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Car Buying

Choosing the Right Car for a Teen Driver

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author photo by Doug DeMuro

So your son or daughter is about to start driving. As a parent, that leaves you with a choice: What kind of car is best for your child? Of course, many parents don't help their children out with a car purchase -- but for those who do, we've considered the pros and cons of choosing a new car, a used car or a family hand-me-down.

New Car: Bad Idea?

For some parents, a new car is the most obvious choice for a teen driver. It makes sense in a lot of ways: New cars don't tend to have maintenance issues, which means teens can focus on driving, not worrying. And new cars always have the latest safety features, which means your teen driver will be protected in a collision.

But there are a few drawbacks to a new car. One is depreciation. New cars lose value much faster than most used cars -- and if you're adding a car to the family, that's a cost to consider. Insurance may be even more important, since a teen driver in a new car won't be cheap to cover. But maybe the biggest consideration is wear and tear. A young driver isn't likely to leave a car in perfect shape, so if you get a shiny new car, don't be surprised if it's dented and scratched as your teen gets more comfortable behind the wheel.

Used Car: Why Not?

If you don't like the idea of putting a teen driver in a new car, consider a used one. There are some obvious benefits. One is that used cars are cheaper to buy than new cars -- and they'll lose less value, too. They're also cheaper to insure, which means your monthly costs will be lower if you choose a used car for your teen driver.

But there are a few drawbacks to a used car. For one, you may have to deal with increased maintenance costs. Also, used cars won't be as trouble-free as new ones, so you may have to take a few calls from your son or daughter when their used car strands them. Used cars also don't always have the latest safety equipment -- and for that reason, we strongly believe you should examine the safety features of any used car you may give to your son or daughter.

Hand-me-down: A Compromise

A good solution may be to give your child a hand-me-down car. In other words: You've driven it for a few years, and then you pass it along to your teen.

This solution has many benefits -- and one of them is selfish: By giving your old car to your teen, you can get a new one. But there are other pluses, including that you've owned the car for a while already, so you know its maintenance history, general reliability and any quirks it has. That way, the car's costs won't surprise you when your teen starts driving it.

Of course, the hand-me-down can suffer from some of the same problems as a used car, including a lack of safety features. So before you hand your keys over, be sure your old car is safe enough for your teen to get behind the wheel.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
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Choosing the Right Car for a Teen Driver