With one in five newly qualified drivers having an accident in the first 6 months of passing, it’s natural for parents to worry about their youngster’s first taste of the open road.
The end of exam season marks a flurry of new drivers, with the focus shifting from revision to new wheels. When they’re ready for their first set of keys, it will often fall to the parents to guide them in their choices. Naturally parents will have a few things on their mind when they’re looking for a car for the newest driver in their family:
- Safety: No one really wants to consider ‘crumple zones’, but you want to know everyone is going to be as safe as possible.
- Cost: More often than not, the bank of mum and dad ends up footing at least part of the bill.
- Peer Pressure: We were all young once, and understand the influence friends can have.
Newer cars are usually safer, and NCAP gives a guide as to how safe any given car is. Remember however, that NCAP ratings change year to year, with the test levels each car would have to achieve. To ensure the car bought for your offspring is the safest, a new 5 star rated car would be ideal, if it weren’t for the cost.
Driver Assistance Systems are one of the major safety features in modern cars, and one of the key differentiators for many newer vehicles - but not all are available in smaller cars. In the future we should expect these systems to filter down to all machines, regardless of size.
There are two major cost factors – those of buying a newer, safer car, and that of the car insurance for young people. Because accident statistics are less favourable towards new drivers, the cost of car insurance for young people tends to be much higher than that of more experienced drivers.
Generally speaking, cars in insurance group 1 are the cheapest to insure and run – usually because of a lower engine power. Handily this means filling up is cheaper in addition to the insurance saving.
Peer pressure can make for silly mistakes. While driving with your friends is all part of the freeing experience of the open road, it can also encourage bad driving and instil bad habits. Sadly, there’s few ways to combat this, other than by having conversations about the responsibility of a driver to their passengers. We know that 52% of parents wouldn’t teach their children to drive – but this is an important lesson that needs to be learnt regardless.
Mark Bower-Dyke, Chairman of Be Wiser insurance, comments:
"As we know, we can learn a lot from teaching our children to drive, patience being chief among them! The next thing we learn is how important it is to get them into the safest car possible. With so many statistics to remind us of the number of young people who die on British roads every year, it's enough to take the keys away all together! Driving is probably the riskiest situation you've ever let one of your children experience, and as such it's easy to go overboard. Even with the safest cars things can go wrong - the best defence is to train your children to be careful, cautious drivers who don't fall into many of the social pitfalls that many young people find themselves in when driving. Teaching patience, distance and safety is as much a key as ensuring your kid's car has the highest NCAP rating"
First Cars For New Drivers
And for those looking for recommendations, here’s three of our favourites for first time drivers.
Smart parenting – Smart FourTwo
A lot of parents who are funding their children's first car in one way or another, will be worried about the "peer pressure" effect of having a car full of teenagers encouraging less than safe driving. With this in mind, the Smart FourTwo is a superb, and rather cheeky, choice - not only have you picked up a fun two-seater (although probably not the sporty soft-top they were dreaming of), but you've also reduced the number of bad influences to a more manageable one. With an NCAP rating of 4 stars, and a "999c" engine there's plenty to be happy about at the bank of mum and dad.
Fabulous 4-door - Skoda Fabia
For those who absolutely must have some racing heritage, albeit rallying heritage, the Skoda Fabia is the winner. With an excellent safety rating (5 star NCAP rating on the 2014 model) and plenty of space inside (for all those useful errands that your offspring will run for you, naturally).
Safe but thrifty - Hyundai i10
Topping many lists as the safest car for the money, and a good compromise all round, this little Hyundai does everything a little car should. A relatively new (2009) second hand Hyundai i10 comes with a 4-star NCAP rating and under £4000.