Let’s Get Real: Things to Consider When Buying Your Teenager a Car

For most teenagers, learning to drive and dreaming of having their own car is their ticket to freedom. It’s an exciting time in their lives they will always remember. For parents, it can be a scary, nerve-wracking time due to the concerns of the expense of a car and the dangers it can present…especially to new drivers. No doubt about it, cars are a big responsibility! If you choose to buy one for your new driver, you may want to consider the following:


Many teenagers have less awareness of their own mortality. They don’t understand the dangers of driving fast or swerving in and out of lanes. They don’t always understand that they’re driving a piece of machinery that weighs 1 or 2 tons that can cause serious injury in even a small collision.

Safety may not be at the top of your teenager’s list of priorities, but it will most likely be at the top of yours! No amount of technology will ever fully ensure the safety of someone driving irresponsibly, but you might want to consider safety features, such as airbags, which can mitigate or prevent injuries among drivers and passengers in a crash, and anti-lock brakes and traction control, which can help prevent accidents from ever occurring.


If you have a son like mine, the focus of his car search may be on engine size and horsepower above all else. For a new driver, too much power can be a dangerous thing. Teenagers will not have the skill and experience to handle a car they can drive too fast. Buying a car with a powerful engine can end up being a disaster for your kid. The temptation to push the limits can be too great, and accidents at fast speeds can be devastating.


The amount you decide to spend on your new driver’s car is dependent on your budget. There are different schools of thought on whether to spend less money on a used car or whether to go ahead and buy something new. On the one hand, it seems irresponsible to spend too much, considering that teenagers can be very hard on their cars. They are more reckless drivers and are at greater risk of getting into an accident. A car driven by a teenager is more likely to need repairs, simply because they are still learning to drive. Another side of the argument is that it’s important for teen drivers to have the most up-to-date safety features, and therefore, buying a new car is preferable. Again, this will come down to budget and personal choice.

In most states, car insurance is dramatically more expensive for drivers under the age of 25. That has to do with the fact that younger drivers are more likely to get in accidents and cost their insurance company money…so you won’t only have to pay for a new car, but you’ll also have to pay higher insurance premiums each month, not to mention expenses for gas and routine maintenance.


The Internet offers a variety of websites with advice on vehicle reliability.

  • Edmunds.com
  • Kbb.com (Kelly Blue Book)
  • Consumerreports.com
  • Jdpower.com

Regardless of what the Internet has to say about the car you are considering, it is still a good idea to have that vehicle professionally inspected before you buy…especially if it is a used vehicle, and ESPECIALLY if it is being sold in “as is” condition.

Set expectations

Once you’ve gone over all the details and made the decision to buy a car, set ground rules for your new driver, such as NO making phone calls while driving, no texting, or taking selfies while driving—ever. Also, discuss how many people are allowed to be in the car at once, how far your teen is allowed to go, and what time he or she will generally need to be home.

Talk to your teen about how much you expect them to contribute to the car costs. In addition to the price of the vehicle and the insurance, there will be fees for the registration, inspection, and license plate. And once they’re on the road, they will be paying for gas, parking, cleaning, and maintenance.

Then steady yourself, hand them the keys, and wish them good luck!




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