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So your teen just passed their state mandated driving test, and you’ve done enough saving to buy them their first used car. This rite of passage is both exciting and terrifying for most parents, and let’s be honest – the process of purchasing an affordable and safe vehicle for your teen isn’t exactly a walk in the park. If you’re in the market for a first time driver car, here are a few things to consider.

Breaking the news
breaking the news

  • Be clear about you and your teen’s expectations.
    Sit down with your child and talk about the fact that a car is not a birthright, but gift as well as a tremendous responsibility. Welcome his/her input on the vehicle purchase, but be clear about who has the final say.  Now is also good time to draw up a driving contract or agreement, stipulating rules about car maintenance, payments, curfews, cellphone usage and gas allowances. Having your expectations in writing will establish clear boundaries.
  • Determine the financial responsibility ahead of time.
    While some parents may be financially fortunate enough to fit the entire bill for the car, having your teen contribute will teach them responsibility and accountability very quickly. They are much more likely to take better care of the car if they have their own money invested in it, after all.

Going shopping
teen with car keys

  • Find a good deal.
    With the internet on your side, you really can afford to pursue multiple car options. Don’t be afraid to keep looking for a better deal, especially if you’re buying used. If you can afford it, try to do business with a certified pre-owned car dealership. It does run a little  more pricey, but most of these vehicles have been examined for wear and tear already. That way you know exactly what you’re getting.
  • Don’t be afraid to think big.
    Your child will probably want something quite flashy as their first car, but do your best not to give into their demands. For a first time driver, you definitely want something with a bit more heft. A midsize sedan is a perfect choice. Your teen might be apprehensive about the somewhat clunky appearance, but more mass means more protection. Coupled with the mid-size sedan’s lower center of gravity, these cars are significantly less likely to roll over in the event of a crash. Choose something with the smallest available engine, as this makes for better fuel economy and harder for your teen to speed.
  • Do a background check.
    For an extra $30/$40,  services like Carfox will check if your prospective vehicle purchase has been in an accident.
  • Remember safety first.
    The truth is that teen drivers are 40% more likely to be in an accident than their adult counterparts. Your best bet is to do everything you possibly can to keep them safe on the road, so don’t skimp on the safety features. If the car has fewer than 6 airbags, it’s a deal breaker. Anti-lock brakes and stability control are also great investments.
  • Dings add character.
    A few small dents and scratches on a vehicle will help you drive down the price. Chances are, your teen will add a few of their own- so don’t be turned off by cars that have a bit of body damage. Remember that this is a starter car, so there’s no need for it to be entirely immaculate.
  • Take a test drive
    This one is really important. You and your child need to get a feel for how the vehicle handles the journey. Don’t just take it for a spin around a few blocks, head up to the highway to really put it through its paces. It’s imperative that the vehicle you choose can handle what it would have to go through in a week of driving with your teen.

    We hope these tips help you and your family make the most out of this exciting time in your child’s life. Happy and careful shopping!

By Matt Stewart