What type of car should I get for my child?

Many parents think the best car to get their child is one that is good on gas mileage so it will be cheaper to operate.  Most cars that are selected on this pretense are generally smaller cars and trucks.  For the most part, these are some of the worst vehicles to put a new driver in.  They are generally lighter which increases the tendency to skid out of control and do not provide as much protection when involved in a crash.


It is a proven fact that when involved in a traffic crash, the risk of death doubles for occupants in smaller compact cars, small utility vehicles and pickup trucks compared to larger mid to full size vehicles.  Combine this with the fact that teens have more crashes per miles driven than any other age group, can result in a lethal combination.  SUV's have a higher risk of rolling over or loss of control due to a higher center of gravity.  With high performance vehicles, teens have a tendency to operate at higher speeds and drive more aggressively.



  • A somewhat older full to midsize car. These are generally cheaper to insure and will provide greater safety (due to its size) if involved in a crash.  Smaller cars are not able to absorb the forces of an impact which results in more forces being experience by the occupants, thus resulting in more injuries.
  • Select 3 or 4 similar size and year vehicles.  Compare insurance cost on each vehicle.  You might be surprised that one of the vehicles might be considerably cheaper to insure.  This may be due to a better safety rating.
  • You might also check the cost of insurance on vehicles a year newer of what you are looking for.  The insurance cost may be the same or even a little cheaper due to safety improvements, raising the crash rating from poor to moderate or moderate to good.
  • What you save on insurance cost will generally offset what you will spend in fuel.
  • Strongly recommend a vehicle equipped with Anti-lock brakes (ABS).  
  • Strongly recommend a vehicle with front wheel drive.  Rear-wheel drive vehicles have a greater tendency to lose control on slippery pavement.

When buying a car from an individual or a non-certified used car from a car sales lot, prior to purchase, consider having a mechanic check:

  • Brake lines
  • Brakes
  • Serpentine belt
  • Shocks / struts
  • Steering components


Consider buying a car that has maintenance records compared to one that does not.

Vehicle Safety Ratings

When looking to purchase a vehicle for your child, you should be aware that there are significant safety differences between many vehicles. Most individuals have no idea how safe one vehicle is compared to another by just by looking at them. Since 16 yr. old drivers have the highest risk of being in a traffic crash than any other age groups, do you really want to put them in a vehicle that has a poor safety rating (high probability of causing injury or death due to poor structural design). The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) and (NHTSA) crash test most vehicles and then rate them on how well they perform (held-up) in a crash. These results are available to all insurance companies. Therefore, vehicles with higher safety ratings have a tendency to have lower insurance cost compared to similar vehicles. This is due to insurance companies having to pay lower claims on an average for safer vehicles compared to paying higher claims to those individuals who were seriously injured or killed in vehicles due to poor structural design. These results are available at the following link: is a website which provides valuable information such as:

  • Consumer Alert information
  • Instructions for installing child safety seats
  • Winter Driving Tips
  • Vehicle Safety Ratings
  • Recalls by vehicle identification number (VIN)          


The vehicle safety ratings come from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that crash test vehicles




General Motors (GM) may have recalled 3.2 million vehicles for everything from ignition switch problems that killed at least a dozen people – to air bag, brake and front impact test defects – but that hasn’t stopped some dealers from selling the flagged cars.  Selling recalled vehicles that have not yet been repaired is common practice.


Using Internet searches, FOX Business has found literally thousands of GM vehicles under recall for sale all across the U.S., with many of them listed as “Certified Pre-Owned.”  Because the vehicles are used, the dealers are breaking no law.


And CARFAX, the vehicle monitoring service that many consumers use to trace a car or truck’s history, said its records indicate that 3.5 million vehicles from virtually every manufacturer were listed for sale in the U.S. that were under an open or unfixed recall.


In the case of the most recent GM recall of SUV air bags, a FOX Business review has found CARFAX reports on those respective vehicles show “No Recalls Reported.”  CARFAX said it receives its information from the automakers, and therefore has received no additional information on those vehicles yet from GM.

Consider checking Consumer Report's or the web for "Best and Worst" used cars rated for reliability. 

Below is a printable document to use as a resource. 

Buying a vehicle
Buying a vehicle.doc
Microsoft Word document [28.5 KB]


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