Buying a teen’s first car: pre-shopping tips

If your teen is getting their first car, we’ve got some tips to consider before you head to the dealership.

July 19, 2021
Person checking their rear view mirror.

It’s a milestone we both look forward to and dread as parents: Your child is finally old enough to have their own car. Aside from the “cool” factor they’ll be hoping for, what should you keep in mind as you help your newly minted driver buy their first car? Below, we’ve rounded up tips to keep in mind before you shop; stay tuned for a second installment on the shopping and buying process.


Before you shop

Assess their readiness. Before you go on any test drives, take a step back and reflect on where your teen is in life. Do they have a job? Are they capable of managing their finances? Have they shown financial responsibility? Holding your child responsible for fiscal burdens is important, and even if they still need some assistance, you can help ease them into the pressures and predicaments of adulthood so that they can gain financial maturity. After all, a lot of kids follow their parents’ example when it comes to paying bills.

Determining a price range before you shop will make the process easier, and you can avoid higher-than-attainable expectations

Figure out insurance. Meet with your insurance agent and inquire about discounts for teenage drivers: good grades, driver’s ed, safe driving, etc. Keep in mind the average cost to add a teenager driver is between $50 and $100 a month, and the rate for a male driver is typically higher than for a female driver. Also discuss with your agent if liability or full coverage is best and take time to understand your deductibles. This would mostly depend on the type of vehicle you purchase; if you’re buying an older vehicle, liability might be the best fit, but if you’re buying a newer vehicle, full coverage would likely be the better option.

Set a price range. Determining a price range before you shop will make the process easier, and you can avoid higher-than-attainable expectations. The most important thing is finding a vehicle that’s safe. If you find an older vehicle that has a lot of miles and maybe even a few dents but is otherwise safe, it could be the right first vehicle for your teenager. You will also want to discuss how the vehicle is going to be paid for, such as how much of the purchase amount or loan payment is your child’s responsibility and how much is yours. Perhaps your child has been saving for this purchase for a while, and you can offer to match that amount. Or, perhaps you can co-sign on a loan or assist with loan payments. No matter what you decide, be sure to have a good idea of your plan of action before you shop.

We hope we’ve given you some easy and actionable steps to follow as you prepare to take your teen car-shopping. Be sure to read part 2 of this blog, featuring pointers for car shopping with your teen.


Looking for tips on buying a pre-owned car? Check out our handy guide.

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