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The type of car that teens drive is often overlooked as an accident risk. However, the kind of car your teen drives can greatly affect your teen’s safety on the road. What does your teen drive?

Whether you plan to buy your teen driver a car of her own or one that will be shared with the whole family, there are several key aspects that you should remember.

Choosing a good car is a matter of life and death. It is important to pick a car that has received good crash test ratings and has low rollover occurrences. Also, you should check the condition of the tires, the cooling system, seatbelts, brakes and other systems because they can affect a vehicle's overall reliability and reduce the risk that your teen will be stranded somewhere due to a breakdown.

There are different safety considerations for buying a new car than there are for buying a used car.

New Cars: Obviously, when purchasing a new vehicle, there's less to worry about. The most important aspect is crash resistance and structural integrity. This applies to several areas.

  1. Crash-test scores: These are a very useful tool that helps consumers determine the safety of a certain vehicle. A government Web site, www.safercar.gov, compares the ability of a vehicle to withstand impact. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also conducts crash testing and rollover assessments for automobiles, accessible online at www.hwysafety.org – click on "vehicle ratings." If you don't have an Internet connection at home, stop in at any branch of the Allen County Public Library and surf there. 
  2. Size: A vehicle's size can protect your teen during an accident. However, large vehicles are slightly more difficult to drive and park, and can have higher rollover rates.

Used Cars: Here are some things to remember when buying a used car for a teen driver.

  1. Tires: Tires are a critical component on any vehicle. Their condition is imperative to your teen’s stopping and maneuvering ability. So carefully inspect them. Are they cracked or old looking? Is there tread left? If the tires do not meet your standards, notify the seller and demand a price decrease or a new set of tires.
  2. Brakes: If your teen can’t stop quickly there is no way that he will be able to drive safely. Check to see if the brakes make any squealing or odd sounds. If the brakes seem to be faulty, use this point to negotiate the price and have new brakes installed or don’t buy the car.
  3. Battery: The majority of auto parts stores or places that sell batteries can test your battery for free. It shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes.
  4. Seatbelts: Check to see that there are no tears in the fabric and that they fasten securely.
  5. Radiator/Cooling system: You may want a mechanic to check these out. But you can look under the car and see if there's any fluid on the ground. If it's clear, it's okay (it's probably just melted condensation from the air conditioner) but if it's colored, it may mean the radiator is leaking. Also, when test driving, drive the car extensively to see if it overheats. If it does, renegotiate the price with the seller. If the cooling system is faulty it’s probably not worth buying. Bad radiators and cooling systems mean guaranteed breakdown.
  6. Belts and hoses: Hoses and belts wear out over time. Inspect them for cracks, holes and aging. If in doubt about the condition of hoses or belts replace them before they cause an accident or breakdown.
  7. Engine and transmission: A mechanic can do some tests and other procedures to check the power and condition of the engine. A transmission usually lasts a long time unless it's leaking. While test driving watch for any slippage or harsh shifts. 

This is not a complete list of things you should consider when buying a car but these are the most important aspects. Use this article as a helpful guide to ensure that your teen’s car is safe.

It is highly recommended to have an auto mechanic look at any used car before you buy it. Many will do this relatively cheap, and it is well worth the cost!