Teen car

The First Car: How to help your Teenager choose theirs

In this article, Mark Barclay from independent parts retailer GSF Car Parts takes a closer look at how best to help your teenage son or daughter choose their first car.

When the time comes for your child to start driving their first car, it’s perfectly understandable if you have mixed feelings on the matter. Sure, you’re happy for them to get a bit of freedom, but there’s also that nagging worry that they might not be safe on the road. And, you’re perfectly justified in your fretting: one in five new drivers are involved in an accident during their first year as a motorist, according to statistics from ALA.

While you can’t always be in the car to keep them on track, you can ensure that they are driving a safe and reliable vehicle. Below, I’ve outlined a few ways you can make sure your son or daughter’s first car is up to scratch when you’re helping them choose.

Research the safety and reliability ratings for a first car

Though your teen may be more interested in what colour a new car comes in, it’s your job as a parent to make sure they’re looking at models that tick the ‘boring’ boxes of reliability and safety. Thankfully, the automotive industry has a couple of rating systems that make this easy, allowing you to research which models should be on a first car shortlist.

The first rating system you should be looking at is the Euro NCAP tests, which are the industry standard for thoroughly checking a car’s ability to keep a driver safe. NCAP ratings are issued as a mark out of five, so be sure to note down the names of those five-star vehicles. There is also the Reliability Index to investigate, where cars are graded on their reliability and likelihood to break down or suffer from wear and tear. Keep both of these in mind when advising your teen.

Carry out essential checks

As a newly qualified driver, your son or daughter won’t have any experience with buying a car. That’s why it’s important that you help them choose a vehicle that is in good condition and worthy of its asking price, especially if you’re looking at the used market.

Firstly, take care to view any car in broad daylight so that you can see any potential issues that might be masked by the dark. Then, make sure that all the vehicle’s essential parts, such as the windows, mirrors, lights, locks, brakes, and dashboard indicators, are all in good working order. Get your child to sit in the car and rev the engine, while you look for any blue or black smoke from the exhaust. This is a sign that the engine is burning too much oil.

Also, you should look at the state of the vehicle’s tyres, making sure that the tread is at least the legally required 1.6mm — though a greater tread would be preferable.

Accompany them on the test drive

Get your son or daughter to take any potential car for a test drive, as this is an important part of identifying whether it’s a vehicle they’ll be comfortable driving. Be sure to sit in on the test yourself as well, as it’s also a key opportunity to see if there are any problems with how it drives. You may also wish to get behind the wheel yourself for a few minutes to check that everything feels right.

There are a few things that you should watch out for. Listen out for any unusual noises, no matter how quiet, as they’re usually a tell-tale sign of an engine malfunction. Ask your teen how changing gear feels, as this should be smooth without any crunching. If things don’t seem right, it could indicate a problem with the transmission. Also, get your son or daughter to tell you how the steering feels, as it shouldn’t be too stiff or loose.

Follow my three tips and you will be much better equipped for helping your son or daughter to choose their first car. Then, at least you can have some peace of mind that they’re driving a safe vehicle.

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