How to find the right car for your teen this year

Whether you’re buying your teenager’s first car or he or she is funding the purchase themselves, you’ll want to have some input on the final choice. The main decision is between a new or a used car – something with the latest safety features, or something more affordable where bumps and scrapes won’t have you wincing quite so hard.

There are worthy middle grounds to be found between pricey new models and rattling jalopies that might not last, so here are a few things to think about when the time comes to get your teen on the road.

Could a new car be a bad idea?

If you or your teen has the budget, buying a new car might seem like it’s automatically the best choice. New cars are likely to have fewer maintenance issues than older models, and come with state-of-the-art safety features that mean your teen driver is as protected as they can be in the event of a collision.

But new cars lose their value much more quickly than used cars do, and this can be particularly true in the hands of a new driver who may be more likely to add minor, or even major damage to the vehicle. It’s likely that insurance will cost more with a new model too, whereas there are often more affordable ways to insure learner drivers if they are driving older, less valuable cars.

Does that mean you should always buy a used car?

There are plenty of obvious benefits to opting for a used car – but it’s worth remembering that there can be drawbacks too.

Second-hand cars can come with inherited maintenance issues, so check MOT histories in detail to see if there are any past advisories that might come back to haunt you. There’s also the safety issue: a car that is 15 years old isn’t going to have the same safety features as one that’s brand new.

Ideally, look for second-hand cars at the newer end of the spectrum. Rather than spending a couple of hundred quid on an ancient runaround that will cost the same in repairs in the near future, look to spend a little more on models that are only a few years old, in better condition and with better safety ratings. For instance, a 2011 Ford Fiesta comes with 7 airbags fitted, while the same car from 2005 only has 2 – look for this kind of information before making a purchase.

Remember, it’s a joint decision

Even if you’re the one that’s paying for the car, it’s your teenager that’s going to be driving it. As well as having discussions about what constitutes a reasonable budget and what features the car should have, realistically it’s going to have to be a car they can get excited about. When you’re doing your best to steer a new driver away from a ‘cooler’ model and towards one that comes with a few more safety features, be ready to channel your inner salesperson.

It should be fairly obvious that sports cars are a no go, not least because insuring a learner driver on a hugely powerful vehicle could really break the bank. But consider the size of potential vehicles. While in theory bigger cars can be safer, they can also be daunting to a new driver, which is why most people opt for a smaller or mid-sized vehicle to begin with. The smaller the car, the easier it should be to manoeuvre, and the less chance of picking up damage when practising those reverse bay parks.

What to remember before you buy:

  • Test drives are crucial. Listen for clunking or rattling sounds from the engine, check that the brakes work and the car stops in a straight line.
  • Check the MOT history. Just because a car has passed its MOT doesn’t mean it’s in perfect condition – pay attention to any advisories, and how long there is left on the MOT.
  • See if the tyres are in good condition, checking tread depth so that you know if they’re going to need replacing soon.
  • Dealerships sell used cars too. Buying an older car doesn’t mean you have to buy it straight from a stranger – dealerships will offer warranties and vehicles will have been inspected and repaired before being put on sale.
  • Whatever car you go for, make sure that your teenager pays the tax and insurance due as soon as it changes hands. Vehicle tax can’t be transferred, and driving without both tax and insurance is illegal.

Do plenty of online research into the types of car that might be suitable, and what they cost to buy new and used. Try to narrow it down to a few options, always view the vehicle and get a history before making any commitments.

Take a look at the selection of approved used and new cars available at Lookers which could be ideal for your teenager. Alternatively, pop into your nearest Lookers dealership to browse our offers. One of our skilled sales advisors will be happy to help you and your teenager find their perfect car.

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