Gifts for teens are tricky enough already: you want to find a balance between what they need and what they want, not spoil them, and even give them what they didn’t know they needed. Phew! New teen drivers are often excited and optimistic; they haven’t been ground down by the daily commute, and they aren’t yet fed up with bad, distracted, or angry drivers. But teens are the most inexperienced drivers on the road and have no insurance history, so they are also the most expensive to insure by far. In fact, drivers in the 16- to 19-year-old range pay a national average annual premium of nearly $5,000, which is more than three times the average rates of people ages 30 to 85. Teen drivers need all the help they can get, so we’ve collected some practical gifts new teen drivers will actually like.
We’ve compiled a list of the very best apps and gear that make great gifts for new teen drivers–just in time for graduation season!
Technology and cars have somewhat of a tenuous relationship: we aren’t supposed to use our phones while driving, but some apps and tech accessories can actually keep us safer while driving. Here, some of the best new apps for teenage drivers:
- Automatic’s License+ app turns an older car into a connected car—with teen-driver specific benefits. The device plugs into your car’s diagnostic port (also called an OBD port; they are available in all cars built after 1996). Members enroll in a coaching program that allows parents and guardians to analyze new drivers’ habits and help them improve their skills. Some benefits include: 24/7 crash response, drive feedback tones, low fuel warning notifications, and do not disturb settings while the driver is on the road.
- Hum by Verizon is an app-controlled device that makes older cars smart. Like License+, Hum plugs into your vehicle’s diagnostic port and is run by a Bluetooth-enabled visor clip. Some key features to help teens travel more safely this summer: emergency assistance, speed and boundary alerts, vehicle location assistance (for parking lots and parents), mechanic hotline, and maintenance reminders. And bonus: families who purchase Hum before August 31, 2016 will get a credit for the equipment fee, activation fee, and the first three months of service. You don’t have to be a Verizon customer to use Hum, though.
- Cobra JumPack, $149: this portable, lightweight device can jump-start your vehicle multiple times on one charge (a charge it holds for eight months).
- Polarized sunglasses reduce glare, making for safer drivers.
- Window tint also reduces glare, making for a more comfortable, safer drive.
- Cell phone docks keep phones charged and secure in one place, and discourage use while driving. With a cell phone dock, your teen can still use directions and hands-free voice.
- Leschi lightweight lantern and flashlight, $14.99, will come in handy if your new driver is ever stranded. It fits in the glovebox and can be mounted easily just about anywhere (like under the hood).
- For the do-it-yourself gifters, consider putting together an emergency road kit for the new driver in your life.
- The LifeHammer (with razor), $14.99, can help drivers escape from submerged vehicles and break free from seatbelts to help trapped passengers. You can mount it in your vehicle for easy access, too.
- A GPS system (for vehicles without one built in) can reduce the amount your teen uses their phone while driving (not to mention how much it can help them get where they’re going safely).
- The No Blind Spot Rear View Mirror, $59.99 creates a seamless, distortion-free 180-degree field of view and clips to existing rear-view mirrors for easy installation.
- Gift certificates for car washes and detailing and free oil changes will be much appreciated by new drivers (and can help create lifelong car-care habits for your new driver).
Gifts for Fun, Organization, and Drive-Time Enjoyment
- The Powerdash r900 from Ventev Mobile doubles as a car charger and portable battery so teens can charge their phone while driving, and then take it with them for three additional hours of charge.
- Help new drivers keep their keys both safe and accessible with the Joyful Keeper.
- We love this air vent organizing system for keeping the most essential items within close reach.
- No matter the state of your in-vehicle sound system, you can help your new teen driver play all their music, directly from any phone, with smartphone accessories and wireless bluetooth adaptors.
And last but not least, reader Karen Klopp suggests investing in a teen driving safety and survival course—she gifted them to all of her children and godchildren when they were first learning to drive.
Gifts We Wish Existed for Teen Drivers
Vehicle safety engineering has improved a lot since this generation’s parents first hit the open road. Now parents can track their teens’ whereabouts at every moment (no comment on whether they should), and they can monitor speed and even driving ability—all while not even being in the car. But even still, there are some things we wish existed that don’t:
- We’d love it if these airbags outside of the car were an option now–in fact, can we just wrap our new driver’s car entirely in bubble wrap? And maybe keep it in the garage and never let them actually drive? No?
- ICSPA: We wish The Zebra’s own In-Car Selfie Protection Alarm (designed to prevent vanity-related distracted driving) actually existed! Instead, our April Fool’s joke serves as a very real reminder of the dangers of distracted driving, to which teenagers are particularly prone. So until clever gifts like the ICSPA actually exist, we encourage parents to impart their wisdom about the importance of distraction-free driving, which for teens usually means mobile phone-free driving.
In all seriousness, the best thing parents and other loved ones can do for new teen drivers is to ensure they have safe, well-maintained vehicles and to stay in the loop while their new driver learns, something that is an ongoing process. And to all the new drivers–congratulations! Enjoy your new-found freedom, and always keep the rules of the road on your mind.