Teenage kicks: Now your teenager can drive, what next for parents?

So, your teenager has passed their test with flying colours – OK, maybe a few minors – and they can’t wait to take to the open road and enjoy their hard-earned independence. But where they may be imagining zooming off in something sporty like a VXR model, you’re probably more focused on keeping them safe by ensuring they’re driving something with a five-star Euro NCAP rating.

Nowadays, 59% of parents help their teens with the costs of buying their first car, but whether you’re buying it for them outright or they’ve saved their money to make their own choice, you’ll want to make sure your teenager is the new registered driver of the best car the budget will stretch to. So what points should you look for, and what car options could you present that would make a good compromise with your teenager? How can you get style and safety – cars with great features that are also ‘cool’?

What are the main points?

There are so many things to consider when choosing a new car for your teenager, but here are our top three:

• Safety and reliability
• Insurance and running costs
• New or used?

We’ll take a look at each of these and give you some tips on which stylish cars rate highly for each, that your teen might love the look of!

Safety and reliability

Sure, your kid just passed their test and they’re the King of the World now – but remember that new drivers can be unnerved by driving, too. That’s not unreasonable – 16-17 year olds have a higher risk of being involved in accidents than older, more experienced drivers – so talk to your teenager about any fears they may have, and you can then gently encourage them to choose a vehicle which will keep them safe on the roads.

For most teenagers, cool credentials are everything when buying a car, and finding that compromise – a sharp-looking car that will keep them safe – is no mean feat! Check the Euro NCAP crash test results of the car you’re considering to see how it measures up: don’t accept anything less than 5 stars, as you’ll find most new cars have high safety standards. Useful features to check for include:

• Electronic stability control
• Airbags
• ABS brakes
• Blind-spot monitoring and parking sensors

The smallest, most compact cars (such as Smart cars) are not recommended, as they can sustain more damage in a collision; luckily these don’t seem to be the most popular choice amongst image-conscious teens. A supermini or medium sized hatchback is ideal – why not suggest cars such as the bestselling Ford Fiesta or the cute, cheap-to-run Kia Picanto?

With its MP3-compatible radio/CD player, USB connectivity and steering-wheel mounted controls, the sleek new 1.25-litre Ford Fiesta Studio 3-door keeps Mum and Dad happy too, thanks to a 5-star NCAP rating. And the new Kia Picanto 1.0-litre 3-door has serious street cred and is feature-packed, with a leather steering wheel and gear knob, 14” alloy wheels, air-conditioning and a stereo with MP3 compatibility and USB port. This little car also scores a 5-star NCAP rating and has reverse parking sensors for squeezing into those tight spaces. It comes with a 7 year warranty and 1 year’s free breakdown cover and boasts fuel economy of 62.8mpg, costing just £20 a year for road tax – an excellent choice for a first car that will keep both teens and parents happy! A three-door is a great option for most teenagers as boot space usually isn’t a major consideration.

Lastly, remember that a safer car may also place you in a lower insurance group – which may help sway your teenager if they’re paying the costs. High insurance premiums apply to young drivers, which brings us nicely to our next point!

Insurance and running costs

The smaller the engine, the cheaper the running costs, which also means better fuel economy and lower insurance premiums – great news for parents who are footing the insurance bill or teens paying their own way. This is a great opportunity to teach your kid responsibility by getting them to share the insurance and running costs of their new car!

Check with your insurer whether adding your teenager to your car insurance is a cost-effective option. Also, be aware that some makers offer special young-driver insurance benefits – such as Ford’s offer for drivers 18-24 – so this may help you and your teen make an informed choice.

One option to lower your young driver’s insurance premiums is to opt for one of the new ‘Black Box’ policies. The insurer installs a system that monitors driving (called telematics), which check speed, handling, and the care of the driver, and also record driving at perceived danger-times (e.g. the early hours of the morning). Designed to reward careful drivers, such policies can cut premiums substantially once your teen proves they are a good driver.

Consider whether a petrol or diesel engine is the best option – whilst you may get better overall fuel economy with a diesel, they can be less good for young drivers’ short trips around town and to university or their summer job. The latest petrol models have excellent fuel economy and some, such as the Kia Rio, also come with free road tax. For first cars with low running costs, we suggest the Kia Picanto 1.0-litre with its fuel economy of 62.8mpg and £20 annual road tax, and the Hyundai i10, which has a 1.0-litre petrol engine and fuel economy of 65.7mpg. Remember that the more reliable the car, the lower the maintenance and running costs – helpful if your teen is budget conscious when you’re working on a car choice!

New or used?

You’re not alone if you’re struggling to decide whether your teen should be driving a new or used car. There are advantages to both, but we will point out that newer vehicles will usually have enhanced safety features and better equipment as standard, such as electric windows, air-conditioning and infotainment systems.

If you and your teenager decide to save the budget and go for a used car, consider getting an extended warranty – this is available from Perrys on all our cars, so ask your local Perrys dealership.

Keeping them happy

If you know how to keep your teenager happy, you must be doing a good job as a parent – it isn’t always easy! Think about the features they’d like in their car; for many teens, a decent stereo and a means to connect their MP3 player or smartphone are usually the most important things. For those making longer journeys, air-conditioning may be a bonus, and the interior design of the car is important too – features such as a leather steering wheel are usually appreciated!

When choosing a car for your teenager, remember that it should be enjoyable and fun to drive, as well as being safe and well-equipped. Many new car models now manage to be both, and with all these things in mind, you should be able to buy a car your teen will love for many years.