Five Mistakes Parents Make When Buying Their Teen's First Car

It is probably with mixed emotions that you embark on the journey to buy your teen's first car. While you probably share some of your son or daughter's excitement about his or her first auto, you're also certain to worry about letting your child loose on the roads. If you set about the car-buying process correctly, you can quickly quell some of these anxieties. Make sure you buy your son or daughter the right car, and avoid the following common buyers' mistakes.

Failure to set expectations

Even though it's a first car, your son or daughter will almost certainly expect to drive away in his or her dream machine. Unless you are a multi-millionaire, your budget probably won't stretch to this, so it's important to set expectations up front.

Tell your teen how much you are willing to spend. If you have a fixed budget, make sure he or she understand there is no wriggle room around this, so you don't start arguing over price. What's more, you should set clear expectations about the makes and models you don't want to buy. For example, if you don't want your teen to have a cabriolet or an SUV, make sure he or she knows this from the outset.

Lack of research

You can't always expect your teen to make a sensible decision about a new car, so it's up to mom or dad to gather the facts before you start visiting used car sales dealerships. With so many types of car on the market, it's important to do some research up-front, so you can start to exclude or aim for particular makes and models.

Facts and figures to look for include:

  • Gas efficiency
  • Safety ratings
  • Insurance costs

You can find plenty of sources for this information online. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration publishes detailed safety information about every make and model on the market. Armed with the right technical information, you should also check online pricing tools to find out how much you can reasonably expect to pay for certain cars.

Assuming a small car is best

Safety is a prime concern for parents. Indeed, teens between the age of 16 and 19 are four times more likely to crash than their older counterparts. As such, many parents believe that the perfect answer is to buy their teen a small, slow car that doesn't allow excessive speeds.

In fact, small cars aren't always the safest choice you can make. In some cases, city cars don't have the same safety features as larger cars like sedans. For example, a small car may not have six airbags, anti-lock brakes or stability control. All these features can make it safer for your teen to drive, so it's often worth considering a larger car that has a better safety specification.

Excluding your teen from test drives

If you expect your teen to drive a car safely and responsibly, you cannot exclude him or her from the buying process. Many teens end up with cars that their parents chose without any consultation, and this isn't a great way to encourage responsible driving.

Include your son or daughter in each part of the process, including any test drives. It's vital that he or she finds the car comfortable and easy to drive. Don't just take a quick tour round the block. Take the car on the highway and find some challenging driving conditions, so you can see how your son or daughter copes with the car.

Having no long-term plan

You should always have a long-term plan for your teen's car, so he or she knows what to expect next. For example, you may decide that your teen can upgrade to a better car in two years' time, as long as he or she looks after the car and doesn't have a crash.

Similarly, you may also need to make your teen understand that you won't pay for the next car in full. This decision gives your son or daughter time to save up ready for the next upgrade.

Your teen's first car is an important milestone in his or her life. Make sure you remember this purchase for the right reasons, and take time to choose the right car with your son or daughter.