Tips for buying your teen’s first car
Buying your teen’s first car is a big life moment. Follow our car buying guide and send them on their way in one of our recommended vehicles.
Set a budget
Buying a car for teens looks different for all families. It’s not something every family can afford to do. For those who can, it’s wise to set a budget. Just because you may be able to afford to splurge on a brand-new sports car for your child doesn’t mean you should. Vehicle choice can factor into the risks associated with teen drivers.
Our list prioritizes used cars selling for under $20,000 to keep monthly payments affordable for the average parent or the teen themselves. However, if you’re looking for an option with the latest tech like GPS navigation or speed restrictions, you may need to set your budget higher and search for newer vehicles. Some of the cars and SUVs on our list sell for $20,000 to $40,000 for the latest models and hold similar safety ratings.
Another factor that may influence your budget is how much use the car will get. The average length of car ownership for first cars is just over four years. When shopping, you’ll want to keep in mind if your family is planning to share the car between siblings and for how many years. Will the car be passed down to younger children? Will your child take the car off to college? It may be worth spending more on a newer, reliable car with low miles if you plan for this car to stick around through multiple years or children.
Focus on models built after 2006
Another reason to consider the year a car was made relates to safety. While you may find vehicles older than 2010 selling for under $5,000 that are typically cheaper to insure, safety features built in more recent years outweigh the lower price tag.
Vehicles built prior to 2007 are more likely to have safety features like side airbags and electronic stability control — something found in today’s vehicles that you likely wouldn’t think twice about. Side airbags specifically weren’t mandated until 2009 and electronic stability control wasn’t required by law until 2012.
Look for these safety features
Safety should be your top priority when searching for your child’s first car. Ease your and your teen’s driving fears by looking at and test-driving cars with top safety technologies, such as:
- Anti-lock brakes
- Traction control
- Stability control
- Forward-collision warning
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Backup cameras
- Parking sensors