Getting Your Teen’s First Car

Its been 16 years and now that day has finally come. Your teen driver wants a vehicle for their birthday. Where do you start? You want something safe, after all, it is your baby out there, something that is reliable for you kiddo, something that has good insurance prices, maybe something that gets good gas mileage, however, you don’t want to break the bank either. So, what are the options that best fit all those criteria? The list is endless. We have put together a few resources that might help you figure out what suits you.

I have spoken with an insurance agency, and there are some criteria that you should take into consideration when looking for vehicles. You want to stay in the new to 10 years old time frame because there is new safety equipment in cars within this age range. The category of the vehicle is what will play a significant role in the cost of insurance, for example, you will pay more in coverage on an SUV compared to a sedan, you won’t get any discounted rates on insurance if the vehicle is a manual transmission versus automatic transmission. Your insurance may also require you to have your child insured on all vehicles in the household, not just on their vehicle.

Another great resource to ensure that you’re getting the vehicle that will keep your child safe behind the wheel of their car is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. We use this website to show students how their dream car will fare in an accident and to teach them how to shop smart for a vehicle. This website gives ratings to different features of the vehicle, such as the headlights and the seatbelts, and also has videos of most of the vehicles in multiple accidents. When deciding how safe a vehicle is, we teach our students about crumple zones. The main crumple zones are the areas from the grill of the car to the passenger compartment and from the tail lights to the passenger compartment, these spaces are designed to crumple in the event of an accident to gradually slow down the passenger so that the effects of the impact are less on the body. A car will look terrible after an accident, but if the part of the car that is affected by the accident is limited to the area around the passenger compartment and doesn’t enter into this area, that is a vehicle that you want your child driving.

Now that you know what car you want for your child, finding one that is within a reasonable price and has a good, safe history is the next hurdle that you must overcome. The best resource for checking this is CarFax. With this website, you can make sure that not only are you putting your child behind the wheel of a car that can fare well in an accident because of the way that it has been built and designed, but also because it is a vehicle that has been well maintained throughout its life.

We hope that these few tips will help you and your family through this process and help you and your child be safe, comfortable, and confident with the car that you choose.

Guide to Texas Hardship License

Hardship License a.k.a Minor Restricted License

A Hardship License is a type of Texas license that can be given to a minor when they or their guardian show a need for this license.  Now I know what you are thinking, “That means that my student can take themselves to all of their after-school activities, their job, and help out with all of the other kids too!”, but it might not be that simple. There are regulations that your teen driver has to meet before he/she can obtain an MRL.

1.) The first and the easiest regulation to achieve is the age verification. You must be between 15-18 years old,

2.) complete and pass a driver education course. This includes all 32 hours of in-class, all 14 hours of behind-the-wheel, and the vision, knowledge, and driving exams,

*Our Teen Comprehensive Course has all of this included (except for the vision exam, which is done at DPS at the time of receiving the permit).

3.) meet all other requirements for first-time drivers, and

4.) fill out an application for this before you go to the Department of Public Safety, fill out the application  (DL-77).

The Facts and Just the Facts

Do not forget that you must bring all the other required documents that DPS wants you to have before they will issue any licenses, check out our other blog post about getting a Drivers license in Texas to make sure that you have everything you need.

DPS wants to be evident that it will not issue a hardship license for the convenience of busy schedules, they have made laws that back this point up. They also might have you bring in some other required documents during their investigation. DPS will issue a hardship license once it determines that a few criteria are met:

1.) if the failure to issue a hardship license will cause unusual economic hardship on a family,

2.) the hardship is necessary because of any illness, disability or death of a family member,

3.) if your student is enrolled in a vocational educational program, or

4.) a court order that has been presented.

Once you have finished all of this you could be on your way to the open road. We hope that this helps clear up some confusion about a Texas Hardship License! If you need more information about getting your student a hardship license you can visit the DPS website by clicking here.

Photo by Josh Sorenson from Pexels

Getting Your Teen a Texas Driver’s License

Getting your teen their license is a very exciting process (for them) and could be a very confusing process because there are so many different options offered to drivers in the state of Texas. Through our experience since we opened in 2017, we have learned the ins and outs of the requirements for new drivers, no matter what age. So, instead of reading through all of the laws and rules of driver’s education and searching through DPS’s website, we have created a broken down list of the different paths that you can choose from so that new drivers can get their licenses in Texas and exactly what you’ll need to complete each pathway.

Age is  (Not) Just a Number

First things first, before you choose a path you have to know how old the new driver is. There are different requirements for new drivers who are between the ages of 14-17, 18-25, and 26 and above.

For new drivers between the ages of 14 and 17, they are required to take a 32-hour teen course, complete 14 hours of behind-the-wheel instruction, and 30 hours of additional driving. These drivers must hold a learner’s permit until they are 16. If they turn 16 while in possession of a learner’s permit or got it after their 16th birthday, they must hold it for a minimum of six months. To obtain your permit you must pass the written exam and provide a Verification of Enrollment, VOE, (along with all of the other required documents), which is provided by your high school to DPS; new drivers must be enrolled and not truant to receive their learner’s permit.

For new drivers between the ages of 18 and 25, they are required to take and pass a 6- hour adult course. After they pass this, then they can either take the written exam to get a Driver’s License with the restriction of only being able to drive with an individual aged 21 or over who has had their license for 2 or more years placed on it (this is very similar to the learner’s permit provided to the 14-17-year-olds), or take the written and driving exams and get their license. If you have not had any experience behind-the-wheel (which you probably won’t since you have not been a licensed driver), we suggest that you get a restricted license so you can practice the skills necessary to pass the driving portion of the exam prior to taking it. Here at The Driving Institute, we offer packages that can be tailored to you and your needs so that you can feel comfortable behind the wheel and confident in your abilities so that you are able to pass the driving exam on the first try- take a look at our Drive Time Training course.

For new drivers 26 and older, they are not required to take any courses, you can walk into schedule an exam with DPS or a third-party-tester, this usually will be driving schools who have been in business for over a year, and take your driving exam. That being said, if you have never driven it will be difficult to be proficient enough in your driving skills to pass the driving exam. Just as with the drivers between the ages of 18 and 25, if you have not had any experience behind-the-wheel, we suggest that you get a restricted license (by taking the written exam) so you can practice the skills necessary to pass the driving portion of the exam prior to taking it. Here at The Driving Institute, we offer packages that can be tailored to you and your needs so that you can feel comfortable behind the wheel and confident in your abilities so that you are able to pass the driving exam on the first try- take a look at our Drive Time Training course.

**You can ALWAYS take more hours (if you’re over 18 you can still take the teen course) and get more instruction and experience, you just can’t do less than what is required. If you take the teen course, then you will have to fulfill all of the same requirements that a new teen driver would have to complete as well. We will always recommend that you take the teen course, there is so much more information that is provided through this course than any of the other courses, but that is completely up to you and how much you want to know and how much experience you want before you are out on the open road, alone.

Ok, What’s Next?

Now that you know the requirements for your specific age group, now you must decide HOW you will meet these requirements. When choosing these options you should think about what is going to be the best mode of instruction for you, if you are a pencil and paper kind of person who has to write everything down (yay for lists on sticky notes EVERYWHERE), then the online course probably won’t be for you, but if you are self- motivated and can learn from videos and online instruction without a lot of hands-on experience, then online could be the best route for you. You have the opportunity now to self-reflect and figure out what type of learner you are and choose the education that will fit you the best.

The first option that you have is the parent-taught route. This has been a fairly popular choice due to the ability to choose when the instruction is happening around busy schedules, not because it’s easy (because everyone knows that teaching your own child is never easy). Through this route, the 32 hours of classroom instruction and the 14- hours of behind-the-wheel training is done by a parent or guardian who is over the age of 25 and has held their license for a minimum of 7 years, and the 30 hours of additional driving can be completed by a parent or guardian who is over the age of 21 and has had their license for a minimum of 2 years. This route requires the purchase of the Parent Taught Driver Education Program through DPS, which is $20 and an approved Parent Taught course from an approved course provider, the price on this will vary depending on the provider that you choose. Within this route, you could also mix and match what you would like to do, you could have your student attend a course with a driver education school and then have everything transferred to you, purchase a Parent Taught Driver Education In-car Only Course from any one of the Parent Taught course providers who offer that specific course, and complete the 14- hours of behind-the-wheel training and the additional 30 hours of driving.

The next option is the online route. Through this option, your child will complete the classroom portion at their own pace through an online program of your choice. Most of the online programs will include the written exam that allows them to get their learner’s permit. Then, you have to decide if you are going to have the behind-the-wheel portion taught by a driver’s education school or if you will do this through the parent taught program as described above. We have courses available to meet your needs through the online course, both teen and adult (see above descriptions to decide which course you should take), and behind-the-wheel training. Just remember, that if you or your child is a person who gets distracted easily (hello, social media) or would like access to an instructor to clarify any new concepts being taught, then online may not be for you.

The last option is the driving school route. Through this option, an instructor can teach the 32 hours of classroom instruction and the 14- hours of behind-the-wheel instruction and all that is left for a parent or guardian who is over the age of 21 and has had their license for a minimum of 2 years to do is the 30 hours of additional drive time. Your student will get time in a classroom with a teacher to help walk them through any questions that they may have through the process of learning to drive. We will also take them out and teach them the scariest things like roundabouts and merging onto the highway so that you are not left white-knuckled in the passenger seat. You could also have the school do the classroom portion and then have their classroom hours transferred to you so that you could purchase a Parent Taught Driver Education In-car Only Course from any one of the Parent Taught course providers who offer that specific course, and complete the 14- hours of behind-the-wheel training and the additional 30 hours of driving.

This is the End of the Beginning

Now that you know all of your options for your new driver, you can feel better about the choice that you are making for their education as a future driver out on our Texas roads (does not read: you can feel better about being in the car with a new driver). Please contact us with any questions that you may have and we would love to help you find the best option for you and your family!

The Driving Institute Opening Soon

The Driving Institute offers a tailored learning environment for the young adult and teen drivers that are learning to drive. The courses will prepare the student for their permit test while training them to be safe, defensive drivers. Let us teach your teens and young adults in drivers education. Our teachers have over 20 years combined experience in driving, road safety, and education.

We are happy that you stopped by our website. We are in the process of opening our doors to the public. We can’t wait to start training all of you to become great drivers. See you all very soon!