Your teen’s first car: buying and beyond

July 19, 2021
Parent and child driving a car.

Your teen is ready to take on the open road, and hopefully our previous post on pre-shopping considerations helped you get finances and insurance squared away before you head to the dealership. Now that you’re ready to shop in earnest, here are a few pointers to keep in mind.


While you shop

Research safety. If you have specific makes and models in mind, cruise reputable sites for buyer reviews, common safety and repair issues, and recall information so you can have a better idea of what to expect. It’s also smart to use a resource like Carfax™ or Experian’s AutoCheck® to get a history on a specific vehicle you’re considering. A vehicle’s history report will tell you if it was in an accident or had any major mechanical issues, and most dealers will provide this information up front.

Know a car's value. When you find a vehicle you like, make sure you do your research and find out what the value of the vehicle is. J.D. Power is a great website to visit, and it will give you an accurate value of the vehicle so you can make sure you’re getting a fair price. You should also consider a vehicle’s maintenance and operating costs – gas, oil, repairs, etc.

Know what you need in a vehicle. Is there room for sports or band equipment? Is your teenager carpooling with a neighbor or friend or taking a sibling to the school? Knowing your teen’s specific needs will help you narrow down your choices.


When you’re ready to buy

Get your ducks in a row. Your child’s vehicle will need to be licensed, and the title will need to be updated in their name or in both of your names. The seller will sign the title, and your child (or both of you) will sign as the buyer. Then, stop by the DMV with the title, the purchase agreement, and an insurance card. To get a new insurance card, you’ll need to call your insurance agent and give them the vehicle VIN, color, and miles.

A great “new car” gift is an emergency kit with flashlight, jumper cables, first aid kit, blanket, etc. Then, show your child how to use them.

Set them up for success. This is also a good time to discuss laws and guidelines that your city has for teen drivers — for example, many cities limit the number of children that can be in the vehicle, and some even have curfew laws for teen drivers. A great “new car” gift would be an emergency kit with a flashlight, jumper cables, a first aid kit, a blanket, tow cables, etc.; then, show your child the correct way to use the jumper cables and how to change a flat tire. Remind them not to text while driving and encourage them to turn on their phone’s auto reply function, if they have one. Lastly, remind them that they should always keep their insurance card and registration easily available.

To recap: Once you’ve done your homework, assessed a potential vehicle’s value, and determined your teen’s unique needs, you’re ready to finance, insure, review, and roll! Going through the process together will give them a better idea of what to expect in the future, and your friendly local bank is always here to help.

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

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