Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tips for Buying Your Teen's First Car

An American rite of passage is the issuance of a driver’s license and the purchase of a teenager’s first car. To the young person in question, this is a crucial step along his or her social evolution path.

Like a bar mitzvah or debutante ball, this first set of wheels announces to the world that he or she has finally arrived! Whether they want them fast, hot, huge or sporty, the last thing many teens are thinking of is practicality.

But Mom and Dad have different priorities. At the top of their list are safety, reliability, and economy. Most often they are looking for low purchase, operation, and maintenance costs, and of course they can’t forget the terrifying specter of insurance!

No matter who’s footing the bill and making the big decisions, here are a few tips to help you through the emotional challenge of buying your teen’s first automobile:

As far as car prices, the first question is usually used vs. new. Older cars will almost always cost less up front, but issues of reliability and safety can offset some of that gain.

Here is an interesting compromise: consider last year’s leftover new cars that the dealer is dying to get off of his lot. These brand new cars with the latest safety equipment and full warranties often come with such attractive incentives these days that you could drive away in one for less than you would pay for something used. It’s worth checking into.

If that new car smell is not in your budget, then a used one is what you need. And there are some great deals out there if you are willing to take your time, do the homework, and investigate thoroughly. Along with independent dealers and individuals, government and repossessed car auctions are good places to look for that hidden gem.

Remember that most used cars don’t come with a warranty, so it’s best to have a car inspected by a reliable mechanic if possible. A CarFax or AutoCheck vehicle history report is also invaluable. For a nominal fee, you can demystify a vehicle’s past, exposing ownership, mileage, accident and service history, and much more.

When considering insurance, be sure to compare rate quotes from many different companies, using such sites as Keep in mind that luxury brand vehicles have higher insurance rates, as well as convertibles and sports coupes with oversized engines. Of course used cars are less expensive to insure and have lower personal property and sales taxes too.

Your teenager’s first choice might be a 1964 Ford truck or a brand new Porsche, but Consumer Reports lists Toyota and Honda as the top two brands for reliability, performance and resale value. Fuel efficiency is also a big consideration in long-term costs, and the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla both boast outstanding mileage.

Whether you go for practicality, style, or both, this is a particularly good time in history to buy a car. With 0% APR loans and other incentives available, all systems are go for young Zachary or Camilla to acquire that long-awaited American dream that is a teenager’s first car. Look out world, here they come!
Guest post by Elysabeth Teeko
Twitter: @Elysateek
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