Parents spend years teaching their children the art of“how-to” – how to talk, how to walk, how to tie their shoes, how to ride a bike, and much, much more. Each milestone provides parents with a tremendous sense of pride in their child’s achievements, but with each step they take towards independence, you become keenly aware that you’re no longer able to protect them at every moment (and they’re growing up way too fast)!
The day your child gets a driver’s license and you send her off on her first solo drive, you may be tempted to trail behind from a safe distance just to make sure she arrives at her destination safely. Eventually, though, you’ll relinquish control and trust that you’ve raised a responsible young adult who’ll behave accordingly behind the wheel, even in your absence. If you’ve taken that leap and now want to buy your teen a car, here are some things to consider.
Should I buy a new or a used car? Ultimately, whether you buy new or used will boil down to your personal preference and how much money you’re willing to spend, but both have their advantages.
A new car’s quality isn’t in question – it hasn’t been in any accidents and has no hidden flaws that a previous owner might’ve tried to disguise. Additionally, manufacturer’s warranties come standard on new vehicles, covering the car for at least three years. And California has a Lemon law, which protects consumers if an authorized dealer is unable to repair or service the vehicle after a reasonable number of attempts. New cars also include the latest safety features, which can help protect your son or daughter if they get involved in an accident.
There are also benefits to buying a used car. The biggest of these is price. Used cars are often cheaper than new cars, which can save you thousands of dollars. Used cars are also often cheaper to insure than new cars. When all things are equal, a three or four year old car can save you up to 15% or more on coverage from Mercury Insurance.
Additionally, cars are built to last longer today, so a bit of mileage on the odometer need not be a deterrent or intimidating factor. You can also purchase mechanical breakdown protection, which can extend coverage to virtually all mechanical and electrical components of your vehicle, and includes benefits like 24-hour roadside assistance, rental vehicle assistance, tire protection and trip interruption coverage.
What are the best cars for the money? If value is a top priority, U.S. News and World Report publishes an annual list of the vehicles it has awarded “Best Cars for the Money.” Judging criteria include the average price paid and five-year total cost of ownership data, expert opinion on the car's performance, interior features and comfort, and reliability and safety data.
What are the safest cars to drive? Each year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates vehicles based on how well they protect their occupants in a collision. The vehicles are rated good, acceptable, marginal or poor based on how they perform in five crash tests: moderate overlap front, small overlap front, side, rollover and rear. The highest designation that can be awarded is Top Safety Pick+. These cars deserve extra consideration because, in addition to protecting your precious cargo, insurance companies will often offer discounts for car safety features.
Insurance costs. One thing many people forget to consider when purchasing a car is how much it will cost to insure. Young drivers generally have higher premiums because of their inexperience, and statistics show that driving experience has a significantly impact accidents. As I mentioned earlier, used cars tend to be less expensive to insure so purchasing one is a way to reduce your teen’s insurance premium. Many companies, including Mercury Insurance, also offer good student discounts in California to unmarried high school and college students who maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher, which can further reduce your insurance premium. The kind of car you buy for your teen can also have a major impact on the rate you will pay. In general, low horsepower, four cylinder vehicles will be less expensive. Kids may want that cool looking Camaro or Mustang, but you won’t like them as much when you see the cost to insure them.
Once you’ve decided which vehicle to buy, emphasize to your teen that driving is a privilege, not a right, and to do it responsibly. After all, they learned from the best. And don’t forget to speak with your insurance agent before you buy, because your agent can give you some great advice on which car may be a good choice for your family.
Greg Barber, CIC