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How To Save Money On A Teenager’s First Car

Two teenagers driving in a car

Let’s face it: choosing a car can be a tough decision. And if you’re shopping for a car for your 16-year-old son or daughter instead of yourself, it just gets more complicated. What features do teenage drivers need? What kinds of cars are best for new drivers? Can buying the right car for a new driver save you money? The answers to these questions depend on a lot of factors, so let’s take a closer look!

What Are The Best Cars For New Drivers?

We know most information on this topic comes from sources who want to sell you more cars, but in our opinion, the best car for a new driver is a lower-cost vehicle! For example, if you already have a vehicle in your immediate or extended family that would be available for a reduced cost, it’s probably a good idea to choose that over a dealer-priced vehicle. They’ll be able to get around just fine in grandma’s classic sedan instead of a shiny new car, if that’s an option. You’ll also want to consider the total cost to own the car, not just the purchase price. While you or your teen may be able to afford to buy a vehicle, maintaining and insuring it adds a whole new set of expenses.

Can Buying The Right Car For A New Driver Save You Money?

As we mentioned, it’s important to think about the overall cost of owning a vehicle. The right car for a new driver will have a lower purchase price, be inexpensive to maintain and repair, and also be affordable to insure. Vehicles that fall into all three of these categories tend to be older compact sedans or small SUVs.

Whatever car you choose, we recommend doing plenty of research about the cost of maintenance and insurance before making a buying decision. The cost of insuring a new driver can be quite high, so you may need to shop around for the best rates. Insurance companies are typically happy to provide example insurance quotes for a specific vehicle you’re considering. You can also find reliability information and maintenance cost estimators online.

What Are The Best Features For Teenage Drivers?

Today’s young people process information extremely quickly and have shorter attention spans than any generation before them. This translates to an increased risk of distraction or inattentive driving for new drivers.

The largest distraction in the vehicle for new drivers isn’t the car – it’s their smartphone. Be sure your teen understands the connection between smartphones and distracted driving, and enable smartphone features like Do Not Disturb while driving that automatically block incoming texts and calls when they’re in the car.

Another simple way to help prevent distraction is to choose a vehicle with steering wheel audio controls. You could also consider skipping cars with fancy touchscreen “infotainment” centers and look at options with a simple, no-frills radio and few extra features.

Another must-have safety feature for teens is anti-lock brakes (also known as ABS). Anti-lock brakes are standard on many vehicles, but weren’t required in the U.S. until 2013! The anti-lock brake system pulses the brakes to help maintain control and stop more quickly. ABS is something many Midwestern drivers are all too familiar with from our snowy winters. Almost all used cars will have ABS, but it never hurts to double check for this basic safety system.

Many of today’s advanced safety features seem like a great idea for a new, inexperienced driver, but they’re often available only on newer vehicles. This means the cost of a car with these systems may be out of reach for a family buying another vehicle. Adaptive cruise control with automatic braking, rear cross-traffic assist, lane-keeping assist, and blind spot alerts are all amazing safety enhancements, but they aren’t widely available on today’s inexpensive used cars. As these kinds of safety systems are made mandatory, expect them to become more affordable and available, but until then you’ll need to weigh the safety benefit against the expense of a newer vehicle.

As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider when choosing the best car for a new teenage driver. Look for ways to keep the total cost of ownership in check and keep safety in mind. And when you’re ready to buy, start by getting preapproved for an auto loan at Royal Credit Union. Our fast and easy loan preapprovals will save time at the car dealership, and our low auto loan rates will save money in the long run. Even if you’re just looking and haven’t picked a vehicle for your teenager yet, you can still get preapproved for a Royal Credit Union auto loan online today.

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