NOWHERE will the age gap between you and your kids be more obvious than when choosing their first car. Passing the driving test is a huge milestone which many new drivers want to mark with a chic and, probably, sporty car. Most parents would rather their kids chose the safest set of wheels possible.
There is a balance to be struck, however. Not only does the cost of buying the car have to be factored in, but the running costs, price of fuel and insurance have to be considered.
Insurance is the biggest hurdle, with many young drivers paying more for cover than they spent buying the car.
There are ways to reduce insurance premiums for young drivers, such as taking the Pass Plus exam that includes a section about motorway driving. Some councils even offer grants to refund the cost of the Pass Plus course and many insurance companies offer discounts to those who take the Pass Plus course.
Young drivers can also agree with their insurer to limit the mileage they cover, not to drive at certain times of night and even have a GPS tracker device fitted. All of these methods will help cut your premium. Some new car deals include free insurance, but check the age restrictions in the terms and conditions.
Don’t be tempted to insure the car in your name and let your child drive as a named driver if they are the main driver. This is called ‘fronting’ and could mean your car is uninsured in the event of an accident.
Choosing the right car is vitally important too. Generally, a lower powered car with as much safety equipment fitted as standard is the best bet. Young drivers aged 17- 24-years old are around 40% more likely to be in a collision than other drivers and unfortunately this age group makes up about a quarter of all fatalities on the UK’s roads.
Look for a car with ABS anti-lock brakes, which must be fitted to all cars built from 1 July 2004 sold in the UK. ABS brakes help the driver steer around hazards in an emergency, while ESP stability control keeps the car pointing in the right direction in slippery conditions. Also try to find a car with driver, passenger and side airbags fitted.
While you may think buying the slowest car possible is the safest thing to do, you need to consider where your child will be driving. If they spend most of their time around town, this is a sensible attitude as a moderately powered car will give good fuel economy. However, if they use the car to drive to work or university on a motorway or busy, fast roads, a car with reasonable acceleration will be a safer bet.
Also, fuel costs for those young drivers covering larger mileages will be important, so a diesel engine might be best. Just make sure the driver knows which fuel pump to use as mis-fuelling is expensive to rectify.
A good local garage will be able to look after most cars easily, saving the expense of main dealer servicing. For newer cars, it’s best to stick with a franchised dealer’s servicing to protect the car’s value for when you want to sell it. Reliability is important so you know your offspring won’t be stranded at the side of the road, but also make sure they have breakdown cover.
There are thousands of new and used cars to choose from, so finding one both you and your child agree on shouldn’t be too difficult.