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Tips on How to Buy a Used Car for Your Teen

used car

A variety of used cars are for sale at a car dealership. (Reuters)

It’s that time of year again – back to school. Your teenager has probably been bugging you all summer long for their own set of wheels. While they may be ready to put their school bus days behind them, in this economy most parents aren’t ready to fork over some serious cash for their newly licensed teen. Here are five useful tips on what to look for when buying your child a used car.

Safety

When buying a used car, the first question you must ask yourself is, “Is this car safe for my child?”  You’ll want to make sure you consider what safety features the car offers. Plenty of used cars come with a variety of safety equipment such as air bags and anti-lock brakes. While you don’t want to spend a small fortune on a second car, you also don’t want your child driving around in an unsafe $1000 clunker.

Make sure you check out the car’s crash ratings. Insure.com’s Car Crash Performance Tool lists all vehicles ranging from 1990 to 2009 which have been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The car’s were also tested for their frontal and side impact as well as their rollover performance. You can check out Insure.com for a complete list of the safest cars on the market.

Educate Your Teen

Enroll your teen in a driver’s education course. While this may not be on the top of their to do list, kids need a lesson on safe driving.

Teach your teenager the basics: Don’t drink and drive and don’t text and drive. But also set some grounds rules. A car full of kids is a recipe for disaster. Only allow your child to drive with one or two other passengers at a time to provide a safe and calm environment for the new driver.

Spy on Your Teen

They won’t like it, but spying on your kid can actually help lower your insurance rate as well as reduce wrinkles caused by extreme worrying. Some insurance companies offer lower rates to parents who participate in “monitoring programs” where a camera is installed in the car that can provide video and audio of what your teen is doing behind the wheel when it’s triggered by “aggressive” driving.

Parents can also install a GPS system that not only monitors your teenager’s whereabouts, but can also be set up to alert you when your child drives to a specific address or takes their car out for a joy ride after curfew.

Check out more ways to save money on car insurance by spying on your teen on Insure.com.

Choose a Car That’s Right for Your Teen

Choosing the right car for your teen can be overwhelming. From brick and mortar car dealerships to online stores such as AutoTrader.com, you’re gong to need something to narrow down the endless car listings.

Spend some time writing a list of the different features you feel are necessary for your new purchase. Things to consider include how much cargo room do you need or whether or not you need a four wheel drive.

Check out 10 Steps to Finding the Right Car for You on Edmunds.com.

And don’t forget, before you purchase any used car, ask a mechanic who has received certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence to do a pre-purchase inspection of the vehicle.

Share the Cost

While you don’t want your son or daughter going into debt over their new ride, it is also important that your child learns the value of the dollar. Suggest that your child get a part time job to help pay for a fraction of the cost of its operation and upkeep. If you are worried an after school job may cut into study time, at least ask your child to cover the price of gas.

Also keep in mind that most insurance companies offer discounts for students who maintain a B average in high school or college. Just another incentive to get your kid to hit the books!