It’s a momentous time in a teenager’s young life to finally get their first car. And it is also one of the most financially and emotionally draining times a parent can ever experience - that is, if you’re unprepared.
Most likely your child will want a car if they get one and, more often than not, you will be the one to help them secure that option one way or another. Whether it is finding a good used that they can buy outright or taking them shopping around for used cars or even new cars, often the parent will take the lead.
Hopefully you have purchased a couple of vehicles yourself over your life but if not we have some helpful tips to help you navigate the waters of purchasing your teenager’s first car.
Before you get down to the nitty gritty there are four questions that need answered before you even begin to buy a car.
Whether your child is paying for it herself, you are helping her, or buying it for her outright, the answers to these questions will help you make the best financial decision possible.
The first major question to ask concerns whether car is a “want to have” or a “need to have” item. There is a huge difference. Just because your child wants a car doesn’t mean that she will need a car. If you live in an urban area with plentiful public transportation, for example, a car can actually become a huge financial burden and is a luxury, not a necessity. If your child works after school or you live in a rural area, a car might be a good idea.
Establishing the difference between “wants” and needs” in life has applications outside of just shopping for used cars. Developing this kind of emotional maturity at a young age will serve your child well throughout her life.
Another important question to ask concerns your child’s academic performance and how much that matters. Will a car be a huge distraction and a detriment to her grades? Are her grades already struggling? Will she be able to manage both school and a job? For many parents, this area becomes more of a dealbreaker than the financial aspects of a car or whether the child actually needs one to begin.
The third question concerns the ongoing expenses vehicles owners incur owning cars, both new and used cars. Who will pay for maintenance, gas, insurance, registration, and other fees? A car is a huge financial responsibility, and your child needs to understand that prior to taking the plunge.
And the final question that parents and teenagers need to ask is what kind of car they are looking for in the marketplace. What safety features should the car have? What does the teenager need out of the car versus what features do they want to have in the car. With the advancement of automobile technology over just the past ten years alone, there are a huge number of options in the market that provide every convenience imaginable. This means that when looking for used vehicles, cars from earlier eras will not only lack certain safety features but huge advancements in technology as well. Getting a car your teenager can afford is important, but getting a car that is safe and going to protect her life is the number one priority.