Dear Mike:

My daughter will be getting her license soon and we’re getting ready to buy a car for her. Do you have any advice for us?

– Theresa S, Hazlet, NJ

Hi, Theresa!

The first thing I’d say is to make sure you’ve given her plenty of practice time with you in the passenger seat. That’s always the most important point I want to make, because it’s the only way your daughter is going to be ready to drive safely without you, no matter what car she’s driving.

As far as buying a car that’s especially good for a teenager, you need to think about safety before anything else. Do your homework; you can go to to find out ratings for specific vehicles. Another good website is That’s the site for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an organization supported by insurance companies, that does research and crash tests above and beyond what the government requires.

Your daughter probably wants you to make a decision based on looks or features like a sun-roof, but you really need to look at the impact studies for head-on collisions, t-bones AND rollovers.

Know the details, not just the overall safety rating. Whatever you do, don’t buy a junker just because it’s cheap; there are some cars that are still on the road that I tell my students I’ll personally pay to have towed to the salvage yard, because I consider them so unsafe in a collision. Saving a few dollars isn’t nearly as important as protecting your son or daughter’s life.

Mike Pehl
‘Helping Parents Create Safer Roads, One Teen at a Time””
Smarter Drivers, Safer Roads
That’s our goal.

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