There is a moment that every parent both actively anticipates with excitement and completely dreads: the moment their teenager gets their first car. On one hand, the fact that your parent-as-taxi services will no longer be required is a relief, but on the other, there’s no denying that the idea of your child taking to the roads will always be somewhat concerning.
Your Teenager’s First Car: A Step-By-Step Guide
Nevertheless, the decision has been made, and you know there’s a car purchase in your future – but you’re not entirely sure where to start. Buying a car for a loved one is a very different proposition than buying a vehicle for yourself, and there’s a number of factors and considerations you’ll need to keep in mind throughout the process. However, it is possible to simplify the entire matter; and if you follow the step-by-step guide below, you should be able to ensure no stone is left unturned throughout the process.
Step One: Discuss the finances
There’s no “right” way to finance your teenager’s first car. Some parents will pay for both the purchase price and the insurance of the vehicle; others will contribute to the purchase price, but expect that their teenager works to pay the rest, and is also responsible for insurance, all maintenance requirements, and any repair work that needs to be completed. It depends entirely on your preferences and your family’s financial situation.
However, what we can say is that you and your teenager both need to fully agree on how the car will be financed before they start test driving models. Sit down together and discuss both the budget for the initial vehicle and the ongoing costs, and how these will be financed over the next few years. It helps to get these decisions in writing too, so you can be sure that you both know exactly where you stand.
Step Two: Consider the parking
If you have space on your existing driveway for another vehicle, then you can skip this step, but if space is at a premium then it is an issue you’ll need to consider. The most obvious solution is to opt for street parking, but you’ll need to check that the vehicle will be secure; look for parking in well-lit areas that are, ideally, visible from your house. If street parking is a no-go, then you could potentially ask your neighbors if they may have room for another car on their driveways for a small rental fee.
Step Three: Talk about test driving
You’re now at a point where you can begin to consider the purchase of the vehicle itself, but you’ll now need to ensure that your teenager knows how to test drive a car. Simply driving a vehicle is not really a sufficient way to check if it is suitable, so explain the basics and also relay a few tips you may have picked up yourself when test driving vehicles in the past.
Step Four: Compile a list of “must haves”
You now need to decide in tandem what you will look for when it comes to selecting a vehicle. Your first priority is to select the “must have” features that are so important, you wouldn’t buy any vehicle that does not offer them – with safety features undoubtedly the most important consideration. If possible, try to keep your “must have” list as short as possible, focusing on the core elements necessary for a safe, affordable vehicle. In doing so, it might be helpful to remind your teenager that these are the absolute essentials, and that they can explore options such as a private number plate, paint respraying, or interior upholstery changes at a later date if they wish to spruce up the vehicle more to their personal tastes.
Step Five: Find reputable dealers
While you can often save a substantial amount of money by choosing to buy a car from a seller, the unfortunate reality is that private sales offer you next to no protection or consumer rights. Given that you will naturally want to prioritize safety and protect your investment, it is usually best to look for vehicles that are sold by reputable, licensed dealers with a long history in providing a high quality of service to their customers. This necessity applies regardless of whether you are buying a new or a used vehicle; always research the dealership, look for customer reviews, and check the history of a dealership before you visit.
Step Six: Set a day aside to test drive
Ideally, your first test drives should be on a day where you have relatively little else to focus on – try to pick a day where you’re not at work, your teenager is not at school, and neither of you are rushing to attend social appointments. By keeping the day clear for everything aside from the test drive experience, you stand the best chance of being able to make clear, calm decisions.
Step Seven: Take a few test drives, but don’t commit on the day
If a teenager finds a car they love at a price that fits your budget, the pressure to go ahead with the sale can be immense – especially given that both the salesperson and your teenager may be enthusiastically encouraging you to seal the deal. However, even if you absolutely agree that you’ve found the right car, there’s no harm to taking a moment to ask for more time to consider the decision. For one thing, if the salesperson refuses, or says they can only offer the vehicle at that price right now, then that’s a bad sign – many less-than-reputable dealers rely on this classic high-pressure tactic to secure sales. For another, you might have found the right car, but there also might be an even better option available if you test drive a few more. As a result, it’s always worth sampling a number of models before you make the final purchasing decision – even if these test drives do nothing but affirm the previous choice, they’re still worth doing.
Step Eight: Carefully consider all of the vehicles that have been tested
This step should be done at home, far from the pressure of the sales forecourt, so you can carefully assess each car on their merits alone. At this point, both of you may already be fairly set on which car is the right choice, but there’s no such thing as being too slow to make a decision. Take your time, go through considerations such as potential repair costs and MPG, and then reach an agreement that is as dispassionate and fact-based as possible.
Step Nine: Make the purchase and plan for the future
By this point, you can be fairly confident that you are buying a car that is the right choice for your teenager. Go ahead and buy the vehicle, make sure the insurance and all relevant documentation is in place, and ensure that you check for details on the warranty – if applicable – that is included in the sale.
Step Ten: Set a few ground rules
With the car bought, all that’s left is to set a few ground rules with your teenager regarding how and when they can use their vehicle. As with the financing decision, there’s no right or wrong way to approach this – simply go with whatever works best for you, and ensure that you and your teenager are as one on the topic.
By following the 10 steps above, buying your teenager’s first car should be a straightforward process from start to finish.
What tips would you add to this step-by-step guide to buying your teenager’s first car?