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About 61% of 18-year-olds in the U.S. had a driver’s license in 2018. The number of teen drivers has seen some decline over the last decade, but for many teens reaching the age of 16, they still can’t wait to get their hands on their first car. Does that sound like you?
Once you’ve made it through driver’s training, logged your supervised hours on the road, and you’ve passed your test to get your license, you’ll have to face your next big choice before you hit the road: finding the right car.
Many teens end up getting a hand-me-down vehicle or borrow someone else’s car at first. So whether you just got your license and you’re shopping around or you’ve been driving for a couple of years but you haven’t purchased your own vehicle yet, there are some things you should know as you start your search.
The Best Car for Your Budget
Unfortunately, vehicle prices are on the rise. The average cost for a used car in early 2019 was just over $20,000. Generally, used cars that are sold by a dealership are still in good shape, and may only be a couple of years old with a few miles. You can usually find cheaper vehicles by searching classified ads or looking online for who might be selling near you.
While used cars are typically less expensive than new vehicles, there are more things to consider than just the sticker price. Some of the common expenses that come with owning a vehicle include:
- Car insurance
- Annual maintenance (oil changes, etc.)
- Financing charges
Keep in mind that if you finance your vehicle, your parents may need to co-sign with you, which can be a long-term commitment. It’s up to you to make regular payments so they don’t get stuck with the bill.
If you choose to get a new car, you’ll also have to factor in depreciation. Simply put, if you ever choose to sell your new car, you’re not going to make the money back that you spent on it due to wear and tear and age.
Should You Buy a Used Car?
So is buying a new car and paying a bit extra better than buying a used car that could potentially have maintenance issues? There’s no right or wrong answer to that question. Instead, you should weigh out the pros and cons of your specific situation and whether you can afford something new.
You can start by doing your research online. Cars at dealerships and from private sellers should always have a history available so you can see anything the vehicle has been through, including accidents or collisions. Once you’ve learned a bit more about the history of a few cars you’re interested in, it’s best to go look at them and drive them in person. A few things you should check for when it comes to considering a used car include:
- Any rust/paint chipping
- No dash warnings when it’s turned on
- A/C and heat properly working
- After-market parts — are they high quality and have they been installed properly?
- Miles since tires have been replaced
Some of these things are manageable. You can get new tires and put a new coat of paint on a car, but it will cost money. So, if you’re interested in a car but it needs work, you should be able to negotiate a better price.
Keeping Your Vehicle Well-Maintained
Once you finally make your decision and purchase a car of your own, it’s important to extend the life of it as long as possible. One of the responsibilities of being a car owner is taking your vehicle in for regular service. Most car manufacturers recommend regular oil changes between 7,500 and 10,000 miles, but if you have an older car you might need to get them more frequently.
Regular maintenance can keep your vehicle from breaking down, so continuously having a trusted mechanic look at your engine, tires, and checking the fluids within the car can save you time, money, and a lot of headaches!
Keeping your vehicle well-maintained will also help to keep you safe. As a new driver, it’s normal to still feel a little overwhelmed when you’re behind the wheel. Not only do you want to make sure your car is safe, but it’s also important to make sure you’re adhering to laws designed to keep you safe, too. For example, bumper stickers and other decorations are a great way to make your car fit your personality, but they shouldn’t be distracting to you or anyone else and they shouldn’t prohibit any visibility.
It’s okay to get excited about the car-buying process, especially if it’s your first time getting your own vehicle. But keep your budget, your safety, and your driving habits in mind as you look for the perfect car. With a little bit of research and patience, you’ll find the right car to fit your needs and be on the road in no time.