Your teen car buying guide

a father and teen look at a car to buy

A set of keys to your teen’s very own car may be the icing on the cake after getting their first license. Your teen will want a car that’s stylish, fun, and new, but you’ll be thinking about their safety, the reliability of the car, and how much it will all cost. To help you in this endeavor, we’ve compiled a list of items and resources to consider for teen car buying.

When to start shopping and how to prepare

When to start looking

The best time to start looking for a car for your teen is when you feel that there is both a need for one and that your child is ready for such a responsibility.

The earliest time that your teen can get a car is when they obtain their driver’s license. However, whether you choose for your teen to get one then or at a later date is a decision determined by many factors that only you and your family can make.

Once you’re ready to purchase a car for your teen, you’ll need to ask yourself a series of questions.

Things to consider

Of the many things to consider with teen car buying are the following:

  • How will you or your teen pay for the car? Is this something your teen will save up for and purchase outright? Will another family member pitch in with the purchase? Do you plan for it to be financed or leased? If so, who will make the monthly payments?
  • How much can you afford? What is your budget? Will the cost of a vehicle, including the associated costs of insurance, maintenance, license and registration be within your teen’s reach? Or even your monthly budget? If not, consider other options, such as car sharing programs, rides from family and friends, or public transportation.
  • How will the vehicle be used? What will be its purpose? Will your teen use it primarily to go back and forth to school, to afterschool activities, or to a part-time job? Will it be an additional vehicle for the entire family? Are you looking for a long-term investment?

How to prepare

Once you‘ve considered these factors, it’s time for you and your teen to begin the teen car buying process. Start with research on cars that are within your reach so you can narrow down a purchase. This will entail looking at car listings, determining features that are important to your teen, and getting specifics on finance options.

  • Check out car listings. You and your teen will want to get a feel for what cars are out there, not only in terms of makes and models, but in car prices. You can view popular car sites like Edmunds, TrueCar and Cars.com and local online classifieds.
  • New & used cars and features. During your search, you’ll want to see and weigh the pros and cons of a new car versus a used car, and which features are best for your teen, such as anti-lock braking (ABS), electronic stability control (ESC), blind spot monitoring (BSM), and navigation systems.
  • Finance options. You should also explore your finance options with teen car buying, including whether or not your teen will lease a vehicle. If your teen is under 18, he or she cannot finance or lease a vehicle on their own; they will be required to have a parent or other adult co-sign for them, so this is an important factor to consider.

Shopping day

Shopping with your teenager: tips & tricks

  • Ideal times to shop. Though many people shop for cars on the weekend, the ideal time to shop for a vehicle is early in the week. Chances are you will get the best experience for you and your teen at the least busy time of the week and will possibly save more money. The end of the month and year as well as the holidays are also great times for teen car buying.
  • Take the lead. It’s important that your teen knows that car dealers don’t have their best interests at heart. If your teen is involved significantly in the purchase of the vehicle, don’t let them do it on their own; make sure you act as a guide.
  • Test driving. Let your teen test drive multiple cars at the dealership. At this point, you both should have narrowed down the type of car you’re looking for, so this is an opportunity to see what’s a good fit and how well your teen will maneuver the vehicle once it’s theirs.
  • Negotiation. Make sure you come prepared with knowledge on vehicles similar to the ones you’re eyeing. This will put you in the best position to negotiate with the dealer or private owner. You’ll want to start low on any dollar figure and be wary of add-ons a dealer throws your way.

How to insure your teen

When to insure them and how

At the time that your teen receives his or her license, they should be added onto your insurance policy and are typically assigned to at least one of the household vehicles on your current policy. When you purchase a car for your teen, coverage for that vehicle will need to be obtained prior to your teen leaving the dealer lot or taking possession of it from a private owner. In order for your teen to have their own policy, they’ll need to be at least 18 years old. If they’re under that age, they’ll need to continue to be insured under their parent’s policy. Make sure you have your insurance information at your fingertips once you decide to purchase.

What coverages to consider when teen car buying

Teens are a risky group of drivers. Statistically, crash rates are higher for this group than any other group of drivers on the road. As such, more insurance coverage is advised as opposed to the bare minimum.  For teens, Elephant recommends the following coverage: liability (bodily injury and property damage), comprehensive and collision, uninsured and underinsured coverage, personal injury protection (PIP), upgraded accident forgiveness and rental reimbursement. This list of coverages may be deemed full coverage as opposed to liability only. If you choose to finance or lease a vehicle for your teen, full coverage will be required by the lienholder or lessor. It’s a good idea to get a few insurance quotes from other companies as well as your current insurer before you and your teen purchase a car.

Going off to college

If your teen leaves their car at home

If your teen goes away to college and doesn’t take their car, you should call your insurer. You may need to drive it once in awhile to ensure care and maintenance, but if the vehicle and your teen still primarily reside at your address, the vehicle should remain on the policy. You should also inquire about good student discounts at this time or other discounts that could lower your rate.

Elephant makes it easy to add your teen’s new car to your policy. Log in today to add your new teen driver to your policy or call us to find out ways you can save on your new teen driver.

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