Advice Has Changed on What Car to Buy for a Young Driver

Ms. Stockburger said she had recently leased a car for her daughter, who drives regularly to an off-campus activity at college. Ms. Stockburger said she was a fan of teenagers having “skin in the game” in many situations, including car purchases. So to help cover costs, the family agreed that her daughter would pay for vehicle expenses when she was home from school in the summer.

Choosing the right car involves trade-offs. In general, larger vehicles are safer in a crash than smaller ones. But very big vehicles, like large sport-utility vehicles, can be more difficult for new drivers to handle. They also can carry more passengers, which increases the risk of distraction, Ms. Stockburger said.

She said to look for a reliable car with good crash-test results (you can find them on websites for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety), equipped with as many advanced safety features as you can afford. “Our philosophy is keep them out of the crash in the first place,” she said.

Here are some questions and answers about buying a car for a new driver:

Where can I learn about advanced auto safety features?

The National Safety Council has created a website,, that outlines current and future safety innovations and explains how they work together to reduce the risk of crashes.

I’ve heard that “new driver” contracts are helpful for families to sign. Where can I find samples?

Many organizations offer templates, of varying length and detail, for contracts that new drivers and their parents can use to set ground rules. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics offer a two-page version. The Teen Driver Source, created by the research institute at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, offers several more.

How can I keep insurance costs down for a new young driver?

Adding a teenager to a family’s automobile policy can greatly increase insurance premiums.

Many insurers offer discounts for drivers who complete driver training programs or keep good grades, so it’s worth asking about them.

Also, some insurers — including Liberty Mutual — offer discounts for drivers of cars with certain safety features, so ask about those, too.

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