Should I Buy My Teen A “Junker” for their First Car?
The short answer is “no”.
Most experts advise against purchasing an old beat-up car for your teenager for several reasons; first, “beaters” are plain unsafe. Older cars don’t usually have airbags, anti-lock brakes, or traction control. New vehicles are constantly redesigned with more safety features to sustain increasingly violent crashes.
If you buy your child a junker, not only will they be driving a possible death trap, but they could be jeopardizing others drivers.
Secondly, the insurance on an older car is not substantially cheaper than a new car. With the safety concerns listed above, most insurance companies would prefer your teenager to drive a safe and reliable car.
When buying your teen’s first car, I recommend purchasing a decent used car with the highest safety ratings possible. Avoid sporty cars with engines capable of racing or “beating anyone off the line.” They tend to be compact and thus more dangerous if involved in an accident. They also carry a hefty insurance tag and can be magnets for cops.
I’m fairly neutral on SUVs. They guzzle a lot of gas and their bulkier size makes them a little trickier to handle in parking lots, but there’s nothing inherently dangerous about SUVs. In fact, their larger size can make them somewhat safer than a small, compact car.
If you can’t quite afford a fancy new car or a slightly used car for your teenager, but don’t want them to have an unsafe “junky” car, there’s still hope.
Have them pay for half of the car! This serves as quite the incentive for teenagers, along with a great learning opportunity for handling their money wisely. Let your teenager get an after-school job to save up for the car that they really want (and you agree upon).
Once they’ve saved upon enough cash, let them be a part of the purchasing decision. They saved a long time for this car; they should feel excited about buying it.
Lastly, don’t feel parent-pressured to buy an expensive car just because your teenager says that everyone else has one. In many cases, the teenagers who get expensive, fancy cars wreck them within their first 6 months of driving. The sad reality is that oftentimes, they have no regard for how much that car actually cost, nor how much work it would take to save up for another one like it.
Of course, this is all just my opinion. If you want to purchase a new driver a $65,000 car, be my guest. Just don’t come crying to me because they keep wrecking their car and you need to figure out how to teach your 17-and-a-half year old how to drive.