sense a collision and apply the brakes if the driver doesn’t – are becoming standard on newer cars. Adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, and rearview cameras can make a big difference, as well as airbags, stability control, and forward collision warning, which alerts drivers to obstacles or vehicles in front of it.
Imagine a scenario where your easily distracted teenager daughter is cruising around in her car, completely oblivious to an obstacle in the road ahead. These features could very well help her avoid an accident and even save her life.
Does size matter?
Yes, size does matter when it comes to finding good first-time cars for new drivers. Generally, bigger and heavier vehicles perform better in crash tests. Not to mention, they also make drivers feel safer. On the other hand, because of their size, bigger cars can be a challenge for new drivers to navigate; turning the steering wheel and applying the brakes, for example, takes more strength. Bigger cars tend not to get as good of gas mileage as smaller, more efficient cars.
So, what are some good first time cars for new drivers? It all depends on your selection criteria. If your teenager’s safety is your primary concern, the scale may tip in favor of the bigger car.
Cars to avoid
Finding the best cars for new drivers also requires knowing what you should say no to. The conventional wisdom, which we would tend to agree with, is that sports cars are not a wise choice for first time drivers. They are likely to create the temptation to drive fast and disregard safety, not to mention that of other drivers. Sports cars tend to have a higher rate of accidents relative to other vehicle types, which is why the insurance premium for sports cars are usually higher.
Also on your cars-to-avoid list should be large SUVs, trucks, and minivans, which are more difficult for new drivers to navigate. On the other extreme, you might want to avoid smaller, lighter cars, which might not hold up as well in the event of a crash.
Go for safety over style. It might not make you the most popular parent in the world, but consider a nice midsized sedan or a smaller SUV instead.
Finally, avoid cars that have been recalled by the manufacturer for safety defects. While there is a law preventing the sales of new cars with unrepaired recalls, there is no similar law for used cars. That means the responsibility to do the research rest on the parent. The good news is that this information is easily accessible on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website. Simply enter the VIN and see if there was a safety recall issued for the car. Learn more about car recalls here.
Other safety considerations
Will you frequently travel with someone using the middle rear seat? If yes, then it is a good idea to select a vehicle with a rear seat shoulder belt. Also, some vehicles come equipped with additional safety features like seat belt pre-tensioners, which reduce slack during an abrupt stop.
Select a vehicle with antilock brakes can also be beneficial. The safest car for new drivers is one that provides less-experienced drivers better control over the steering wheel in the event they have to slam on the brakes.
An even better option is a vehicle that is equipped with brake assist, which helps apply pressure on the brakes when a greater force is required and limits the slipping of the wheels.
Electronic stability control is another feature that is recommended. If your teenager is in a situation where he has to suddenly turn the wheel so sharply that he could veer off the road or roll his car over, this feature could literally save his life.
All parents want to get the best cars for new drivers, and it’s never an easy process. Making the right decision requires weighing various factors and thinking through what your objectives are. While you certainly want the safest and most affordable car, you should also spend an equal amount of time coaching your new driver in the family on safe-driving behaviors, such as the importance of minimizing distractions and using caution when they’re in the driver’s seat.
For more recommendations on the safest car for new drivers, we encourage checking out the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Listings (IIHS) list of the safest brands and models of cars for 2020.
This blog post was contributed by Fix Auto San Francisco – Potrero Avenue a leading industry expert and collision repair shop servicing San Francisco’s historic Potrero District and Castro neighborhood.