Buying a Car For Your Teenager? Here’s What To Look For

Passing your driving test is a rite of passage as a teenager. If your son or daughter has recently passed and tore up their L-plates, chances are they are excited to get out on the road. Many teenagers start off by driving the family car when it’s not in use, but there are lots of reasons why that might not be an option. Maybe your car is too expensive to insure them on- or perhaps with them being a new driver, you don’t want to risk a scrape or damage if your car is your pride and joy! They might need to use the car at the same times it’s already being used by you or another family member. Sometimes, getting them their own vehicle is the better option. It means you are no longer taxiing them from place to place, and they get the independence they desperately want. There are a couple of additional things to think about when buying a first car for a teen than there is when you are buying for yourself, here are some things to bear in mind.

Economical To Run

Whether your teen works part time to pay for their car or you foot the bill, you want something that’s cheap and cheerful to run. Insurance is generally sky high for young new drivers, but if you run plenty of different vehicles through comparison sites, you will make sure you’re not paying over the odds and finding the best option. While older cars are cheaper to buy up front, you can pay the price in higher insurance and repair costs. It’s all about finding the right balance- a car that’s not too pricey to buy, and not too expensive for them to get out on the roads. If a more expensive car works out cheaper to run and is the better option, you could consider finance deals. This is useful if you want your teenager to pay for the car themselves, as it’s split into monthly payments. You could help with the deposit, and let them cover the monthly costs with money from part-time work. Work everything out before taking the plunge though to make sure it’s affordable and realistic. Having them put at least some of their own money towards it is a good choice, it will make them appreciate it far more, and they might also drive more safely too if they know it’s something they have worked hard to get. Getting them to create a savings account for things like repairs is useful too, so you’re not stuck with a huge bill if anything breaks down or goes wrong.


A teen who drives to school, to see their friends and to extra curricular activities, of course, doesn’t need a huge car. A small runaround is far more practical for their needs and will be cheaper too. However, if your teen is a huge six-foot basketball player, or they will be doing chores in the car such as picking up groceries at the weekend you may need something a bit roomier. A practical car won’t have all of the bells and whistles of sportier or off road kinds of vehicles, meaning they do their job without needing to spend money on loads of features that will never get used. A car with five doors as opposed to three is a practical choice if your teen will regularly be carrying passengers, although if it’s mainly just for driving themselves around a smaller three-door model would suffice. Your teenage probably has big ideas about the kind of car they want- something cool and looks fantastic is probably at the top of their list. So finding a compromise here is important. You don’t want to buy them something that’s so ugly they are embarrassed to drive it. But they should understand that for their first car it needs to be something suitable and ticks all of the other boxes, rather than just looks.


Safety Features

One of the most important things we as parents will be looking for when buying a car for our kids is good safety features. Of course, ensuring that they get plenty of experience in driving after passing their test (and making sure they’re a safe and responsible driver) is important. But if the worst were to happen, you want to make sure the car can handle it. The number of deaths from road traffic accidents has actually declined in the last two decades. But still, too many people, especially young people, are involved each year. If any incidents do occur, you should speak to a company such as But good safety features will reduce the chance of a fatality, and can give the driver more control of the car. The newer the car, the more features it will have, so again it’s finding the balance between price, cost to run and the kind of safety devices it includes.

Easy To Drive

As a new driver with very little experience, it makes sense that you’d opt for a car that’s known for being easy to drive. Test out things like the turning circle and how easy it is to park, the size of the windows for good all round view and easy to read gauges and controls. It should have good handling to give your teen confidence that they can effectively control the vehicle. A smaller engine size won’t be too powerful and therefore make the car easier to drive, not to mention cheaper to run too. A 1.2-litre engine or below will be less expensive on fuel, insurance and better for a new driver to handle. Be sure to give each model you’re considering a good test drive to ensure they are happy with the way it feels. You need to see that they’re able to adjust the seat to reach the pedals properly, and can effectively control and maneuver the car.



Some makes and models of cars are known to have more problems than others, and some are exceptionally reliable. While any part of any car can go wrong, you’re best avoiding cars which people report common problems with. Even things like cam belts can be annoying if you have a car which needs an expensive cam belt replacing every time you do a certain number of miles you’re committing to this cost for as long as they have the car. Once you have your shortlist, go online and do plenty of research. Trawl forums and read reviews, chat with other owners if possible. If there’s anything that’s throwing up red flags, it could be worth choosing something else on your list instead.


Choosing a car for yourself is easy. When you’re an older and more experienced driver (who is paying for the car themselves!), you have far more options available to you. For newer drivers who don’t have a whole lot of their own cash, it’s all about finding a car that ticks as many boxes as possible within a tight budget. It’s probably not something you’re going to be able to find in a day, so keep your eyes peeled and have your list at the ready for all of the things you want it to include. That way you can shortlist or pass on vehicles easily to narrow down your choice.

Have you helped with the purchase of your teenagers first car? What things specifically were you on the lookout for?

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