BUYER’S GUIDE: Tips For Teens Buying Their First Car

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The day finally comes when you’re old enough to drive, but you don’t have a car of your own. Maybe you have to share a car with older siblings or maybe it’s Mom’s minivan. Either way, you’ve had enough and you want to buy your own car. There are some things you need to know before you head down to the lot and plunk over your hard-earned cash.

Figure Out What You Can Afford

Yes, we know, this isn’t very exciting advice, but you need to know what you can afford before you buy that car. This means knowing how much you can reasonably manage to pay each month. It shouldn’t be every dime you currently make, but a small percentage of that amount. Consider buying a used car rather than a new one. There are lots of expenses associated with owning a car and you need to have money left over to put gas in your car so you can actually drive the thing.

Consider Maintenance and Daily Expenses

Your monthly payment may be fixed, but all the other costs will vary. Drive more and you’ll need money for more gas.There are also maintenance costs. Make sure you have enough money left after that monthly payment to cover things like oil changes, new tires, and service checks. You’ll also have to insure your car in most states, so find out how that much will cost, too.

Take a Test Drive

Test driving is the fun part, but be sure you don’t get caught up in the moment. Drive the way you would drive in the real world on the kinds of roads you normally drive. Bring an adult along with you because experience matters and they may point out issues you miss, especially with a used car. If you have questions, ask the salesman. Now’s the time to make sure the car you think you want is the car you actually do want.

Be Ready to Negotiate

The sticker price on the window is the starting point, but it’s not what you’re going to pay for your car. You’ll need to negotiate the best deal, which is where your parents can be a great help. They’ve likely done this a time or two and you can learn a lot by watching how they work with the salesman. It’ll make you that much more prepared for when you are ready to buy your next car, and they’ll help you save some money by getting the price of your car down.

Read the Fine Print

If you don’t fully understand the loan contract, then ask questions. Better yet, bring along an adult you trust to give it all a once over. A car loan is a big deal so you want to be sure to understand exactly what you’re agreeing to when you sign on that dotted line.

Nicole Wakelin

Nicole Wakelin