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Safety, Reliability, Cost Are Key In Picking Right Car for Teen

For some parents, giving their teenage children a car is a reward. For busy families, it's a necessity. Summer is the prime time for parents to purchase vehicles for their teens, with graduation, summer jobs and college looming.

Road travel organization AAA encourages parents to factor safety, affordability and reliability into picking the best vehicle for their teen.

"Making a wise choice can more than just save the teen some money and repair headaches -- it can save lives," said AAA President and CEO Robert Darbelnet.

Selecting the right vehicle can prove challenging for parents as they balance safety concerns, financial constraints, the teen's preferences and their own emotions. Prior to choosing a make and model, parents must first determine if their teen needs or deserves a vehicle of their own.

"Parents should assess the maturity level and actual driving needs of their teen before beginning the search for a vehicle," Darbelnet said. "Once a teen is ready for and needs a vehicle, buying that car presents a golden opportunity for parents to actively engage the teen in making a smart, safe vehicle decision."

First, consider safety -- auto crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, and teens are more than twice as likely to be involved in a crash as adult licensed drivers. Parents should consider vehicles with the latest safety features that can reduce the risk of a crash and the likelihood of injury should a crash occur. Such features include antilock braking systems (ABS), daytime running lights, electronic stability control (ESC), airbags and adjustable and lockable head restraints.

Next, affordability -- parents are encouraged to work with their teen to determine the best investment. A new vehicle may exceed the family budget, so a previously owned model with good safety features might be the best option. Insurance, fuel and maintenance costs should all factor into the decision-making process.

Don't forget, reliability -- selecting a vehicle with a warranty, even considering purchasing an extended warranty, plus checking the vehicle's maintenance and crash histories, conducting a pre-purchase inspection and avoiding vehicles with excessive mileage are all steps parents can take to ensure the purchase of a roadworthy and mechanically sound vehicle for their teen.

Rachel Koning Beals has written about credit, real estate, personal finance and investing for 14 years.


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