How to Find the Best Deal on Teen’s First Car

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While there are parents that go all out and purchase a brand-spanking-new set of wheels for their teen drivers as a sweet sixteen present, most families can’t afford this lavish spend, especially in a recession economy. In some cases teens will enjoy the privilege of driving a family car, but many will also find a way to get their own vehicle, even if it means they have to pay for a portion of the purchase price and ongoing costs like insurance, registration, maintenance, and fuel. Of course, you and your teen driver will want to consider both new and used vehicles, and each comes with benefits and drawbacks. A new car may be more expensive initially, but it’s less likely to have pricy fix-it issues (and you’ll have a warranty to cover many problems). On the other hand, you can save on the purchase price of a used car but previous owners may have thrashed it, leading to costly repairs. So how can you find a good deal on a decent car for your teen? Here are a few helpful tips.

For starters, you shouldn’t limit yourself to either new or used, but instead consider both. You might be surprised to find that some new vehicles can be had for as low as about $10,000-15,000 for the base model. And we’re not talking a crappy Geo Metro or a Saturn here. The Nissan Versa, for example, has a starting price of just under $11K, and Nissan is a highly reputable company that offers excellent service and warranties. The Smart fortwo starts at slightly less than $12,500 and the 4-door Ford Fiesta will run you just over $13,000 on the low end.

These cars may not be as desirable as a flashy BMW convertible or a luxurious Lexus SUV, but they’ll cost you a heck of a lot less and they come with all the bells and whistles that new cars offer, including a warranty. As a bonus, many car dealerships are keen to move old stock, so wait until a new model is coming out to purchase last year’s offering. You may get a great deal so that the dealership can clear showroom space for newer models.

Of course, you might not feel great about putting your precious child into a fiberglass confection the size of a postage stamp, especially considering the high risk that teen drivers pose when it comes to accidents. If you’re looking for a bulkier vehicle to protect your teen during his formative driving years, you might be on the hunt for an old-school truck that is actually made of metal. In this case there are several things you should consider.

First, there are a couple of venues for you to check out when it comes to buying used cars. You can go to a car lot, approach private sellers, or hit up auctions. The first may result in the highest cost, but if you live in a state where lemon laws cover used vehicles, a dealer can be held liable for defects within a certain amount of time after purchase. Private sellers can give you a better price (cutting out the middle man), but you might not know what you’re getting. And while auctions leave you with no recourse if the car has problems, you can get some incredible cars for a steal at police or government auctions. Sites like Carmax provide another possible solution.

You’ll still have to compare online insurance quotes to get your teen the best deal on coverage for his vehicle, and regardless of the provider you go with, this is going to be expensive. But if you do some legwork you can find a great deal on a car, whether it’s new or used. And since you probably need the family vehicle for your family, it’s not a bad idea to help your teen get his own car and take on the responsibilities of automobile ownership.

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