Teen Driver Guide [Part 2 of 3] – Buying a Vehicle: New or Used?

Is the best first-car or vehicle for teenage drivers an old model or a glossy new one with warranty? We outline the pros & cons for each.

Teen Driver Guide is a short 3 part series for (stressed) parents looking to help their kids get behind the wheel…for the first time.

Part 1 – Expect High Insurance Rates

New or Used – what’s a good first car?

When choosing a vehicle for your son or daughter, there are pros and cons to buying both new and used, and you’ll need to weigh the positives and negatives of each to decide what is right for you. 

Here are some of the main points to keep in mind:

Benefits of Buying Used:

  • Going with a used vehicle can help you save on your teen’s insurance. While many factors are considered when determining how much a vehicle costs to insure, older models tend to have lower premiums due to the fact that they’re less valuable than newer cars. Typically, this means they’re less expensive to repair or replace.
  • Used vehicles cost less. If you’re working with a limited budget, this is an obvious advantage. 
  • There are many previously owned cars that are still in great shape. You don’t have to sacrifice safety to get an affordable vehicle with modern features. 

Here’s Car and Driver’s list for the best used vehicles under $10,000 – from cars to SUVs, based on IIHS and NHTSA data for safety and reliability. Some of these models are ten years old, so just keep that in mind.

Disadvantages to Buying a Used Vehicle 

  • You’ll need to be extremely thorough when shopping. Because used vehicles have a past you don’t know about, there are many steps you should take before committing to buying one, which can significantly extend the length of your vehicle search. Ensuring the vehicle has a clean title, having a third-party mechanic inspect the vehicle, and reviewing the service history are all important measures that will help you avoid buying a lemon. 
  • There may not be a warranty. Unless a car is still under warranty from the manufacturer (here’s an example with Ram), or a dealership has its own warranty system in place, mechanical failings generally aren’t covered. 
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If you are buying pre-owed, keep this handy list of tips from our How to Buy a Used Car guide close by (click the image to view the full guide):

Benefits of Buying New

  • You won’t have to worry about mechanical issues. New cars won’t have the wear and tear and mileage that older ones do, and they’re also generally covered by warranty. This can give you peace of mind that the vehicle will be reliable, and in the rare case that something did malfunction, you won’t have to pay for an expensive repair. 
  • New cars have advanced safety features. Modern technology has helped create vehicles that better protect drivers, which can greatly contribute to your main goal of helping your teen stay safe on the road.  
  • Newer models are generally more fuel-efficient. This can help you and your teen save on gas costs down the line. 

Disadvantages of Buying New

  • You’ll pay higher costs. New cars can be quite expensive. Most people can’t afford to buy a brand new vehicle upfront and out-of-pocket, and while loans are an option, interest rates can be high. 
  • The value depreciates quickly. Newer vehicles not only cost more, but their value depreciates as soon as you drive them home. Within just a few years, a car will be worth significantly less than what you paid for it. 

2 things parents should consider when buying a vehicle for teenage drivers

1) Prioritize Safety

While your teen may be more concerned with the appearance of the car he/she drives, it’s important to prioritize the safety of the vehicle above all else. 

If you’re wondering how to pick an option that’s the most practical in keeping your son or daughter safe, the following tips should help:

  • Research the model’s collision-test rating. Both NHTSA and IIHS issue safety ratings on specific makes and models. 
  • Mid-size vehicles tend to be better for inexperienced drivers. Large vehicles like trucks or big SUVs can be difficult for new drivers to maneuver, while small, compact options don’t provide as much protection during collisions. 
  • Limit speed. V6 engines produce more power than four-cylinders, and this enhanced power can make it easy to rapidly accelerate. Teenagers are inexperienced drivers, and they’re also known to occasionally engage in risky behavior. Because of this, limiting power by opting for a four-cylinder engine may be a safer bet. As a bonus, they’re also more fuel-efficient. 
  • Look for advanced safety features. If your budget allows, try to find your teen a vehicle that has a few modern security advances in place, such as an anti-lock braking system, electronic stability control, blind spot detection, and/or a rear-vision camera. 

2) Ensure Your Teen Would Be Comfortable in the Car

Since your son or daughter will be driving the vehicle, include him/her in the car search. Ideally, he/she would be able to test drive the vehicle before buying to ensure it’s a comfortable fit.

While some sellers and dealerships allow teenagers under 18 to do this as long as a parent or guardian supervises, others won’t. Whatever the case, taking the time to learn what features would help your teen feel the most confident and comfortable on the road will help you select the best option. 

Part 3 – Draw Up a Contract

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Here’s a handy little infographic/card to help you out:

5 tips buying a used car tractionlife