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How to Choose an Eco-Friendly Vehicle for Your Teen Driver

Teens are always eager to get behind the wheel, but they don't always grasp the environmental implications of their new ride.

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by Unsplash/Jan Baborák

Getting a driver’s license is a right of passage for every teen. And while that prospect is scary for most parents, you can have at least a little bit of oversight on your teen, even when he or she is behind the wheel.

When the time comes to purchase a vehicle for your teen, you want a vehicle that has a slew of safety features and is also gentle on the environment. Fortunately, it’s easy to practice eco-friendly driving, and there are myriad choices when it comes to environmentally-friendly vehicles.

Types of Eco-Friendly Vehicles

There are more eco-friendly vehicles on the road than ever before, and you may be overwhelmed by the choices. For instance, are electric vehicles better for the environment than hybrids or cars that run on vegetable oil? How do autonomous vehicles fit into the picture?

Your first step in choosing an eco-friendly car for your teen driver is to set a realistic budget. Then, start comparing your options. Studies show that autonomous vehicles save drivers time and improve roadway safety, but more research is needed to determine if they are more eco-friendly as well.

As for hybrids, they are by and large more eco-friendly than their gas-guzzling counterparts since they run on a combination of petrol and electricity. The majority of hybrids are built with lightweight materials, and lighter vehicles typically require less gas to operate than heavier vehicles like trucks and SUVs.

Another eco-friendly option is a car that runs on biodiesel. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, biodiesel is nontoxic and biodegradable, and it produces fewer air pollutants than traditional diesel fuel. In the U.S., biodiesel also comes with an additional perk: the biodiesel and renewable diesel tax incentive. Through 2024, taxpayers can claim credits for purchasing alternative fuel.

Eco-Friendly Driving Practices

You’re the best driving teacher your teen has, so start them off with eco-friendly driving best practices from the first time they’re in the driver’s seat. Many eco-friendly driving practices double as safety measures, giving you peace of mind when your teen is behind the wheel.

Driving at lower speeds improves your gas mileage, helping both your wallet and the environment. Encourage your teens to stick to the posted speed limit and drive smoothly to avoid “jackrabbit” starts and sudden stops.

According to the National Center for Sustainable Transportation, driving 65 mph on the highway rather than 75 can reduce fuel use by 13 percent. If your teen drives 55, it could reduce fuel costs by 25 percent. Both options will save you money and keep your teen safer on the road.

Another major player when it comes to your teen’s safety behind the wheel is smartphone use. Distracted driving is one of the primary causes of roadway accidents, leading to 3,450 fatalities in 2016 alone. When your teen puts their phone away while driving, they’ll be more attentive to their surroundings, improving safety for everyone on the road.

Top-Rated Eco-Friendly Vehicles

When you’re buying your teen’s first eco-friendly vehicle, there are myriad choices at your disposal. Look for vehicles with SmartWay certification, which is awarded to cars and trucks that emit fewer emissions than traditional vehicles. In addition, look for models that qualify for a federal income tax credit. Most electric vehicles and many hybrids qualify for a credit of up to $7,500.

As for make and model, you may want to invest in one of AAA’s Top Green Vehicle award winners. In 2018, the top three award recipients were the Tesla Model X 75D, Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier, and Nissan Leaf SL. All three vehicles are electric. The AAA rates vehicles based on a variety of criteria, which include fuel economy, safety, and performance.

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) also rates cars based on their energy efficiency and environmental impact. The ACEEE’s choice for “greenest” car in 2018 was the Hyundai Ioniq Electric hatchback, which can get up to 124 miles on a single charge. It’s the second consecutive year that the Ioniq claimed to ACEEE’s top spot.

If the AAA and ACEEE award winners are any indication, electric vehicles seem to be the most environmentally-friendly choice.

Final Thoughts

In our climate change-affected world, it’s more important than ever to find ways to reduce our carbon footprint. Since Americans spend an average of 293 hours behind the wheel each year, it makes sense to look at your driving habits to see where eco-friendly changes can be made.

And when your teen is the one behind the wheel, you want to ensure they’re safe as well as environmentally conscious. By doing your research to find the best eco-friendly vehicle for your budget and driving habits, as well as teaching your teen eco-friendly driving best practices, your teen will enjoy eco-friendly and safe driving for years to come.

Published on Feb 13, 2019

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