Buying Your Teenager’s First Car

We’ve all been there, approaching our 16th birthday, anticipating our first driver’s license, one of our first steps into a larger world.  Of course now we are parents, no doubt with many of our own kids approaching that same age, wondering when they will be allowed to drive, and more importantly, what they will be allowed to drive.

When I was a kid, I was as thankful as could be to be given my dad’s old 1976 Chevrolet Vega, an anemic, underpowered sled that went from 0-60 in about twelve minutes, provided you were going downhill and that the wind was behind you.  These days kids, my own included, can’t quite grasp why they aren’t getting something less than two years old.

Buying a car is a major expense, and not too many of us can afford nice late model cars for every member of the family.  Chances are the car you buy for your teenager will be an older model, less expensive, with considerable mileage on it.  Unless you just have money to burn, cars for teens have to be an economical option.

For starters, you should determine if your child really needs a car.  If he or she has an abundance of extracurricular activities, or an after school job, then a car is probably warranted.  If it is just to cruise around with friends, or in the case of many guys, to pick up girls, then a car becomes considerably less urgent.

Sometimes, buying your child a car makes your life easier.  For me, with three children, having to get up in the morning and take time to drive my oldest to school when I could be herding the other two through breakfast and getting dressed made a car for my daughter a very attractive option.

Remember that cars are expensive purchases, not only in the acquisition, but the maintenance.  Especially if you go the cheap route initially and purchase an older (read: less expensive) car.

Firstly resist the urge to buy what your teenage wants.  The most popular cars among teenagers are the Ford Mustang (too fast, expensive to insure), a Jeep Wrangler (not the most stable vehicle) and the Honda Civic (fuel efficient, but very small, with little protection in the event of an accident).

The best idea is to surround your teen with a good amount of sheet metal, and that doesn’t have the most get up and go.  Unfortunately this is not what most parents do.  When you are involved in a crash while driving a smaller vehicle, you are twice as likely to be seriously injured or killed.  Unfortunately, a cursory glance at most high school parking lots will reveal that roughly half of the students’ cars are small cars or pickup trucks.

The ideal car for the first time driver will be at least a mid-sized car, fairly late model, with front and head protecting side airbags, as well as stability and traction control.  Pickup trucks and sports cars are not designed with teens in mind.

Whatever car you choose, check out its crash test results.  The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety publishes an annual list of top safety picks for new models, but that list can also prove handy for determining if the used car you are looking at is a good choice.

Resign yourself to the fact that your insurance premiums will increase no matter what you do if you are insuring a teenage driver.  Traditionally boys have been more expensive to insure than girls, but that is starting to change somewhat.

Safer cars are usually less expensive to insure because they have a lower claims history.  You may also qualify for discounts based on your student’s academic performance, as well as whether or not your teen will be the primary driver of the car or only use it on a limited basis.

You may also qualify for a better rate if you agree to install GPS spying software or tracking device in your teen’s car.  This allows you to monitor not only their whereabouts, but also their driving speeds.  Your teen may not like the idea of being spied on, but you’re the parent, it’s your money, and it’s your decision.


Billy D Ritchie is the Director Of Content for LeadsByFone, LLC, a lead generation company servicing the flood cleaning and water damage restoration industry.

When not writing and educating folks about the perils of water damage, he is also a freelance writer, sometime actor, and formerly professional musician.  He also enjoys spending his weekends building and flying model rockets.


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