The time has finally come: that little toddler, that child of yours, has suddenly grown into a teenager old enough to drive. You blinked, it happened, now it’s time to go car shopping. Teen drivers present a different challenge for the vehicle shopper, and have different driving needs. Here are some tips to hopefully satisfy you and your new driver.
Most teens are not in the best financial situation, and will require a bit of help from the Bank of Mom and Dad. How much help is determined by your financial picture, the kind of vehicle you want your teen driving, and if you are wanting them to learn a lesson. Don’t go broke trying to buy your son or daughter the best. There are perfect condition used cars with low miles out there, for thousands less than the price of new. Some two year old models can depreciate as much as 50%, but still look like the current model. The brand and type will determine cost, as Mercedes SUV will obviously cost more than a Chevy subcompact of the same year. Don’t be tempted by image: get what they need. Finally, realize this could be a teachable moment. Have your son or daughter contribute to the monthly payment, even if it is a small amount. This will give a sense of pride of ownership, and the real-world lesson that big expenses usually have big payments.
Now for the fun part. Deciding what to buy can be difficult, as a teen likely wants something “cool,” while a parent wants something safe. New cars have come a long way, and that has trickled down to the used car market, where safety features like electronic stability control and a plethora of airbags can be found on many modern used cars. Once you have decided, hit vehicle sites like Edmunds or Consumer Reports for unbiased reviews. Then visit sites like Auto Trader or Mojo Motors to check prices in your area. Regional differences can affect prices (a Silverado is worth more in the South, but a Subaru is pricier in New England), so you might want to check other states, as the difference could save you thousands.
When you have bought a car, the process does not end with just handing over the keys and telling them to drive safe. Lay down some ground rules for their safety that will help establish good driving habits. No texting is an obvious example, and rather than just telling them, you might want to consider buying a car with a manual transmission so both of their hands have to be in use while driving. More common sense rules include not piling too many friends into the car, and no speeding. GPS tracking devices, like the ones offered by Moto Safety, are sold online and can monitor the speed and location of the vehicle. While these tools are affordable and totally legal, teens consider them a buzzkill. Cars are about freedom, and you do have to learn to trust your young driver sometime. Besides, the sooner they learn to drive, the sooner they can move out.