How to Choose the Best Car for Your Teenager

In many places, teenagers need a car to get around and get to school. So, once they have their license, it is time to find an appropriate vehicle for them to drive. Shopping for a car can be plenty stressful by itself, but when you add in a picky teenager, the task may seem impossible.

Whether you are buying a new car or a used one, there are a number of important factors to consider before making a purchase. By being thorough and patient, you can get your teenager on the road in a safe car without breaking the bank.

Part 1 of 1: Choosing a car

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Image: Bankrate

Step 1: Make a budget. There are a lot of extra costs to consider when budgeting for your teenager’s first car.

Make sure that you budget properly, then, so you will know exactly how much money can go towards the actual car. Car insurance can cost a lot more for a teenager than it does for an adult. Adding a teenager onto another existing car insurance policy is almost always cheaper than taking out a policy just for them.

Teens are much more prone to accidents than adults, and it is wise to budget for a small fender-bender sometime in their first year driving.

Step 2: Talk with your teen. This step seems obvious, but it is easily one of the most important parts of the whole process.

They have to be aware of what is a practical fit for your family’s needs. Ask your teenager, what would they use this car for? Do they just need a safe vehicle from point A to point B, or will they be transporting other passengers or cargo on a regular basis?

Inevitably, your teenager may have their hearts set on sports cars and pickup trucks, so this conversation should be an opportunity to show them all types of cars on the market and how great some affordable options can be.

Whether your child has been driving for months or years, driving is still relatively new to them. No matter how responsible of a driver you know they may be, make it clear that models with low safety ratings will be ruled out of consideration.

Finally, talk about the future. If your child is going into a trade or into construction, it may be advantageous to look for a truck rather than a car for a first vehicle.

Step 3: Start your search online. Go online and search for pictures, articles, and reviews about vehicle models online.

Start with the big name brands first to get the ball rolling, and then begin to compare options of any other car manufacturers your teen may be interested in. This is also a good time to choose between a used and a new car. Used cars offer the most value for your money, while new cars suffer from fewer issues.

You’ll want to search for pictures and reviews posted by real-life, authentic drivers, so don’t be afraid to delve a couple pages into Google’s search to compare the opinions on different websites.

Step 4: Decide on the type of transmission. Transmissions come in two arrangements: automatic and manual.

Automatic transmissions are easier to learn and more forgiving than manual transmissions, thus they are recommended for beginner drivers. Manual transmissions require more skill to use, and learning to drive a vehicle with one is a useful skill to have.

Step 5: Decide on a car to purchase. Utilizing various websites or local classified ads to find cars, you need to narrow down the possible choices for your teen.

For a first car, it is a good idea to go with a compact car, a family sedan, or a small SUV. Here is a table comparing the advantages and disadvantages of each.

car advantages table

Avoid large trucks and SUVs for first-time drivers, as they have larger blind spots and are less intuitive to drive and park. Sports cars require a more experienced driver to properly handle and may lead a teenager to drive irresponsibly.

  • Note: Comparing crash test rating between specific models is always more accurate than basing the decision on the size of the car.

Step 6: Shop for a car at a physical car lot. By going to a new or used car lot to check out the cars you decided on when searching online, you can get a better feel for the car.

You will not only be able to test drive the cars in question, but you will be able to get a better feel for the differences between the models.

Step 7: Purchase the car you and your teen agree on. Weigh all of the above options, and purchase the car that is best for your situation.

Once all is said and done, your child will have a mode of transportation all their own and you will have peace of mind knowing that you followed the right steps throughout the process and ended up with a car that satisfies your requirements for both safety and practicality. Before you buy, be sure to have one of YourMechanic’s certified technicians perform a pre-purchase car inspection.


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Caz

17 years of experience
57 reviews
Caz
17 years of experience
Honda Insight - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Acworth, Georgia
Patient, thorough, professional and takes his time to explain things. This is the second time I have used Caz's services, and he consistently delivers. Look forward to working with him again.
Volvo XC90 - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Alpharetta, Georgia
My husband and I are looking for a reliable used car for our teenage drivers. We had two that we were considering and wanted to have them inspected prior to purchasing. Caz did a thorough inspection of both vehicles and recommended we walk away from both. We really appreciated his transparency and knowledge. We will definitely use Caz again.

Chris

22 years of experience
2001 reviews
Chris
22 years of experience
Porsche Macan - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Irvine, California
Chris you as so knowledgeable and really out my mid at ease with the private seller purchase. Highly recommend to anyone shopping for a car :)
Lexus ES300h - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Temecula, California
Amazing guy.... called and gave me what felt to be his honest and straightforward opinion on my vehicle.... def will book him again in the future for work

Casey

19 years of experience
27 reviews
Casey
19 years of experience
Hyundai Santa Fe - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Katy, Texas
Casey is awesome. Helped me fully understand the health of the used vehicle I was buying for my mother in law. Great service and very knowledgeable for sure. Casey found only one issue we needed to deal with and was able to book the repair just a few days later.

Colby

14 years of experience
21 reviews
Colby
14 years of experience
Ford Ranger - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Longmont, Colorado
Colby called to notify me he was in route to the inspection--to ease my mind and to ask if there was anything in particular/extra I wanted him to check out. He was going to do a pre-purchase inspection of a 2002 Ford Ranger. He assured me that I hired the right guy since he'd worked for Ford for 13 years. An hour or so later, he called me while he was driving home to discuss his inspection. I could ask him everything I wanted as we dialogued. That was so helpful! And way more personable and real than just reading the report he emailed. The report was thorough and included a test drive. He had recommendations for some work to be immediately done; rotors & brake pads. Then, included the cost for him to do that work should I choose. The price was fair and not crazy expensive. I'm still deliberating on whether to have that done or to wait for my mechanic to do it once I have the truck. Thank you again Colby.

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