How to Buy a Used Car for Teenagers?

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Today is when your teenager gets his or her driver’s license, and congratulations are in order. It’s a momentous occasion, and you couldn’t be happier! Your kid will be able to drive anywhere without your help, much like a bird who just learned how to fly. Now for the next step: choosing the right used car. Here are a few things to consider when buying a used car for your teenager.

Infographic created by Capital Auto Auction, a vehicle


Managing Expectations

Your first order of business should be letting your teenager know that you might help her get a used car, but everything is contingent on her not breaking your rules and the law. Now would be a good time to explain to your teen that driving is NOT a right, but a privilege and the privileges of using a vehicle can quickly be taken away. Let your teen driver know that you have the means to monitor where they go and how fast they drive using the latest safety apps.


      Cost of Ownership

Let your child know that it costs a considerable amount of money to buy, own, and maintain a car. While your kid won’t be able to afford to buy a ride for himself, you should consider letting him pay for something to instill a sense of ownership that may lower the instances of reckless driving. 


      Talk to Your Teen About the Risks

The risks of letting a kid with limited experience and questionable judgment sit behind the wheel of a car are real, and your teenager needs to know about them. This talk isn’t meant to scare them, but to make them aware of the dangers inherent in driving. You can mention that one out of three kids aged 13 to 19 die while in a car, 16-year-old drivers crash more than any other age group, and 20% of teen drivers have an accident within their first year of driving.


      Safety Rules That Can’t Be Broken

Your kid needs to know that there are non-negotiable safety rules when she sits behind the wheel: always wear a seat belt, don’t use a phone, and never drive under the influence.

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Choosing The Right Car

A new car should be out of the question, even if you have the money to spare. New drivers, especially teenagers, are apt to have a lot of minor mishaps due to a lack of experience and poor judgment. Expect the dings, scratches, and repairs to pile up.


      You Decide What Car to Buy

You can let your teen express his input on which car is best, but the decision should ultimately fall on you. Some kids will want a fast and flashy vehicle, while others will want something big and luxurious. Temper their expectations and tell them about your criteria for choosing a car: fuel economy, safety, and practicality.


      NO Sports Cars, Large Trucks, and SUVs

Teens will gravitate towards wanting a large truck, SUV, or sports car for the wow factor. Sports cars are an obvious negative because they are expensive to insure and have a higher rate of accidents than other vehicles due to drivers constantly overspeeding. Large SUVs and trucks are bigger and technically safer but aren’t the best choice for new drivers, according to data from Consumer Reports. Bigger vehicles are harder to handle and stop on a dime. Larger cars have room for more passengers, and studies have shown that the chances of an accident increase with every new passenger added.


      Take Your Teen Along for a Test Drive

Your teenager may be too inexperienced when it comes to cars and driving, but he needs to be there for the selection process and the test drive. Letting your kid test drive the vehicle will give her an opportunity to get a feel for how the car handles, how it rides, braking, steering, and if everything feels right.


Safety First

Your budget will dictate what car you’ll end up buying, so you need to choose the safest vehicle that’s available. Bigger cars with smaller engines are a better choice. Make sure to check the vehicle’s safety rating through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and run a VIN check before buying.


      Look for Midsize Vehicles Manufactured After 2012

Statistics have shown that teens are less likely to get into an accident when driving a bigger car, and their passengers will fare better when they crash. Look for midsize sedans for their lower center of gravity or midsize SUVs or crossovers for their higher seating position. Look for cars with more than six airbags manufactured after 2012. Why 2012? In 2012, the government mandated that all vehicles must have electronic stability control (ESC) as a standard safety feature.

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      Always Run a Background Check

Before buying a used car for your teenager, don’t forget to get a detailed vehicle history report or VHR. A VHR is a treasure trove of information about the vehicle, such as ownership, maintenance records, accidents, liens, airbag deployments, and a host of other crucial details. You can get a car’s VHR by running a vehicle vin lookup.


      Getting Insurance.

Teenagers are statistically prone to accidents, making them more expensive to insure, so buying them the right car is the key to getting a reasonable rate from your insurer. Contact your insurance company first before spending money on a used car, letting them know that you’ll have your kid drive for the first time. Try to involve your teen in the discussion, so he can have an idea of the realities and costs of owning a car and being a responsible owner.


Buying a car can be a daunting task when you’re getting one for yourself, but choosing a ride for your child adds a whole new layer of stress to the already complicated process. It’s a given that parents will always want what’s best for their kids, and a vehicle is a different beast of choice altogether. You have to think about the safety and well-being of a teenager sitting behind the wheel of a two-ton projectile. With careful planning, however, you can get your teen a safe and reliable car for the epic road adventure that awaits the newly minted driver. 



Emily Andrews is the marketing communications specialist at RecordsFinder, an online public records search company. Communications specialist by day and community volunteer at night, she believes in compassion and defending the defenseless.