Helping your teenager find their first car
June 22, 2021

Helping your teenager find their first car

It’s surreal isn’t it? The five year old is suddenly 15 and getting a learners permit.

First decide who is going to teach her to drive. For me it was my Dad. He was in the car business and brought home a BMW 3-series manual transmission to teach me on;  even though it was my mom’s automatic 1977 Chevy Malibu that I’d be driving for the actual driver’s test. Don’t do that! Instead:

TEACHER

Decide what car the new driver will learn on and who will be the primary teacher. Keep in mind that each of your children will be different and might respond better to a family friend vs. a family member driving instructor (yes, that is the voice of experience!)

Get to a point where you are able to close your eyes when they are driving and you are the passenger without triggering a panic attack. NOW you’re ready to shop cars.

BUDGET

Regardless of age, I recommend that all shoppers determine their budget and know where the funds will come from first. This creates boundaries that I promise will pay off later. Be realistic. With few exceptions there are virtually no safe AND reliable cars under the $9,000 mark after taxes and fees. That’s not what most want to hear, but it’s true. The last thing you want is to buy a $3,000 car only to be hit with a $3,000 repair. Talk to your financial advisor and if you don’t have one, consider asking around for a referral. Over time a good financial planner will save you thousands.

Note about finance: Avoid the Buy Here Pay Here trap and instead, reach out to a local credit union to see if you qualify for a low-interest auto loan.

TALK

Plan a time to talk to your teenager when there’s little stress, but a hard stop time. Perhaps after dinner and before homework; or after homework before bed. Mornings better? Try that, then off to catch the school bus! The first conversation should be upbeat and happy: “Can you believe it’s time to talk about getting you a car! You must be excited. Have you thought about what kind of car you’d like?” Whatever they say, be positive with “I can see that too!” followed by, “I think we can swing $9,000 (for example) so let’s see how close we can get. How about we look online after (school, dinner, homework, practice…)”

CLANDESTINE RESEARCH

Your best bet is to start shopping now, without your teenager present. This way, when Junior is around, you’ve already vetted sites to avoid unwanted temptation like suped up street cars, overpriced “it” cars, or worse, underpriced but cool-looking junkers.

If there was a make/model they expressed interest in, start by researching it and then compare that with comparable makes and models. This will help you narrow down choices and identify additional criteria that will be vital to your final decision:

  1. Saftey ratings
  2. Fuel efficiency
  3. Maintenance costs
  4. Budget (this is last because we’ve already set the budget :))

COMPARE

Let’s say your teen wants a Toyota Corolla. In clandestine-mode you’ve discovered it’s unlikely to find a good one in budget. Simply Google, “Toyota Corolla VS ” and it will automatically populate comparable cars. Check out all of them to determine which best meet the criteria: Budget, Safety, Fuel Efficiency, average annual Maintenance which can be found by Googling “Average maintenance costs for a (2015 for example) Toyota Corolla.”

Now you are ready to shop with your teenager. You are armed but not dangerous.

SHOP WITH YOUR TEEN

Unless you’re planning on surprising your teen, now is when you can start shopping together.

Revisit the sites you discovered in clandestine mode without making it obvious. You don’t want the teen feeling railroaded. Let them poke around while you’re there, without necessarily being right on top of them. Even just being 3-4 feet away gives the teen a sense of independence. You have the final say, but by giving them space, you’ve given them responsibility which will carry forward when they are actually driving and caring for the vehicle.

WARNING ABOUT CHOICES and TIMING

Some teens will pick a car and move on quickly. Others will labor over it for days, weeks, months. You know your teen so it’s OK to reign in the options by saying, “let’s pick between the Kia and the Honda” for example.

TEST DRIVE

Many dealers now, like SheCar, deliver the car without a test drive. We inspect the cars and guarantee the engine, electrical, transmission, and overall condition of the car but if you’re unsure about the model it’s ok to ask around — someone will know someone with one that you can at least sit in. Fact is that all models of the same year will drive virtually exactly the same.

TRANSACTION

If you’re buying from SheCar, we’ll send you a simple spreadsheet itemizing all costs right down to the penny. You just sign and return with your driver’s license and auto insurance information, and we’ll add the car to our inventory on your behalf. You’ll receive a bill of sale, title documents, and payment instructions from SheCar. Once the car is paid for, we have the car delivered to your door (or as close as physically possible 😊)

BUYING

Trust and transparency builds confidence and that’s exactly how you should feel throughout the entire process. Knowing that you truly got a good deal and didn’t overpay is a great feeling! I always say, you should giggle every time you get into your car knowing what a great deal you got. But you should also breath normally, knowing your teen is in a safe and reliable vehicle.

Unless you’re planning on surprising your teen, now is when you can start shopping together.

Revisit the sites you discovered in clandestine-mode without making it obvious. You don’t want the teen feeling rail-roaded. Let them poke around while you’re there, without necessarily being right on top of them. Even just being 3-4 feet away gives the teen a sense of independence. You have the final say, but by giving them space, you’ve given them responsibility which will carry forward when they are actually driving and caring for the vehicle.

  • WARNING ABOUT CHOICES and TIMING

Some teens will pick a model and move on within minutes. Others will labor over it for days, weeks, months. You know your teen so it’s OK to reign in the options by saying, “let’s pick between the Kia and the Honda” for example.

  • TEST DRIVE

Many dealers now, like SheCar, deliver the car without a test drive. We inspect the cars and guarantee the engine, electrical and transmission, so if you’re unsure about the model it’s ok to ask around — someone will know someone with one that you can at least sit in. Fact is that all models of the same year will drive virtually exactly the same.

  • TRANSACTION

If you’re buying from SheCar, we’ll send you a simple spreadsheet itemizing all costs right down to the penny. You just sign and return with your driver’s license and insurance information and we’ll buy the car on your behalf! Once that’s done, you’ll receive a bill of sale, title documents, and payment instructions. Once the car is paid for we order transport and have the car delivered to your door (or as close as physically possible :))

  • BUYING

Trust and transparency builds confidence and that’s exactly how you should feel throughout the entire process. Knowing that you truly got a good deal and didn’t overpay is a great feeling! I always say, you should giggle everytime you get into your car knowing what a great deal you got. But you should also breath normally, knowing your teen is in a safe and reliable vehicle.

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