9 Tips for Choosing Your Teenager’s First Car

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For teenagers, getting a driver’s license is a big moment. It means they are ready to hit the road and be more independent. Owning a car is even more exciting because having a car of their own really means getting that extra freedom. We’ve all been there, haven’t we?

Of course, choosing the right first car for a teenager is both exciting and challenging for parents. You want your kids to have the best car possible, but you also have factors like budget and safety to consider. To make choosing your teenager’s first car easier, here are the tips you need to follow.

Set a Budget

Before you start browsing through your options and comparing cars, it is absolutely important to set a budget for the purchase. Remember that the price of the car isn’t the only cost element you’ll have to deal with as you search for a good car for your teenager.

It is also important to let your teenager know about your budget. Get on the same page and manage expectations. Explain how there are insurance costs and other charges to deal with too, so they can adjust their expectations accordingly.

Lay Some Rules

If you want to make arrangements about the new car, now is the perfect time to lay the rules. Will your teenager be expected to pay for some of the expenses associated with the new car? Who will take care of insurance? How often can the car be used?

There is a reason why laying some ground rules is something that you should do at this point. You can choose a car that better matches the specific needs of your teenager this way. It is also a great way to teach kids about being responsible.

Start Shopping for Options

Finding options is actually the easy part. Ideally, you have a budget of around $10,000 to $15,000, as there are plenty of (used) cars in this price range. This dealership, for instance, has plenty of used cars under $10,000. A Ford Fiesta S or a Toyota Corolla SE are among the options to consider.

When shopping for options, make sure you also look into details about the car, including mileage, financing options, fuel efficiency, and insurance group. These details will determine the long-term cost of owning and maintaining the car.

Safety First

As you begin comparing cars for your teenager, the next thing to look into is safety. After all, you are buying a car for your child and you can never be too careful. Modern cars have safety ratings and features designed to protect your teenager whenever they are behind the wheel.

The right safety features also help with lowering the car’s insurance premium. Cars fitted with radar-guided or adaptive cruise control are considered safer, which means they are cheaper to insure.

Anti-lock brakes, airbags, daytime running lights, and automatic seat belts are among the safety features to have too. All of these features reduce the car’s insurance premium by a substantial margin.


This is where your teen will want to have a say in the car you buy. Style is very important for teenagers, which is why cars like the VW Golf and Ford Fiesta are considered better options. They want cars that look good; you want cars that are absolutely safe to drive (like an old Volvo).

The key is finding a middle ground. If you already talk to your teen about the budget for the new car, choosing a car that suits your teenager’s taste will not be a problem. Your teen may come up with a few alternatives to consider.

Running Costs

Don’t forget to consider the cost of using the car too as you compare your options. As mentioned before, the actual price of the car is only one (small) part of the equation. Fuel efficiency, cost of service and spare parts, and insurance premium are among the cost elements to consider too.

Some used cars are more affordable because they are expensive to maintain. For example, you can get a Honda HR-V or an older BMW 330i at roughly the same price, but they cost differently to run. The BMW may be as affordable to buy, but it is certainly more expensive to insure and maintain.


Since you are most likely buying a used car, reliability becomes a big factor to take into account. You wouldn’t want your teen stranded on the side of the road because the car stops working, would you? Some cars, fortunately, are notoriously reliable, even when they are older.

Cars like the Toyota Corolla SE and Honda Accord LX are famous for their reliability. The Chevrolet Cruze from the same year, on the other hand, often suffers from minor transmission or engine issues that reduce its reliability.

Check the Financing

If you base your budget on the monthly installment for the new car – and you plan to use financing for the purchase – you can now start looking into financing options for the cars you are interested in buying. Compare car loans from various sources to be extra certain that you are getting the best deals.

The car dealership may also offer financing; the best ones let you get a car loan pre-approved, so you can complete your purchase faster and easier. The only thing to avoid is buying a more expensive car just because you think the monthly installment is affordable.

Do a Test Drive

Last but not least, let your teenager do a test drive; yes, you should do one too, but the opinions of your teen are also important in this instance. By letting them do a test drive before finalizing your decision to buy the car, you will end up with the best first car for your teenager.

Choosing a car for your teenager becomes easier when you use the tips and tricks we discussed in this article. You still have to go through a few steps before finding the right car to go for, but the process is a lot more manageable now that you have these nine tips in mind.

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