A Teen’s First Car: An Automotive Buyer’s Guide for Parents

As a teen finally reaches the legal driving age, there is only one thing usually on their mind. They want a car. A car represents freedom and coming of age. Some teenagers are not ready to receive a car when they turn sixteen, while others are. Even if your teen has to wait a couple of years to get that first car, it is a thrill you and he will remember always.

Ways Teens Can Purchase a Car

There are several ways you can help your teen with his first car. These include:

  • Some parents will give the money to purchase the first vehicle. Many parents like to give the first car as a gift for turning 16 years of age or at the time of graduation from high school.
  • Some parents will lend a teen the money for the car, with the agreement that it will be repaid.
  • Others will require the teen to earn the money for the vehicle.

There is no right or wrong way, but you will surely find many different opinions from parents on the subject. You have to do what you think is best for your teen.

Searching for the Right Car

Once your teen has the money to purchase the car, no matter it came from, it is time to begin your search. There are several places to look. The local classifieds is often a good place to start, especially if you are searching for a used car. Classifieds will also have advertisements for sales on cars.

If your teen has enough money to purchase a new car, then start shopping at the new car lots. A nice plus to a new car is that they come with extensive warranties now. However, insurance is usually very high on a new car. Who will be responsible for paying it? This should be an important factor to consider.

There are also several websites that cater to new and used car sales. Searching online will help you pinpoint the car your teen wants without having to gallivant all over town. You can search cars by location, make, model, year, and even by color. Some places to check out online include:

  • Vehix.com
  • AutoTrader.com
  • CarMax.com
  • Edmonds.com
  • Craigslist.com

Online auction sites are another way to find a terrific deal on a car. Many of the cars offered are thousands less than what you might find at a dealership. Be careful though. You will usually not be able to see the car before you purchase it. You may also be required to drive quite a distance to pick it up. Ask plenty of questions of the seller before agreeing to purchase anything.

Tips for Car Shopping with Your Teen

Most car lots will have lower prices towards the last week of the month. They try to meet their monthly quotas and if they are low, it can add up to a lot of savings for the buyer. You will also find many rebates for first time buyers, even if the cosigner is a parent or guardian. Be aware that if you child cannot make the payments on the vehicle, it will fall on your shoulders.

Speak with your friends and family members to see if they have a good, reliable vehicle for sale. Again, be careful. If the vehicle turns out to be a lemon, it can cause many hard feelings in these close relationships. Friends or family members might also be able to suggest reputable places to buy a car from.

If your teen has picked out a used car, take it to a mechanic to have it inspected for mechanical soundness. Sometimes this may be the only thing that keeps you from buying a lemon. You should be able to have the car inspected before any deal is made between you and the seller.

As a parent, you may do the haggling on the deal. Try to get the best deal for your teen, just as you would for yourself. If you are dealing with a dealership, even a fraction of an interest rate can cause significantly higher payments. Take the time to research what the interest rates are, just like you would research for the appropriate price of the vehicle.

Buying a car is a big deal for a teen. Do your best to help him choose not only a great-looking car, but one that is proven safe by current vehicle safety standards. This is an exciting time for your child, and there are many ways you can make sure he makes a good decision.


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