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What to look for when buying a car for your teen driver

If your teen is getting their driver's license soon and will be needing a car of their own, it may be tempting to give them one of your older vehicles or buy a used one to save some money. However, your first priority should be their safety.

That means doing some research on how various vehicles are rated for safety. It may also mean getting them a newer-model car with some safety features that weren't around even a decade ago.

There are plenty of places to look for safety ratings. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Consumer Reports, for example, rank vehicles every year based on how they do in collision tests.

The right advanced safety features can also help protect novice drivers, as long as they don't start to rely on them as an alternative to keeping their eyes and attention on the road or their surroundings. NHTSA recommends the following driver assistance technologies for anyone shopping for a vehicle:

  • Forward collision warning
  • Lane departure warning
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Rear video system

Many newer models have additional safety features, like blind spot warnings that let drivers know when a car is approaching in the lane next to them or a vehicle or pedestrian is near the rear of their vehicle.

Typically, a larger, heavier vehicle performs better in a crash than a smaller, sportier one. The insurance rates (especially for a teen driver) may be lower as well. However, before you consider letting your teen have your big, sturdy SUV, remember that could tempt them to give let multiple passengers pile in. That can be dangerous (and illegal) if those passengers are teens.

Even responsible teens driving a sensible car with the newest safety features can get involved in serious crashes if they encounter a reckless, impaired or distracted driver. Make sure that you get the compensation you need for medical expenses, physical therapy and other economic and noneconomic damages.

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