When Your Teen Driver Is Ready for a First Car: A Get-Started Guide

teen girl hugging new car

It is hard to imagine, but the little baby you once showered with kisses is about to get behind the wheel of her first car. Where has the time gone? She is ready; you, not so much. The good news is, at least you can make sure the vehicle is safe and steadfast. Buying that first car is a learning experience. The tips a young consumer picks up now will shape purchasing decisions for years to come.

Let’s Do the Math

Even if you are pitching in or buying it outright, teens should still consider the overall cost. Sit down with your teen and discuss:

  • Who’s paying for gas?
  • Who’s covering the car insurance premiums?
  • How will you handle repair and maintenance costs?

Teach your teen how to make a monthly budget that factors in a car payment, gas and maintenance costs. She can download Mint.com, a free budgeting app for Android, iOS and Windows phones.

A Safe Car Means a Safer Kid

Bigger is better for a teen’s first vehicle. Age is another factor when selecting a car, because a vehicle older than five years won’t have the latest safety features. Some key elements to look for include:

  • Electronic stability control – important for teens still learning to master the road
  • Side airbags – protect passengers if the car should flip
  • Front-end collision warning – this extra sensor will help a new driver prone to bumping into things

Avoid high-performance vehicles that promise zero to 140 in six seconds— they just aren’t practical.

Teach Basic Car Maintenance

A big part of ensuring your kid’s safety is teaching her the importance of proper maintenance. Make sure your teen knows how to:

  • Check the oil. If she is especially ambitious, teach her how to do a basic oil change herself.
  • Check tire basics. Your teen should know how to use a tire gauge to check air pressure and how to change a tire if she gets a flat or blowout. She should also learn how to check tires for general wear and tear and what kind of tires are safe and reliable for that vehicle. TireBuyer has BF Goodrich tires in a variety of sizes and performance grades.
  • Check air filter, battery, spark plugs, fluids, etc. She doesn’t necessarily need to know how to change these things, but she should know how to regularly check for abnormalities and signs that they need to be changed.

Take Control

It might be your teen’s car, but you are still the boss of it. Make that clear before the keys leave your hand. Establish a contract your teen must sign before you go car shopping. Cover topics like seat belts for everyone in the vehicle, texting and driving and talking on the phone. Allstate offers printable contracts that establishes rules for teen drivers based on the state you live in.

The Power of Research

Have your teen make a list of cars she wants and why, and then send her online to do a complete report on each model. She should gather the facts to support her choices, including things like:

  • Mileage and fuel economy
  • Safety ratings and equipment
  • Consumer reviews on the model

This teaches your teen to do the footwork before buying a car.

Elliot Myers
Elliot is an auto shop owner, and family man living in the west coast. He loves teaching others about fixing up vehicles.

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