Home TEENAGERS Helping Your Teen Buy Their First Car

Helping Your Teen Buy Their First Car


Preparing Your Teen for Car Buying

helping kids buy their first car

Do you remember your first car buying experience? Was it horrible or was someone there to help you? My mom was there the first time I bought a car but I was well out of college by then. Until that point, I got hand me down cars from my brother. He had 7 crashes in the 2 years after getting his license; my parents were done with buying cars. I learned early from his experience that having a used car was good for a teenager and that I really just needed the basics.

I’m not sure everyone else got that though. I have heard horror stories since working with rateGenius. People getting duped into 25% interest rates on their auto loan after amassing thousands of dollars of rollover debt from previous cars. It is heart-wrenching to hear about. We try to help them now, but we want to stop it from happening at all.

Therefore we want to impart some knowledge about what to tell your kids as they think about buying their first car. You can’t protect them from everything but at least this is a start.


  • Save a down payment.

This is something they should do while they research the cars they want. We are talking like $2-3k. It’ll take them some time to do this, so you can get them started when they get their learners to permit. The down payment will help them not need gap insurance and make sure they keep doing that down the road.

  • Get the loan first.

This will stop any of the car salesmen from getting them into a bad loan. Go to your local credit union and ask about pre-approved auto loans. The rates will still be high (don’t expect the rates they advertise) but going in with a loan will put them in a better position. It might help if you co-sign with them.


  • Resist the new car temptation.

People have said it time and again, so I won’t go too far here, but don’t let them buy new, the possibility of them crashing the car is too high and then they are upside down. Sometimes even a down payment isn’t enough to cover something like this. Go used.

It’s about $50 to get 5 reports. This can be a lot to them but it’s worth it in the end. This is all part of the research process.

  • Check the ratings of the store on Yelp.

You might think this is weird, but think about how often kids use computers, this is a no-brainer. Think about getting your hair done. Do you or other Yelp reviewers recommend the shop or the stylist? Yelp is a good place to learn which person to talk to at a specific dealer.

When Buying

  • Get to know a mechanic.

We know as adults that your friends come in handy and a friend that knows cars is invaluable. When they are still in high school, tell them to find and befriend shop kids. As they get older, bring them with you to your favorite auto shop. The guys there are usually good guys that will do anything they can to help you, and keep your business (and theirs).

  • Learn how to say no.

This was the hardest thing for me to learn and for my mom to teach. I had to be able to leave the car behind. To say no. Prep them for this before they get there.

  • Read Everything

Contracts are long and annoying. We all know that, but your kid needs to know what they are signing (and so do you). Teach them to read every line of everything they sign.

So, in the end, this is how it should go:

  1. Save down payment and have a loan ready to go.
  2. Research the car you want, know its history and its value.
  3. Research the dealer, know who to talk to (Yelp) and what your max offer is (be sure to research tax, title, and license as well as sales tax if applicable).
  4. Bring a friend with you (mechanic if possible) to keep you sane in case you need to say no.
  5. Read all contracts.

Happy car hunting!


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