Young Drivers – What To Know Before You Buy A Car

Young Drivers – What To Know Before You Buy A Car

Post By: Roger Balkissoon                        Image:                         Date: October 29th 2018


When I was a child helping my Dad with his various DIY projects, he would often give me mini projects to do usually involving a hammer and nails or a screwdriver or a sheet of sandpaper or some randomly sized spanner. I would often remark (complain) that it would be easier and faster if I could just get to use the power drill or the electric sander, to which my Dad would respond “You can’t handle that power yet” and then go on with his project. My Dad is a man of few words. So, when it came to helping me get my first car as a 19 year old, and he saw one of my early choices, he simply said “You can’t handle that power yet” and refused to sign the cheque.

Fast forward to today and very few teens (and even a lot of adults) have any real experience with tools or DIY projects but that’s a different topic for another article!

“So Mom/Dad…what about that car you promised me when I graduate?”

When it comes to making a purchasing decision about cars, both teens and adults are bombarded with the latest ads for newer and more powerful vehicles from the micro compact cars right up to military grade SUVs and trucks. For this article we’ll consider primarily regular cars and SUVs that you’ll find on any street in the Cayman Islands. The factors in choosing a car go well beyond just the cost of the vehicle itself and it has become a much more complicated decision. So today we’ll try to break this big decision into smaller, easier to handle pieces and we may also do some myth busting in the process.

Let’s introduce our two contenders and go through the major factors to consider in making your decision.

               Old and Reliable                                            Exciting and New







TIP #1: Purchase PriceA General rule: the older the vehicle, the cheaper the cost to purchase.

Maintenance costs – General maintenance such as oil changes and brake maintenance are more or less the same for older and newer vehicles alike. Older vehicles will require more maintenance as more major parts may need attention, such as the suspension and the transmission, which can be expensive to repair. Certain major areas are covered under new car warranties but they rarely present issues until after the warranty period has expired. If you go for something in the “not so old” range (6 to 12 years old) you may get away with routine maintenance and if a major repair is required, at least the parts may not be difficult to source either right here in Cayman or in the USA.

Fuel costs – Older, bigger engines can be gas guzzlers, but even a newer vehicle with a small engine that has a malfunctioning sensor could take your wallet at the pump. TIP #2: You’ll get the best fuel mileage from your vehicle by properly maintaining it according to the recommended schedule from the manufacturer. Also pay attention to tyre pressure – under-inflated tyres cause your vehicle to work harder to get moving and this eats up a lot of fuel in a very short time- check your tyre pressure at least once a month.

Safety Features Proper working Seatbelts are obvious safety feature to look for when purchasing a vehicle, you should also look for the number of airbags that the vehicle is equipped with. Another less basic feature nowadays would be Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS) which helps the driver steer the vehicle in an extreme braking situation. More recent vehicles have additional safety features that simply do not exist on older cars such as: reverse cameras (and forward ones too), parking assist features (some cars will actually parallel park for you- but you can’t use it in the driving test though), blind-spot warning features (the car emits a noise to tell you that another vehicle is alongside you while driving). TIP #3: GET BLUETOOTH, it is against the law to use your phone when driving. You should consider BlueTooth systems as a safety feature since it allows the driver to make “hands-free” calls on mobile phones and play music from their mobile device. This helps to reduce distracted driving and ensure that the young driver isn’t fiddling with the radio to try to find a favourite song or to turn down the radio when a call comes through- the Blue Tooth will do this automatically.

Comfort and Functionality – This speaks to the size and shape of vehicles- 2 door or 4 door, car or SUV or Pickup, soft top or hard top (always get the hard top-the Cayman sun will destroy any soft top known to man and this is a much safer option in the event of a vehicle rollover!). If the young driver has an active lifestyle, a pick up or SUV is usually a good choice for carrying various types of sports equipment around and while these vehicles are higher off the ground and thus more forgiving in running up on curbs etc., they also have a higher center of gravity which means that they should not be driven at higher speeds.

Licencing/Registration – registration fees are slightly higher based on the engine size and number of seats in your vehicle so check the DVDL website for this and lots of other useful information:

And now, finally for the mystic elephant in the room…

Car Insurance – Here’s where we get into all kinds of myths: No one insures drivers under 21 (so don’t call your insurance company when your teenager gets licenced), Red cars are more expensive to insure (especially Mazdas- so don’t buy red Mazdas) and the myths go on and on. The reality is this: Yes- figuring out how much an Insurer will charge for a specific driver on a specific vehicle is difficult so the best thing to do is TIP #4: shop around and get the prices and requirements straight from the Insurer(s) for the vehicle that you are interested in purchasing. Or even easier- call an Insurance Broker and let them do the shopping for you – the brokers’ fees are covered by the insurer and even better, the broker sources quotes, carries out a comprehensive analysis of all the quotes obtained and provides you with recommendations to enable you to make an educated decision. TIP #5: Start your search early. As early as the beginning of your car search , as a Young driver or someone helping a young driver, aka Mom and Dad, call a trusted Insurer or Broker and ask for a general price range for insuring a Young driver for basic Third-Party Motor Liability. This is the cheapest form of insurance coverage available and it is the minimum legal requirement in order to register the vehicle and drive on the road.

When shopping for a vehicle, keep that basic Insurance cost in mind and add it to the Purchase price since the vehicle cannot be driven without the proper insurance in place. If you can’t afford the car plus the insurance, don’t try to cut corners on the insurance (for example insuring it for an older driver when it will be primarily used by the young driver), since this could cause major issues for you if there is a claim or accident. It is a poor long-term strategy to “fudge” the facts in order to obtain a cheaper insurance premium – it’s better to pay the premium for insurance that covers the actual use and driver of a vehicle. Of course, keep in mind that if you opt to go beyond basic Third-Party Insurance and choose Comprehensive cover, the driver’s age, driving experience and value of the vehicle will influence the premium cost. Tip #6: Check if the Insurer offers payment plans that can help manage that initial cost.

Also be aware that there are some high-performance cars that Insurers will not cover for a young driver – vehicles ranging from the obvious examples such as a Ferrari or Porsche to even some less obvious choices such as the Honda Civic Type R models. The list of cars and models vary by Insurer, so ask your Insurer or Broker about these.

For Insurance companies, the most important rating factor in Motor Insurance is Driver Behaviour. Since “Behaviour” is a concept that is very hard to measure, Insurers base their ratings on statistics that have been collected over decades. Unfortunately for the young driver those statistics show that young drivers have more accidents than more experienced drivers. For this reason, Insurance companies will often start the young driver off with a high premium which gradually decreases as he or she gains more time and experience behind the wheel (hopefully without any accidents). Some Insurers will offer a discount off their standard young driver rates if the young driver has gone through a Defensive Driving course. These types of courses are not that expensive and are worth the time and money in the long run. Apart from possible premium savings, the more important fact to consider is that the young driver will learn Defensive driving habits that may help to save their lives and/or the lives of others and avoid the pain, heartache and regret of losing a much loved irreplaceable family member.

Last but not least:

The “Coolness” Factor – having said all of this, chances are that your young driver just wants a cool, fast car that he or she can impress their friends with. The problem is that no one really knows why anything becomes “cool” to begin with, and no one knows how long that “coolness” will last. As the parent or older mentor guiding your young driver to their first car, it’s up to you to steer them to a balanced decision of Safety, Cost and Comfort. Sometimes you just have to tell your young driver- “You can’t handle that power yet” and make the practical decision for them – get the safest, most reliable vehicle that you can afford. They will thank you in the long run.