Top 10 Cars for the New Drivers 2016

As the parent of a newly licensed teenager in search of his first car, I’ve had the opportunity to learn what’s out there, what teens like and what I’m comfortable with, and what insurance companies look for. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.

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1. Think Safety First

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The challenge for new drivers, and for worrying parents of new drivers, is safety. Once they head out on their own behind the wheel there is nothing you can do to protect them, but ensuring they start with a car that is safe is one pre-emptive step you can take.
The IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) looks at two aspects of safety – crashworthiness and crash avoidance and mitigation – which covers both staying out of and how drivers and their passengers fare in an accident.
One of IHHS’s top picks for 2016 is the Nissan Sentra. A nice, four-door, not too big, not too small vehicle for first-time drivers, the Sentra gets good ratings across the board and superior crash avoidance ratings with a few optional accessories.

2. Think Price

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Of course price is also a consideration in car buying, especially for first-time buyers who may not yet have an understanding of budgeting, their gas usage and the costs of regular maintenance.
One of the most economical cars for 2016 is the Chevrolet Spark. This compact, two-door car handles well, is relatively inexpensive to buy, and gets extra points for fuel efficiency. A bonus unless you want to help foot the bill for gas.

3. Think Reliable

Everyone wants a car they can count on. As the parent of a teen driver, you especially want to be sure they get where they are going without any hassle. For reliability, the Honda Civic gets good ratings across the board – including safety and price point. It’s a good little car that will last well beyond into the time your new car owner is working full time and able to get their next new vehicle all on their own.

4. Think Insurance

If you haven’t looked into it already, I’ll advise you to be sure you’re sitting before you do. Insurance rates for new drivers – especially if those drivers happen to be teenaged boys – are enough to knock you off your feet. Sure, the logic says these young drivers will make more mistakes, and the boys may tend to take more risks than the girls but wow…
Insurance companies look at a number of factors when determining insurance rates. Part of this is durability, cost to fix and road worthiness. Believe it or not the Jeep Wrangler actually gets good marks in this category. According to Forbes in 2014 there were actually four Jeep vehicles that made the grade so are worth adding to the list of cars to consider.

5. Think Repair

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No matter how careful your driver, accidents happen, things break and need to be fixed. While there are some cars that look great, and may stack up in some areas, the cost of parts and therefore repair, can take them out of a first-time driver’s budget range and cut into mom or dad’s pocket.
In this category, the Toyota Corolla is worth considering. Another sporty sedan, it also ranks for safety and price and in the long run, will give your driver a safe car that is more affordable.

6. Think Experience

No matter how good your young driver is, the one thing they lack is experience, and that includes with a variety of weather conditions. Definitely one of the key safety considerations when car shopping is the kinds of weather your driver will find themselves in and what will best handle those roads.
The snowy, winter roads I’m most familiar with aren’t best suited for the front wheel drive muscle cars my driver was looking at. Instead, we wanted to look at 4WD or AWD and here, Subaru is worth a look for a couple of its models, including the Outback for its winter driving capabilities.

7. Think Features

Everyone wants a car that is goes beyond the base model and that’s true even for first-time buyers who may not know about all the bells and whistles available but know they want to be able to show their friends some of their car’s cooler features.
Kelley Blue Book ranks the Hyundai Elantra for its added features, including a sunroof, push-button start, heated front seats and shift nob. Your driver won’t even have to know that it also ranks well for safety and reliability.

8. Think Passengers

Any time I hear of an accident involving teens and a vehicle that was loaded to capacity, I cringe. While you want your driver to be able to travel with friends, and to be able to accommodate hockey equipment or camping equipment, or whatever they may be up to, setting them up with a van they can pile a load of friends into may not be a good idea. Even if only for the distractibility factor.
If your driver needs cargo space, and the occasional requirement to take the dog, or grandma and grandpa and a few kids somewhere, a crossover may be worth considering. Not really a van, not quite an SUV, these vehicles provide a potential for third-row seating but tend not to be everyday third row seating.
The Toyota Highlander is one that gets good reviews in the areas of safety, reliability and as a good, solid built crossover option.

9. Think of your Mechanic

If you aren’t sure where to start, start with your mechanic. A quick call or chat while you’re in for your next appointment is an opportunity to ask what they recommend. Understanding that they’ve seen a lot of vehicles driven by a lot of different drivers, they can advise you on the problems they’ve seen, the defects they’ve run into and which cars they would be happy to own themselves.
If you don’t have a regular mechanic, find one. A reliable local company can be your young driver’s best resource, both before and after they buy the car.

10. Get your Young Driver Involved

Make sure your driver is involved in the process, and not just picking out the car. Get them involved in looking into insurance, into looking at safety specifications…. Take them to see your mechanic to have a conversation about required maintenance, what to do if they get locked out or have a flat or find their car won’t start.
Make that introduction to the car experts who will be their lifeline to quality service and expert advice and you can protect them from getting taken advantage of down the road.

Your young driver is about to start on the adventure that is car ownership. Help them make sure the adventure is a good one by following these simple tips.