A guest post by Beck Harris.
For most teens, getting a driver license is a major accomplishment. Immediately, they have starry-eyed visions about the freedom of the road. They see themselves in a flashy new convertible with the top down. As the parent, it’s your job to inject a little reality into this daydream.
Helping your teen to buy their first car can become a first class power struggle. You want safety and reliability while your teen is looking for something that looks a certain way. Compromise lies somewhere in the middle, where you get what you want and your teen gets a car they won’t be too embarrassed to be seen driving.
Opt for Safety and Reliability
When it comes to a first car, substance should win out over style every time. A flashy sports car with plenty of horsepower might be fun to drive, but it’s also an unsafe choice for most teens. Drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 tend to have more accidents than older, more experienced drivers. Accordingly, buying your teen a car that is powerful enough to keep them safe, but not so powerful that they feel compelled to speed represents a good balance.
Whether you opt for a new or used model, the car should be in good repair. The brakes and steering should work flawlessly and there should be no major mechanical issues. The last thing you want is for your teen to be stranded somewhere on the road with a broken down car. Reliability definitely matters.
Cars that are less than 10 years old usually have safety features like airbags and anti-lock brakes. They look relatively modern and feature more up to date technology than older cars. These slightly newer cars will be easier on the bank account and probably require less maintenance than cars that are older than 10 years.
Candidly Discuss Your Budget
The budget for a first car can be a tricky subject. Fully discuss whether or not and how much you expect your teen to contribute to the cost of the car, gas, insurance and maintenance. If your teen has a job and a steady income, they can likely contribute quite a bit to their driving expenses.
Financing is another important question to answer. Some cars that are suitable for teen drivers can be purchased outright. However, other teens opt for cars that require a loan. Your teen probably can’t get financing on their own which means that you will be co-signing with them. This is a great opportunity to teach your teen about responsible debt management. Talk about putting a 20% payment down on the vehicle purchase and the impact the interest rate will have on the total amount paid for the car. Experts advise not to finance a car over a period greater than 48 months, and this is an opportunity for you to help your teen begin to demystify money management.
Have a Mechanic Look at the Car Before Purchasing
Whether your teen is purchasing a new or used vehicle, it never hurts to have a trusted mechanic take a look at the car to make sure you’re not getting stuck with a lemon. A mechanic can give you great insight into how much it costs to maintain your car and if the car is in imminent need of repair. Have your teen present when the mechanic does the inspection. It can be a really eye opening experience for them to understand just how expensive it can be to maintain a car.
Look for Features that Will Help Keep Your Teen Safe
New automotive technology can in many ways keep teen drivers safer than ever before. Certain GPS systems provide valuable navigation assistance, but they may perform other functions as well. For instance, some technology tracks a car’s location and can inform parents if the car goes beyond certain boundaries or is driven at certain hours. This may seem a little overboard at first, but this technology will give you tremendous peace of mind when your teen is late getting home and you’re wondering where they are. You can help to keep your teen safe by ensuring that they are driving a reliable car.
Beck Harris Writes about moving with U-Pack, helping homeowners stay organized.