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Should Your Teen’s First Car be New or Used?

by admin

You hear the door to your room swing open and find a wide eyed sixteen year old rushing toward your bed, at five in the morning. Yes, it is your teen’s sixteenth birthday, and yes, he or she wants to go to the DMV right now to pick up the driver’s permit. After all the hoops to jump through and insurance costs, the most expensive cost comes to the table: the teen’s first car.

Of course, as a parent, you want the best for your children. The safest, most efficient and closest to their wants vehicle. While the answer to this dilemma is a Mercedez-Benz or a Volvo (for their safety ratings), chances are the car budget points more towards a Honda.

Whatever decision you make on car model and make, there’s an even more important choice. What teen’s first car better: new or used?


Assuming your teen will be paying for things such as gas or insurance with their day job, a four-cylinder car is the right choice. With today’s gas prices, a six-cylinder car maybe a bit out of their budget in gas, and an eight-cylinder is outright insane. I drive a six cylinder Jeep Wrangler and let’s just say it isn’t precisely a gas-sipper.

Well, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of new and used cars.

Pros and cons of new car

  • Pros:

For the most part, the car will work perfectly fine, everything will be in working order and will need to be broken in. It has the manufacturer’s warranty on powertrain, transmission and so on. Depending on the make of the vehicle, this could range from three to ten years. The vehicle may have the most advanced security features such as smart ABS, smart airbags, GPS, and a whole array of three letter acronyms that make you feel old.

  • Cons:

Unless money is not an issue, price is the number one con for a new car. Typically, a new (affordable) car will be in the $20,000 price range. This would be something like a Honda, Toyota, or if you choose American you could go with the new line of Chevrolets (which I have heard are not very well made), but do have a 10 year warranty. These are also inexpensive compared to Honda or Toyota.


Pros and cons of used car

  • Pros:

The biggest and most notable benefit of buying a used car is price, of course. But not just initial price, but the price of the car in the long run. A used has has been broken into (engine, transmission) and does not run the risk (as high as a new car) or having a transmission or an engine problem. This sounds odd, but let me explain. A broken in transmission has the gears working in sync with each other, they have already shaped themselves to each other’s geometry. It’s kind of like how your used tennis shoes feel more comfortable than new tennis shoes. So, flooring the gas pedal on a used car, runs less risk or breakage than on a new car that has not been broken into.

A car that has been well taken care of could easily reach high mileage. It is not uncommon for a person to be driving a car with over 150,000 miles. (about 8 years old)

  • Cons:

The cons are about the same as the pros, surprisingly. Everything that is good on a used car, could also be bad. This depends on the use and care the car was given by its prior owner. I mentioned the transmission and engine break in. Buying a new car gives the driver the responsibility of breaking in the transmission and engine. This means that out of the lot, the salesman might tell you to take it easy on the gas pedal for about a month or so. This is to give time to all the components to “sync” together. On a used car, this has already happened, however, unless you have the car checked by a trusted mechanic, you don’t know the treatment that car received. Was it used pedal to the metal all the time, or was it driven gently. Normally one can tell by the “tightness” of the transmission, but that’s not always the case. Also, there may have been accidents on that car which were not reported or checked out properly. I remember when I bought my Jeep it seemed perfect. It wasn’t until about a year and a half after I bought it, that I had to replace the tires that I realized the lip of the rim had a piece of it broken off, and the sharp metal edges the were exposed were starting to puncture the tire.

This is by no means an extensive list of what you should look for buying teen’s first car. The most important thing to remember is to always use common sense, if the market value of the car is $20,000 and you see it for $10,000, something is up.

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