Shopping for a Car for Your Teen

Watching your child grow up from a little baby into a full-grown teenager can be a beautiful experience. They have overcome puberty, they have graduated high school, and it is the moment when your teen has passed a state license test and completed driver’s education. As a dad, you couldn’t be prouder.

But along with it comes the scary part when your teen needs his or her own car. You are torn between giving them something they need (because you can’t chauffeur them everywhere), but you want to keep your kid safe.

When shopping for a car for your teen, here are some helpful tips to remember:


1. Have a talk with your teen

Before you buy a car, first, sit down with your teen and set expectations. Make his or her responsibilities involved with driving and maintaining the car crystal clear. Point out that he or she may choose what car to buy, but the choice will still be up to you. Many parents make the mistake of caving in to their kid’s wishes because it’s something flashy, cool, and fast. You don’t want them driving a new model with too much power.

For you to make sure that they will be careful, you can choose to involve them in contributing to the maintenance, repair, and insurance costs for the car, especially if your teen has a job. Tell them that repair costs for any scrapes or dings, or traffic violations and parking tickets must be covered by them. This conversation can also teach them the responsibility of owning a car, to prepare them for the future when they are handling everything on their own.

Also, discuss ground rules. For example, you can establish that there must be no texting, no scrolling on the phone, no watching videos, no taking selfies, no dialing, no eating, and no putting makeup while driving. Discuss how many people can be on the car, and who else can drive it. Set a limit up to how far they can travel alone, and set a time when they have to be home. Before you hand over the keys, make sure you and your teen agree.

2. Consider the hidden costs, not just the price of the car

Of course, the budget is the main consideration when buying a major purchase like a car. Most people are looking to spend under $10,000 for a teen’s first car. Newer cars can be expensive, but for a first-time teen driver, you don’t have to spend much to give them a good car. Just make sure that you don’t scrimp on safety just to save a few bucks.

Also, consider the additional costs associated with owning another car. The biggest cost associated with cars these days is gas. Plus, there’s insurance and maintenance. Make sure you consider all the costs so you can adjust your budget accordingly.

3. Consider a reasonable car

Experts agree that a parent must not get a teen a dream car, both for financial and safety reasons. It’s better if they will aspire to buy it for themselves one day. Buying a kid a BMW or Maserati may give your kid an urge to race other cars on the road and to flaunt it unnecessarily with their peers. Buying a fancy and sporty car begs for abuse.

What is necessary is more important to consider right now. Parents must consider buying a car that’s not too fast yet not too slow. It may not be the coolest car, but what’s important is it must cater to their needs and stay safe until they have gained more driving experience.

4. Keep safety a priority

Before anything else, safety must be the number one thing to think about as a parent. You want to make sure that you will feel comfortable knowing that your child is safe behind the wheel. Don’t consider a vehicle with fewer than six airbags. The airbags must be marked with the letters “SRS” or the supplemental restraint system. Generally, the more, the better. Anti-lock brakes and stability control are also important. It must also come with driving safety aids, like rearview cameras, blind-spot warning, and lane detection alerts. Limited acceleration, forward collision warning, and strong obstacle avoidance performance are also important features to consider. With these in mind, avoid a high horsepower car.

When considering to buy new or used, safety is still your first priority. There are budgetary advantages to buying a used car, but it would be best if it’s not a too-old model that does not have the recommended safety features. Newer cars (or second-hand newer model cars) have driver-assist technologies that you must consider.

5. Be intentional with the size of the car you choose

Small cars are not the safest vehicle for teens because they don’t provide enough protection in a crash. Experts agree that compact cars are too small for an inexperienced driver. The best car for teens is four-door sedans or SUVs because they have a higher roll-over rate. It also keeps teens from driving a large group of friends and being distracted while on the road. Select a vehicle with the smallest available engine – such as a four-cylinder engine instead of six – to make it harder to speed and make it more economical. Most mid-sized sedans have this type of engine.

Also, it’s good to keep in mind the lifestyle and activities of your teen. They might be involved in sports or theater, which may require them to haul around extra items and equipment that may demand more storage.

6. Choose a car with minimal distractions

Distractions are the major cause of accidents, especially for teenage drivers. There are cars with special features that minimize distractions. For instance, there are cars that allow the user to program keys, so the stereo will never go over a certain level of volume while driving. Some limit the maximum speed. These may be considered good options.

Consider a car with Bluetooth capabilities and hands-free options. This way, your teen won’t be driving with one hand or texting with another.

7. Make sure it’s easy to drive

Another important consideration when buying a car is its ease of driving. Make sure that both you and your teen can get a feel of the car before you take it home. Their first car should get them used to drive. After buying, make sure you can supervise your teen while letting him or her take the car to a test drive. Don’t just cruise around the block or your neighborhood. Take your teen to the highway, go to the groceries, and try to park, find some challenging curves and grades. Put the vehicle through all paces of driving it may regularly encounter so your teen would get used to it.

8. Consider recommended vehicles for teens

Many of the popular car magazines have in-dept reviews of current models and past models as well to help you decide based on your budget, preferences and requirements.