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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Attila

19 years of experience
906 reviews
Attila
19 years of experience
Cadillac SRX V6-3.6L - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Edison, New Jersey
Attila was great! Very knowledgeable and actually detected a fault during a pre-purchase inspection that would have cost me later.
Lexus ES350 - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Fords, New Jersey
He is very good—offered all the significant details we needed from the inspection. Helped us figure out what needed to be fixed.

Shawn

12 years of experience
285 reviews
Shawn
12 years of experience
Chevrolet Impala V6-3.6L - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Lansdale, Pennsylvania
Shawn was prompt, professional, and delivered the promised service as expected. This was a used vehicle pre-purchase inspection. Shawn also had to drive to multiple locations to perform the inspection, as the address listed that I provided him with was not accurate, but he still made it to the correct location within his time window and completed the inspection.
Toyota Sequoia - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Akron, Pennsylvania
Shawn was very prompt in communicating with me and was good at helping me decide whether to purchase a used car. He help me avoid a car with a repaired rusted frame that could be a danger to my family's safety since we were planning on using the car to tow a travel trailer!

Luis

18 years of experience
320 reviews
Luis
18 years of experience
Honda HR-V L4-1.8L - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Warren, New Jersey
Luis was great. He showed up on time, acted professionally, and gave me confidence with a pre-purchase car inspection.
Acura RDX - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - South Hackensack, New Jersey
Luis did a thorough pre-purchase inspection for me, and found several major issues that made me pass on buying the car. Had I purchased the car, I almost certainly would have ended up paying thousands in repairs down the road. Thanks Luis!

Robert

20 years of experience
1089 reviews
Robert
20 years of experience
Hyundai Elantra L4-2.0L - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Englewood, Colorado
He did a pre-purchase inspection for me. He was knowledgeable and fast, and knew what he was looking for. I really appreciate all the pictures and documentation he took of the state of the car before purchase. He noted potential issues with the car that I wouldn't have been able to notice. Would recommend.
GMC Savana 1500 - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Golden, Colorado
I trust Robert. He gave me a list and we will take care of it the week of June 29. I will know then that my vehicle is ready for the winter and is safe to drive. I look forward to getting things ready for another winter of careful driving.

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