Safety First: How to Pick Your Teen’s First Car

Car accident injury attorney in La Jolla discusses teen's first car.
Car accident injury attorney in La Jolla discusses teen's first car.

By Michael Pines, Accident & Injury Prevention Expert

We all remember the first day we got our driver’s license. The excitement of getting behind the wheel was an incredible experience. The freedom! The responsibility! The coming of age!

Those same sentiments ring true in our teens today. Yet, because young drivers are inherently inexperienced, the risk for getting into a car accident is, unfortunately, high. So when it comes to safety, it’s no wonder parents spend a great deal of time deciding which car is best for their teen driver.

In the latest poll at


, we learn that the typical smaller, inexpensive cars that most teens drive today are not necessarily the safest. Sure, they may be excellent when it comes to gas mileage, but small, old cars are often lacking some of the most essential safety features that can help young drivers prevent car accidents.

“While older cars are often more affordable for parents and teens, our poll confirms the trend we suspected – parents opt for older and sometimes smaller cars for their teens when a newer car would be a safer option,” said PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg.

Most respondents in the PEMCO survey reported driving an 8 to 10 year old car as their first vehicle. Older cars may make logical sense, but they aren’t the best choice when it comes to safety for a new driver.

Many older vehicles lack some of the most essential safety features – for example, side airbags. Less than 25 percent of vehicles in 2003 offered side airbags as a standard safety feature according to an


published at the

Claims Journal.

Electronic stability control, lane departure warnings, rear view cameras and other safety features are even rarer.

Size also plays a significant factor when it comes to safety due to physics alone. A larger car is safer for teen drivers according to the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI). That’s because smaller cars are more dangerous due to a shorter wheelbase and the increased risk for greater injury should an accident occur. Teens are also two times more likely to crash in a smaller car compared to adult drivers. Despite these safety concerns, 30 percent of teens are still driving small, inadequate cars.


When it comes to choosing the best car for your teen driver, here’s what you can do to ensure the risk for car accident and injury are reduced.


Even if you upgrade your teen into a sedan, it could be a safer choice compared to a very small, economical car. Small SUVs could also prove to be a safe choice thanks in part to a larger and more forgiving wheelbase.


Every year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) puts out safety reports for existing vehicle inventory. You can easily check out current ratings by

clicking here



Safety features like side airbags, electronic stability control and lane departure warnings can reduce your teen’s risk for getting into a car accident.


Not all used vehicles are bad but before you commit, check for safety recalls and be sure the car is checked for overall integrity at a mechanic or dealership. Most honest sellers won’t have a problem with a professional inspection prior to the purchase of the car.

About Michael Pines

Michael Pines is a personal injury attorney at the

Law Offices of Michael Pines, APC

in San Diego, California. He is an accident and injury prevention expert, on a campaign to end senseless injury one article at a time. Catch Mike on