Tips for Buying Your Teenager’s First Car

Tips for Buying Your Teenager's First Car

So, the time has come to buy your teenager their first car...but where do you even begin? For most parents, top qualifications usually include safety, and reliability at a reasonable price. As exciting of a time it is, where your kid is nearing adulthood and inching towards independence, it can be overwhelming to prepare them with the resources they need to succeed, such as a car of their own. With some planning and research, you will be able to narrow down the best options for your teen. Keep reading to learn more to gain some insight on what to expect when buying your teen their first car!

Know Your Expenses Upfront

Piggy Bank

There are a few options you have in terms of paying for the vehicle for your teen. You can either pay for it outright with cash you’ve saved up and sign as the legal car owner until your child reaches the legal age of 18 (in most states), which at that time you can transfer the title. If you need to apply for a loan and your child is under the legal age, you will be held responsible for keeping up with car payments since they are unable to sign a binding contract until they reach 18. Once they reach 18, they will be eligible to apply for a loan but may face difficulty getting one with favorable terms with little (if any) credit history. If you feel that your son or daughter is ready to take on the responsibility, you can choose to cosign the loan, with the understanding that you will be also be held responsible for late payments or failure to pay, which can affect your credit score.

Another factor to take into consideration is having an insurance policy for the car. If you already have them on your existing policy, you have probably seen how expensive the premiums got since adding an inexperienced driver increases a family’s annual premium by around 78% (according to a 2017 study). Adding the vehicle to the policy will also add another increase depending on the car. However, adding your child’s vehicle to your existing insurance policy will be generally a lot cheaper than getting them their own insurance policy.

Finding the Right Car


Searching for the right first car for your teenager can be tough, especially with such a wide selection of cars available on the market. However, there are a lot of great online resources to help narrow it down for you and your teen. For new drivers, perhaps considering a larger car like a mid size sedan might be a safer choice since they can withstand crash impacts better than a compact car. Larger vehicles also have a low center of gravity, making these larger cars less likely to flip. Fast cars with high horsepower is probably not at the top of the list for those prioritizing safety for a beginner driver. Cars with smaller engines and drive chains are usually slower and more gas-efficient as well.

Car shopping is also a great time to act on real-world financial decision-making with your teen as well - making the right trade-offs to find the right features from a car you would be happy purchasing that won’t break the family budget. An example of a trade-off to consider is to buy a new car or a used car. Brand new vehicles will of course cost more, and offer the latest safety features (some that are not available in older models) such as backup cameras and automatic braking. A certified pre-owned vehicle can also be an option, costing more than certain vehicles but may come with a limited warranty and some perks.

Set the Driving Standard with Your Teen

Handing Over Keys

Be on the same page with your teen about car costs and what you expect of them to contribute. Besides the price tag of the car and insurance, there are other fees including registration, inspections, maintenance costs, fuel costs, tolls, washes, and license plate fees. Explain to your son or daughter the importance of the responsibilities that come with owning a used car as part of their independence becoming an adult. If they are contributing to pay for the car costs out of their own pocket, they will be more likely to drive more carefully since they also make an investment.

Discuss with your teen your expectations of them as a responsible and safe driver sharing the road amongst other drivers. Set ground rules for safety while operating the vehicle including no texting, calling, or browsing social media. Make sure you and your teen are on the same page with these terms and conditions before you throw them the keys. We hope you found this blog helpful in your journey to finding the right first car for your son or daughter! If you are in the Inland Empire area, make sure you stop into R&B Auto Center for our wide selection of used vehicles. Everything from trucks, cars, and SUV’s, we take pride in having great variety in our inventory. At R&B, we treat you like family.

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