Tips for Getting Your Teen’s First Car


The idea of your teen finally getting his driver’s license can be a tough thing for parents to deal with. It makes their baby seem so grown up and this can make you feel sad, and old. You worry about his inexperience, accidents and the bad drivers sharing the road with your precious child. If you are planning on getting her a car, here are some important considerations for this all-important purchase.

teen driving

Remember a Car is Not a Birthright

Whether you plan on a laying out the money for your teenager’s car or will contribute partially, it is important to remember that a car is not some sort of birthright that your child is entitled to no matter what. Many teens today think that a car should be sitting pretty in the driveway available for immediate use the second they arrive back from the DMV with their license. Do not feel pressure to get them something fancy that you really cannot afford nor feel badly about asking them to contribute to the purchase if that is the route you are going.

Consider a Matching Savings Plan

If it is important to you that your child contributes to the purchase, consider setting up a matching savings plan where you will contribute as much as he does. Depending on what you can afford and the potential amount of money your child may be able to contribute, you might consider setting a cap on your half of the matching scheme.

Deciding on New vs. Used

The first step in purchasing a car for your teen is deciding whether you want to go with a used vehicle or a new vehicle. The latter is clearly going to cost more, but offers advantages such as not having to worry about breakdowns or repairs straight away. This peace of mind will come with a price, however. Ultimately, you need to weight what is most important to you in deciding whether to go the new or used route. Getting a certified pre-owned car may be the best way to go; you will clearly save money by not buying new, but you will feel good knowing you are putting your teen in a higher quality car.

Regardless of whether you go new or used, you want to check out important information regarding the overall safety of the vehicles you are considering for purchase. Organizations such as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will be able to provide a wealth of information to help you pick the safest vehicle by providing information on crash tests and safety features. Check out JD Powers for information on reliability and quality.

Considerations for Operating Expenses

Buying a car is far from the end of financial obligations—there is insurance, gas, repairs and general maintenance. It is important to clearly establish how these things will be paid for and who is responsible for what. For example, you may offer to pay insurance but your teen must pay for his own gas. If your teen does not have a source of income, and you do not plan on making him get one, you might consider allotting a certain amount of money for gas for the month to instill the importance of budgeting and to encourage your child not to waste precious gas by simply driving around aimlessly. No matter what plan you decide on, make sure it is realistic so that you do not end up spending money you do not really have to spend.

Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who has covered a range of topics in the auto arena, ranging from how to negotiate a used car price to auto insurance reforms and how they affect you.

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