As you weigh used cars and new cars, price tags and the cool factor, use this guide to balance your teen’s wish list with the kind of car you want to look for.

When the time comes to purchase a car, your teenagers might be dreaming of hot wheels. They may be thinking sporty, while you’re looking for reliability and affordability.

In fact, in a recent survey commissioned by USAA, 81% of parents put reliability first when choosing a vehicle for a teen, followed by a high safety rating and affordable auto insurance.

Mother of two and automotive expert Lauren Fix understands those results. The thought of a child stranded on the side of a road due to an overheated engine or shoddy tires gives every parent pause. She also emphasizes the importance of cars with high crash-test ratings. “I can replace cars, but I can’t replace a kid,” says Fix, known as The Car Coach®.

And there is data to back up concerns. Mile for mile, teenagers are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. On the bright side, NHTSA says that improved in-car technology has contributed to year-over-year decreases in crash-related fatalities and injuries nationwide.

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