When it comes to milestones in a teen’s life getting their first car ranks right at the top. The freedom that comes with having your own vehicle is life changing and for teens, a taste of that freedom makes them want more.

Unfortunately, there’s more to buying a car than simply heading to car lot, pointing at one, and buying it, at least for the average person. Most families have to plan strategically when it’s time for their teen to get a car and it’s important that you teen be part of the discussion. Having one’s own car is a big responsibility and it’s important they understand that.

If it’s time for your family to start the process of buying your teen’s first car, here are some tips that can help make the process a little easier.


Establish a Budget

Establishing a budget is the first step and it’s vital that your teen be part of this discussion, especially if they’ll be contributing their own money to the purchase of the car. Part of setting a budget is determining if you’ll pay for the car outright or finance the purchase through your bank.

This is a great opportunity for your teen to learn about interest rates and how they actually increase the cost of the car over time. It’s also a great way to discuss monthly payments. Does your teen have a job? Are they responsible enough to budget for a payment each month? These are all important life lessons that will certainly help your teen be more money conscious later in life.

New Car or Used Car?

Much of this discussion goes back to budget, but it’s important to discuss the pros and cons of a new car versus a used car. Obviously, a new car is going to be more expensive, the full coverage insurance costs can be high if the car is financed, and depending on the make and model you choose its resale value might not be worth the price. However, new cars are more reliable, come with warranties, and offer up-to-date safety features.

A used car can also be a great choice, especially if you have a strict budget. These days, cars are better made and the engine and drivetrain components last a lot longer than they used to with proper maintenance. However, you’ll want to explain to your teen about the risk of buying a used car with hidden problems. It’s also important to have a mechanic check the car thoroughly before any payment is made.

Ensure your teen understands possible maintenance issues and what’s normal with a new or used car. They should know whether their car’s issues go beyond that, indicating their car might be a lemon and what recourse they have. Also, discuss with them how much you will or won’t be helping them financially if there’s an issue with their car.


car-insuranceInsurance is another important aspect of buying a car and your teen needs to learn how insurance works. Obviously, once you add your teen to your policy the premium will increase. You can explain that this extra cost represents the extra risk the insurance company places on young drivers. You can also explain that taking a driving safety course and maintaining good grades in school allow some insurance companies to reduce their rates.

Parents always have different views but many believe that the new teen driver should contribute to the insurance costs. Include your teen in the process, comparison shop for car insurance together and discuss the ins and outs of the insurance plan and what the various coverages mean. This not only motivates them to keep the premium down but also teaches them more about the true cost of owning a car.


There’s little that worries parents more than when they’re teen with a brand-new driver’s license pulls out of the driveway for the first time. All of the study and driving practice have now lead to the point that your teen is allowed to drive alone and that can be scary.

Be sure that you have a serious discussion about safety issues regarding driving. Definitely point out the very real dangers of texting or using a phone while behind the wheel. Explain, in detail, how to comply with a police officer’s orders should they ever be pulled over. Drive home the fact that drinking and getting behind the wheel is never okay.

Also see: Car Driving Tips for Beginners

It’s also important that your teen knows what to do in certain situations that arise when driving. They should know how to safely and properly change a tire. They should know who to call for roadside assistance. They should also know what to do if they’re in a minor accident. These are just a few of the very important aspects of driving safely.

Buying a car for your teen is a big step, but with some discussion, compromise, and patience the end result will be a car you and your teen can count on.