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Tips for buying your teen the best used car for them

If your teen is clamoring for a car of their own, and you’ve been scanning Craig’s List, or the AutoTrader looking for the perfect used car, you are not alone.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently did a study and found that 83 percent of parents surveyed bought used, not new cars, for their teens to drive. The study also found that most parents were picking the wrong car for their teen to drive!

A friend recently posted on Facebook that she was looking for a good used car for her teenager.

“Not a mini-van or anything like a Ford Taurus,” she wrote.

I could see where no self-respecting teenager would want to drive a mini-van to school. Heck, I don’t even want to drive a mini-van. But I’m thinking a Ford Taurus might be the perfect car for a teen. It’s not flashy and it’s big enough for decent protection in the event of an accident.

Experts said size is important and it’s kind of a Goldilocks situation — not too big, not too small, but just right. The smallest mid-sized car is recommended and one with just enough horsepower — a four- or six-cylinder at most — is best. Definitely not one with enough power to cause problems for inexperienced drivers!

The institute survey also found that most parents reported spending an average of $9,800 on a used car for a teen, though the median price point was lower at $5,300.

The institute said it’s difficult to get a safe vehicle for a teen at the prices most people are paying. Part of the problem with newer cars is they’re extremely safe, but that makes them cost more for all those bells and whistles. Parents should assess what’s important and evaluate the economic impact of buying a used vehicle compared a newer one.

Of course, when buying used, it’s always buyer beware, right? Take any car you’re seriously considering to a trusted mechanic for a once-over. It’ll cost you a little something, so first be sure you and your teen like the car. Then, make sure all the stuff you know about works — the lights, signals, radio, windshield wipers, seat adjusters, etc. If the basics aren’t there, the rest of it may be troublesome too. And here’s a little tip from experts: How clean is the car? If someone drove it as though it was a rolling trash can, they may not have maintained it mechanically. They may do a thorough cleaning on it before showing it to you, but if you check the nooks and crannies you may find some evidence of its previous condition.

Now as far as safety is concerned, here are a couple of great tips for teen driving!

• Did you know that you can download software that disables a cell phone when the car is moving? Some newer cars have it built in, but I Googled it and came up with I’m sure there are plenty more out there.

• If you give your teen the keys to a car with standard transmission, not only will they learn something they’ll think is kind of cool, but they’ll be forced to focus a little more on actual driving! Plus it is really hard to drive a stick while holding a soda and a cell phone!