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Younger - Older Drivers

How to Buy a Safe Car for Your Teen Tips for Choosing a Safe Car for Your Teen Driver

(ARA) - So, your teen just got a driver’s license? Chances are you consider this development both a blessing and a curse. There’s a sense of freedom in no longer having to act as your son or daughter’s personal chauffer. But there is also the fear of knowing that new, young drivers are involved in more traffic accidents than other segments of the driving population. A young adult driver is killed in a car crash every 15 minutes.

You may also be facing the prospect of adding another car to your garage. Choosing the right car for your teen may not make her a better driver, but may be a key factor in keeping her safe. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which crash-tests dozens of vehicles each year, advises parents to choose a midsize vehicle with lots of safety features such as air bags and antilock brakes.

If your budget can support buying your teen a new car, chances are most recommended safety features will be standard issue, and your biggest dilemma will be choosing a paint color. However, if you are looking at used cars for your teen driver, you may have to do a little more research to find a car with appropriate safety equipment. Here are some tips from the experts at Farmers Insurance Group that can help you find the best car for your new driver:

* A good place to start is with “The Consumer Guide Used Car Rating Guide.” This useful publication talks about the pros and cons of buying a used vehicle, which is especially useful if you haven’t shopped for a used car before.

* Check out the consumer information on car safety available from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Insurance Information Institute, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. This background can help you zero in on cars that can better protect your teen in case she’s ever involved in an accident.

* Choose the newest model your budget can afford, since most of today’s cars are better designed for crash protection than vehicles six to 10 years old.

* Make sure the car has working airbags. Many models manufactured after 1993 or 1994 have at least a driver’s side airbag.

* Know the market before you shop. Use the Internet or your local library to research prices on the make and model car you’re interested in. Armed with this information, you’ll be in a better position to negotiate a good deal.

* Use the power of the Internet to make your search easier. Check out an online car buying site for details on used cars in your area.

Once you find a car you’re interested in, don’t take the owner’s or the dealer’s assurances as the last word on whether the car is in good shape. Check the horn, lights, heat, air-conditioning, brakes, seat belts and steering.

Look for evidence that might indicate the car was in a major accident, such as cracks in the dashboard or doors that don’t quite shut properly. Check the car for evidence of tampering, like any marks on the odometer or numbers that don’t line up. Ask the owner or the dealer for the car’s accident and maintenance record. Web sites such as use a car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) to unearth hidden problems in a vehicle's past that may affect its safety and resale value. For a small fee, you can find out about any accident or flood damage, odometer rollbacks, lemon histories, lien activity and vehicle use (taxi, rental, lease, etc.)

Unless you really know cars, have a mechanic you trust go over the car and alert you to any potential problems. Although this checkup costs money up front, if there is something wrong with the car that isn’t readily apparent, it’s money well spent that could save you a fortune down the road.

Finally, check out insurance costs for the car you are considering before you buy it. Depending on the make, model and year of the car, this cost can vary substantially, and might influence your final decision.

Farmers knows that educating young drivers is important. The company’s Y.E.S. (You’re Essential to Safety) Program aims to improve a young person’s driving. In many states, young drivers who complete the program may qualify for a discount on their auto insurance.

For more information on Y.E.S., visit The Web site has other helpful information, such as calculators that can help you figure out how much car you can afford from a list of cars with better insurance values, and access to Farmers Auto Buying Service which has pre-arranged pricing at more than 5,000 dealerships nationwide. You can also receive an online quote on insurance for your new car.

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