Buying a Car for Your Teen? Tips to Ensure You Don’t Get Screwed

Not every car buyer is as lucky as those who live in Pennsylvania. Car buyers in most states are not protected from buying lemons. Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey have lemon laws (for the full text of Pennsylvania’s law see Lemon Law PA). These laws were written to protect consumers who purchase brand new cars from not having any recourse if the vehicle turns out to be a lemon.

For Americans in every state, buying a used car is a lesson in caveat emptor, or let the buyer beware. If you know little about vehicles, the car-buying process can be stressful, especially if you want to buy a safe, reliable car for your teenaged driver. How can you ensure that you or your teen do not get screwed?

Here are some tips for buying a used car for your teenager (or for yourself.)

Be Open-Minded

Most teenagers haven’t lived long enough to have their hopes and dreams ruined by the realities of life. These dreamers may give you a list of three cars that would be meet their standards of coolness. Have a sit-down talk with your teenager about how you want their first car to be safe, reliable, and affordable but not necessarily cool.

You and your teen need to be open-minded to many different makes, models, and years of cars. A scammer will be able to smell the desperation of finding a particular vehicle from a mile away and use it to his or her advantage. If you have less specific tastes, you may be able to find a hidden gem that your teen hadn’t previously considered.

Do Your Homework

Smartphones make car shopping easier than ever before. As you peruse a used car lot, you can check the Kelly Blue Book value for a particular vehicle on your phone to see if the dealer’s price is in line with the rest of the country.

Check Reliability Ratings

Consult your favorite consumer website to look at the reports for the particular make and model you are interested in purchasing. Make sure you check the report for a car’s specific year. A Toyota Tundra may have exhaust system issues in one year, that was later fixed in subsequent models.

Although different consumers have different philosophies on purchasing cars, some would instead buy an older model of a nicer vehicle than a newer model of a lower-ranking car.

Ask to Test Drive the Car

Even those who know nothing about cars may be able to tell if a vehicle doesn’t feel right. Used vehicles will not purr like a brand-new, high-end car, but they shouldn’t shake, sputter, and stall. Try to drive in a variety of conditions. Drive on a highway and a curvy side street. Look at the tread on the tires and make sure all the lights on the vehicle work.

Have a Mechanic Check it Out

If the car seems fine to you, but you want a second opinion, ask if you can take the vehicle to your local mechanic to have him or her inspect it. Most mechanics will do this for $100 to $200, depending upon where you live. Paying for this service will not guarantee that the car won’t break down within a year, but it will decrease the likelihood that you are purchasing a lemon.

Know Why the Check Engine Light is On

A check engine light does not always mean that the car is fated for certain and immediate death, but if you are purchasing a vehicle that has a check engine light illuminated, you should darn well know why it is. Ask your mechanic to run a diagnosis to see if the problem is easily fixed or catastrophic in nature.

Avoid Buying from Another Teen

Although our intention is not to teen bash, teenagers, particularly boys, tend to be hard on cars. This isn’t a sexist comment. Even the insurance industry has years of proof to back up this claim.

With that being said, it may be a good idea to avoid buying a car from another teenager.

Check the Price of Insurance

Speaking of insurance, before you purchase a car for your teenager, make sure you understand how much it will cost to insure the vehicle. Although this doesn’t directly affect the price of your vehicle, it will affect your monthly budget for years to come.

Most people remember their first car. Try to find the safest, most reliable vehicle for your teen since he or she will be making a lot of memories in it.


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