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Posted at 07:03 AM ET, 05/24/2012

Would You Teach Your Kid To Drive on That New Car?


I like to mark milestones in my parenting life and not just the big ones like first steps or graduating from kindergarten. I also celebrated both kids being out of diapers and getting rid of all my sippy cups.

You'd think I'd be ready to celebrate my kids graduating out of booster seats; previous celebrations usually involve a fancy cup of coffee. But what if I want to go big, cut loose the family car and get a sweet machine where I don't have to worry about as much backseat space.

"Not so fast," I tell myself. My next car. The "non-family" car. It will likely be the car my kids learn to drive in.

It's a shock since my kids seem nowhere near driving age. But really, my son is 10, so in five years he'll start practicing. The latest data says the average new-car owner holds onto their purchase for almost six years, so a 10th birthday should be the measuring stick that warns you that your next "new" car is what they'll learn to drive on.

Does that fact change your next car game plan? What's a good way to find a car that will be fun for you, but not too fun for them?

Here are a few tips:

Peruse crash-test ratings, and don't forget to double-check rollover ratings. You'll find something small and sporty like a Lexus CT 200h or Mini Cooper Countryman, which both have been named Top Safety Picks by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Investigate safety options that may benefit a first-time driver such as parking sensors or a lane departure warning system.

Consider auto insurance costs. It doesn't get more expensive than insuring a teen driver. Is a Ford Mustang on the wish list? It's been crossed off the list now.

Check out options that focus on teen drivers like Ford's MyKey, which allows parents to program maximum speed and maximum stereo volume levels, or Infiniti's Connection that will notify parents if driving speeds or boundaries are broken.

Determine whether you want your kid to learn on an automatic or manual transmission. This may be a time when buying a manual-transmission family car makes sense.

Learn about automakers' emergency roadside assistance programs. Many offer complimentary programs, but they have a limited shelf life that may expire before your child takes the wheel.

Will the car fit your teenager? A too-large vehicle might be difficult to learn on and might have more blind spots than other vehicles.

Like any other big purchase, it's good to ask these kinds of questions so you'll feel like you've done your diligence. And hopefully you'll find a great compromise. Let us know what new car you think is perfect for a teenager to learn on.

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By  |  07:03 AM ET, 05/24/2012

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