You bought your teen a good starter car, now what?
Everything you need for your teen’s first car
It’s a major milestone in raising your children: Parents can’t help but feel that entrusting their teen with their own car is a huge leap of faith. But just because it’s time to let go doesn’t mean you can’t send them out into the world prepared. After buying a car for your teenager, there are a few things you can do to protect them. In addition to driving courses and comprehensive insurance, you should equip your teenager’s first car with mechanical tools and safety supplies.
All the paperwork has been filed, the keys handed over and the car driven off the lot. Here’s how to prepare your teenager for the road ahead.
Car control and defensive driving courses for your teen
Before you do anything, enroll your teen in a car control and defensive driving course. They may have completed driver’s education long ago to get their permit, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready for everything. These advanced classes will teach your teen what to do in case they skid or spin from weather or other road conditions. They will also learn defensive driving tactics to avoid accidents.
The second driver-safety preventative measure you can take is signing your teen up for free roadside assistance. You’ll want to make sure they can get a tow at any time and anywhere should anything go wrong. This can either be done through your insurance or another provider. Give them a written list of numbers and contacts for insurance, mechanics and family to stow in their glovebox. This will help them problem-solve and stay calm in the stressful aftermath of an accident or break down.
Safety supplies for a teen’s first car
In addition to preventative measures, there are a few essentials every driver should have stored in their car. These items will give your teen a tool for every scenario such as a flat tire, a mechanical failure or an accident.
Tobfit 6-Pack LED Road Flares: available at Amazon
These crushproof LED roadside flares come in a pack of three, six or 12. They’re IP66, so they’re waterproof and can be submerged underwater. The upshot to using LED flares over traditional flares is that you won’t have to worry about water or moisture ruining them in the trunk of your car. Additionally, they have nine light modes and can affix to a number of surfaces, including your car, with hooks or magnets. They take AAA batteries so make sure to have some extra on hand.
Energizer T1000 LED Tactical Flashlight: available at Amazon
This heavy-duty flashlight is perfect for emergency scenarios or lighting up the underside and engine bay of your car. It’s waterproof and made of aircraft-grade metal. It also has a low, high and strobe light mode.
Don't Die In The Woods — Freakin’ Huge Emergency Blankets [4-Pack]: available at Amazon
Made from NASA-designed mylar, the Don’t Die in the Woods emergency thermal blanket is waterproof and reflects up to 90% of body heat. These are perfect for survival situations from extreme heat to extreme cold. They’re lightweight and compact and come in a set of four, which means you can put one or two in each car in the family.
Original Life Hammer Escape Hammer (Orange), 2 Pack: available at Amazon
While you shouldn’t need it, a glass shattering hammer is crucial in a worst-case scenario. This should be stored in an area accessible from the driver seat, such as the glove compartment. The hammer has a pin-point hammerhead to shatter windows and a blade to cut through safety belts. It comes with a mounting bracket for installation and has a glow-in-the-dark pin for easy location in the dark. The pack of two is great for multiple family vehicles.
Swiss Safe 2-in-1 First Aid Kit: available at Amazon
The Swiss Safe first aid kit is loaded with 120 medical-grade items including bandages, antiseptic cleaning supplies, an ice pack and trauma tools. It’s water- and moisture-resistant and comes in a neat, compact case for easy storage in your teen’s trunk.
Cars are more complicated than ever, but given this is your teen’s first car, it’s likely you’ve bought them (or handed down) an older model. For most cars, simple repairs such as swapping a flat for a spare tire and topping off fluid is simple, regardless of the car’s age. It’s important that your teen driver develop a basic understanding of how their car works. This will help them avoid wear and tear that could lead to accidents and mechanical failures. It will also help them take pride in their vehicle, a level of car that will translate into their driving habits.
Tools and gadgets for your teen’s first car
EPAuto 14-Inch Heavy Duty Universal Lug Wrench: available at Amazon
This universal cross-wrench can be used in a pinch to replace a spare should your teen get a flat. It’s made from high-quality carbon steel and chrome-plated for extra durability.
Big Red Torin Steel Scissor Lift Jack: available at Amazon
Made by a trusted brand, the compact scissor-lift jack is compact enough to store in the trunk of your car. It has a 3,000-pound lifting capacity, which should be enough to quickly swap out a flat (pro tip: Place the removed flat tire underneath your car’s frame for extra safety should the jack fail). This jack should not be used for regular car repairs or for any sustained lifting.
Valve-Loc Pencil Tire Pressure Gauge: available at Amazon
Having the right tires for your teen’s first car is essential, but so is monitoring the pressure. A simple tire-pressure gauge is essential. Your tires are the only point of contact between you and the road and driving with low pressure can lead to a blowout and an accident. This two-pack from Valve Loc is pencil-style, making it easy to store in your glove box. It also comes with extra valve stem caps should you lose them when filling your tires with air.
Birdrock Home Snow Moover 55-Inch Extendable Foam Car Snow Brush and Ice Scraper: available at Amazon
If you live in a cold-weather climate, a durable snow brush and scraper is critical. Birdrock Home’s Snow Moover is lightweight, extendable and modular, breaking down to three separate units: a foam-head snow brush, an ice scraper and a telescoping extender. The rotating heads make full use of the 55-inch arm to tackle hard-to-reach areas like the roof of the car.
Energizer Jumper Cables: available at Amazon
Energizer’s jumper copper-clad aluminum cables come in a travel bag for easy storage. They’re coated in thick vinyl to prevent rust, corrosion and tangling. The cable is 25-feet long but can be purchased at 16 and 20 feet as well. These are ideal for cars, trucks and SUVs should your teen driver’s battery die.
KarZone All Purpose Automotive Funnels: available at Amazon
These plastic funnels come in three separate sizes and colors, making them perfect for different fluids such as oil, coolant and power-steering or brake fluid. Every car should have funnels to top off its fluid — one of the easiest and most basic bits of maintenance to prevent future mechanical headaches.
Other essentials for your teen’s first car
Rand McNally 2022 Large Scale Road Atlas: available at Amazon
While map apps are nearly ubiquitous, cell service is not. If your teen driver ever finds themself lost in the middle of nowhere, the Rand McNally road atlas has detailed road maps of every state to help them find their way home. The large-scale version boosts each map 35% to make them easier to read and features 350 detailed city maps as well as national park maps.
Armor All Premier Car Care Kit: available at Amazon
Help your teen driver keep their car clean and care for its paint with this comprehensive car-care kit. The Armor All kit comes with wash and wax, glass cleaner, a wash pad, all-purpose interior cleaner, wheel and tire cleaner and tire shine and an air freshener to keep the car smelling nice.
Karl Daum is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money
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