Thank goodness my kid is only 11, so I've got another 7 years before panic time. But like a good Girl Scout, I like to be prepared, so when Family Circle decided to do a story on buying your teen's first car, I grabbed the wheel so I could get a little driver's ed myself.

I live in Manhattan, where it's not so common for parents to have cars, much less for their teens to be driving them. But I happen to have an economical, ultra-reliable Honda Civic coupe that I tool around in for shopping runs and weekend jaunts. The engine still purrs and I don't put much mileage on it, so I figure it could be my daughter's first car once she turns 18. Plus it's got so many dings and scratches that it won't matter how many more she adds.

Her dad is as frugal as I am, but laughs at me about this, since my beloved Honda will be a hoary 21 years old (!) and probably too much of junker once our girl starts driving. Turns out he's right. Writer Rick Newman's piece in the November issue of Family Circle taught me—among many other things—that as solid as my Honda seems, it doesn't have the requisite 6 air bags (2 in front, plus 2 side impact and 2 side curtain bags) to be safe. Plus, it's not hefty enough to offer the best protection in a crash (you want at least a midsize sedan for that). In fact, his guide on buying a good used car is so smart and succinct that I'm tearing it out and filing it away for the year 2019.

Did you find the story helpful? Any tips you would add?

Paula Chin is a  senior editor at Family Circle.