Buying A Teenager’s First Car

A teenager’s first car is a lot of stress on parents. I know because I am in the process of buying my teenager’s first car. My daughter just finished the classroom training for drivers education. That takes about 20 hours, and now I am teaching her how to drive.

I guess we all have been there before, but the experience sitting in the passenger seat requires a ton of patience! Got any tips for that?

Tips on Buying A Teenager’s First Car

  • The very first piece of advice is visit the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety website. It provides safety data for all makes and models of vehicles back as far as the model was manufactured.
  • Then determine your budget and whether or not you believe your child should have a really old car to get dinged up or something a little newer.

Jim Pfau, General Manager of Alan’s Collision says, “Most families are more concerned about the budget for a teenager’s first car than the quality of the car.”

Most parents buying a teenager’s first car will want something safe which also means something a little bigger and older. If it gets dinged in the high school parking lot it’s not a problem.

  • Take a look on There are so many makes and models of vehicles it makes your head spin. The best bet is to install the app on your mobile device so you can scroll through when you’re standing in line at Raising Cain’s Chicken!
  • Note the prices. The fewer the miles on the car, the more expensive it will be.  What’s odd, though, is sometimes an older vehicle is more expensive than a newer vehicle.
  • That’s when you need to look at the Carfax data using the VIN number to see whether the car has been in a collision. The neat thing about Carfax information is that it also includes the number of maintenance and tune-up appointments the car has had.

“Once you let your teen ding up and fender bender an older car, then it’s time to get serious about what to buy,” said Jim Pfau of Alan’s Collision Center. “I recommend safety, and with a Subaru, Toyota or Honda, you cannot go wrong.”

Choosing My Teenager’s First Car

So many of the very smart small vehicles are tiny tin cans. People look really uncomfortable sitting inside these two-seaters, and when you look at the size of the vehicle, two men can probably pick one up. Not a good idea for my kid!

After doing my research and reading some of the car magazines on vehicle safety and best cars for teens, I settled on a Hyundai Sonata 2011 model. The one I found soon enough had a price tag of $8,500. Because I know I don’t rest when I get an idea, I didn’t go to the dealership. Had I gone, I would’ve been the proud owner of a vehicle I didn’t need that day. It was my first day shopping online!

I asked our soccer coach who owns 2/3 of the car dealerships in my town, and he said he would consider a BMW I3 for his daughter. When you talk to someone who owns car dealerships price is not in question! I had originally asked him about a Nissan Leaf because Clark Howard wrote about these vehicles coming off lease in abundance.

I did not know the Nissan Leaf was electric. So I started to think about how a teenager would drive an electric car.

  1. It would mean she wouldn’t go far from home.
  2. She could possibly take it to college
  3. Where would she find charging stations at school?

Rinse And Repeat

After going down that rabbit hole, I determined that a sedan for my teenager’s first car is best. I went back to the Hyundai Sonata idea. I learned the Kia Optima is a sister to the Hyundai Sonata. Back I went to the IIHS website to study safety data. Then, I spent more time on to look at prices, mileage, model years, and locations. With either of these vehicles, I can’t go wrong.

The sad news is, with all this shopping and worry, no car sits in my driveway. Probably it’s because I don’t really need to buy one now. I thought I should have that car bought so she could learn how to drive in it, but what an incredible expense to buy and insure a vehicle just for driver’s education.

If you have any tips and suggestions about buying a teenager’s first car, will you share?

It’s not hard to see that I really need some help with this big decision!