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Why You Should Reconsider Buying Your Teen a Used Car

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Your teen may be begging you for a new car, but your gut is telling you to get a cheap, used one. What do you do?
Photo: State Farm via CC

One of the biggest inevitabilities in a parent’s journey is the moment when you first realize that your young teenager is nearly old enough to drive. While your mind whirls with concerns for their safety and your bank account, your initial reaction probably considers this question: What car will your child drive?

Whether you intend to pass on your old car so you can get a new one, look at local car lots for a well-worn and affordable choice, or have your kid pay for his or her own set of wheels, your mind is probably on your wallet. That’s why you’re planning on buying your teen a used car.

Sara Lacey of Kicking Tires recently shared a story from her life that compelled her to reconsider handing down the family used car to her son. She brings up some excellent points that are worth considering when buying your teen a used car.

Buying Your Teen a Used Car Might Not Be Your Best Option

Your teenage driver is gazing at you with those puppy eyes (which you have spent 15 years learning to resist) and begging for a new car for Christmas. You know, like in the holiday commercials where parents show how awesome they are by getting their offspring the hippest car on the market.

But, you know better than that. Why buy your kid a brand new sports car when they’re inevitably going to wreck the thing due to their penchant for distracted multitasking? You’re buying your teen a used car, because that’s the smart choice!

Before you dismiss investing money in a new car that you assume you’re going to lose, consider these other factors that might be more important to you than the initial price tag. While a used car may seem more practical, these new car features could make you reconsider buying your teen a used car:

Top-of-the-Line Safety Features: Obviously, you’re concerned for your teen’s well-being. That’s why you’re so anxious about the fact that they’re learning to drive. So, why would you leave their safety in the hands of a ten-year-old jalopy that doesn’t even have side airbags? With innovative features available in new models that monitor blind spots, control stability, and have better crash test ratings, wouldn’t you be willing to pay a little extra to know your young driver is protected on the road?

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You don’t want your young driver to wind up on the side of the road!
Photo:mgg via CC

A Clean History: Forget Carfax–you’re too busy scrutinizing every dent, scratch, groan, and rattling you can find in that used car. The price tag might look like a “steal,” but who knows what mysteries lurk under the hood of that aging sedan? With a new car, you won’t need to worry about the car’s history and how well it was maintained. There won’t be any surprises waiting for your teen when they’re away from home and on the highway!

A Full Warranty: It’s as simple as that–used cars often don’t have a comprehensive warranty (if they have one at all). According to Joe Wiesenfelder of, “Two things happen as a vehicle ages: warranties run out, and the need for repairs increases. Because cost is important to both parents and young drivers, we must note that if an inexpensive older car breaks down frequently, it’s not really an inexpensive car.”

More Flexibility in Options: Unless you want your child blaring their premium stereo and high-performance engine, you probably would like to pick and choose which features your teen’s car can have. Although you might not have that ability when buying your teen a used car, you would if you visited some new car lots where you can pick the right features for your child.

Now, considering these factors, I’m not suggesting to run out and buy a new car for your child’s 16th birthday. Perhaps it’s time to plan ahead and get a new car yourself, which you can maintain and pass on to your child in a year or two. Or, have your child pay for some of the car while you provide enough to get him/her a new model.

Whatever your decision may be, make sure that it brings you peace of mind and keeps your kid safe!