Groups » Used Car Buying Tips for Teens - Avoid Buying Vehicles Based on Appearance

Do you remember when you knew it was time to buy your first vehicle? For a teen, few things are as memorable or defining as their very first car. Naturally, everyone wants a car that looks good and makes them feel 'cool' when they drive it, but the used car market is full of pitfalls that cater to that need – often, to the detriment of first-time car buyers.

It is hard to imagine that someone would deliberately repaint, or resurface, a vehicle, or shampoo under the hood and detail it to hide flaws. But, that reality happens every day, as used car retailers try to get top dollar based on 'looks,' rather than on the true value and mechanical integrity of a vehicle. The most susceptible to this kind of approach are young and impressionable drivers, who tend to worry about cost, but also image considerations. As we know in the automotive re-sale world, 'all that glitters is not gold,' and hidden mechanical or safety flaws can add up to additional expenses – even hazards and accidents – for young drivers.

As parents with teenage sons or daughters, it is important to be involved in the first car-buying process.  Once your child is ready for the responsibility of owning a vehicle, the method of buying a trustworthy resale vehicle is also an educational experience, and one that he or she will value into adulthood. We will discuss tips to help your son or daughter avoid the pitfalls of buying a used vehicle.

Narrowing Model Choices by Insurance Costs

Does your son or daughter love the idea of a vintage vehicle? Or perhaps a late model luxury car, like an older BMW or Lexus? Prestige is something that is appreciated at every stage and age, but while the intention to purchase a late model luxury vehicle (from a safety perspective) is a solid plan, the cost of insuring a luxury vehicle can be surprising.

Young drivers, and particularly male teen drivers, are statistically more at-risk for an accident or injury.  The inflated insurance premium rates reflect this bias, and typically, teens will never pay more car insurance than they do from the age of sixteen to twenty-five years – or when they are deemed to be high-risk drivers. When you combine the already-inflated young driver insurance rates with the higher cost of repair and replacement for an older model luxury car, you are left with affordability issues for monthly use and maintenance.

Luxury cars are more expensive to repair, and parts for most luxury cars can be between 25 to 40 percent higher in cost than many domestic vehicles. Since replacement and repair costs are so high, this increases the required insurance premium for a teen driver. Before you begin looking for a resale vehicle, get prospective quotes from an automobile insurance professional. This person can give you a very accurate estimate on various years and models, and the expected premium that your son or daughter will pay. This can help eliminate more expensive options, and narrow down your choices (before you begin) to a resale vehicle that will be both reliable and affordable for your teen.

Buying from a Licensed Dealership

It can be tempting to respond to low-cost online advertisements for used cars, particularly for teens who are typically working with a small budget for their first purchase. However, websites like Craigslist or online auctions that are not through a licensed dealership can be a gamble, especially if purchasing a vehicle that is no longer covered by a warranty. Unless you are a licensed mechanic and you can evaluate the vehicle, or if you are willing to pay for an inspection and certification before buying, resale cars sold online by private buyers can be a tremendous risk.

Frequently, previous accidents can be hidden through bodywork and repainting, and the vehicle seller may not be forthcoming about any accidents with the vehicle. For instance, if a vehicle has been involved in a bumper collision, by law, the bumper should be replaced, as shock absorption is designed for one impact only. If the owner decided to repaint the bumper, without replacing it, the engineering of the bumper may fail on the next front or rear collision. This could result in passenger injury.

Purchasing from a licensed dealership offers some peace of mind, and many resale vehicles have extended warranties, which can help offset the cost of repairs for a young driver. However, free websites are also available to search the vehicle identification number (VIN) to check for a history of collisions. You should always investigate any resale car to review its repair or collision record. If the vehicle has been in a collision or two in the past, it can also be a valuable tool to negotiate a fair offer on the car.  California lemon law attorney sees such scenario weekly. Never be fooled by a coat of paint; it is one of the oldest tricks in the book to misrepresent a car with serious mechanical flaws, and sell it for top-dollar to unsuspecting buyers.

Paying for an Inspection Saves Money

It is one of the things that costs very little, when purchasing a vehicle, but can save your thousands of dollars in unwanted repairs. The term "Caveat Emptor" is Latin for "buyer beware," and once a vehicle is sold privately, there is little legal recourse after a major mechanical malfunction has occurred.

An inspection will determine both the structure and safety of the resale vehicle. A test of all components – from the undercarriage to the electrical system to engine performance to fuel economy – can be verified. For many insurance policies, an inspection, and evidence of safety validation, is required before even temporary insurance coverage can be offered.  Make sure that the vehicle is safe to drive, and that all potential mechanical failures or 'wear and tear' are documented.

Given the fact that teens are on a limited budget, finding the right vehicle at a reasonable purchase price can be a challenge. Parents who want to assist their children can help them by guiding them to make a practical choice that not only looks good, but that is affordable in terms of gas consumption, maintenance, and repair. A car is only of value to a teen if he or she is able to safely keep it on the road, and enjoy the convenience and freedom that reliable transportation offers. It is important for parents, in the process of buying the first vehicle, to be an active participant to help teens make an informed and careful choice.

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