Your teen has completed driver’s ed and passed the license test. Now, it’s time to put those skills to the test in their own vehicle. But there’s a lot to consider before buying that first car for your teenager. This advice will help you navigate buying—or helping your teen buy—a car.

1. Understand all associated costs

Whether you decide to purchase the vehicle or have your teen contribute a portion, be sure to consider the true cost of owning a vehicle, which includes fuel, insurance, repairs and maintenance. Regardless of who is covering these costs, that first car for your teenager can be a serious budget shift.

AAA Members save several thousand dollars off MSRP, on average, when they use AAA Auto Buying.

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2. Use online tools to help your research

The internet can help you seek out professional reviews for performance, safety and reliability. You can also explore finance options and look at the dealer’s inventory online to compare vehicles.

3. Look for safety and reliability

Safety should be your top priority when buying the first car for your teenager, so don’t put your new driver in something too small that offers limited protection.

Check out the top safety picks from the International Institute for Highway Safety.

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At the same time, large trucks and SUVs can be too much for many teens to handle. Consider the vehicle your teen learned to drive in and choose something that will provide a similar driving experience. The International Institute for Highway Safety regularly publishes a list of affordable used vehicles that meet safety criteria for teen drivers.

4. Get a feel for the wheels

Once you’ve completed your research and narrowed your list, it’s time for a test drive—to make sure your teen likes the car and is comfortable with the vehicle and its control. Keep in mind that as an inexperienced driver, your teen may miss concerns that immediately jump out to you. So, take a turn during the test drive to make sure there aren’t any red flags your teen may have overlooked.

5. Determine your financing game plan

AAA offers competitive rates, and you can get preapproved in minutes to finance the first car for your teenager.

Borrow for Less

As you decide how to pay for your teen’s car, keep in mind that an auto loan will need to be in your name if you choose to finance. While your teen can’t get their name on the loan, it’s still possible to lay the groundwork for good credit. By contributing to monthly payments, your teen can learn valuable lessons about budgeting and financial responsibility.

And once you select a car, the AAA Mobile app can help too by letting you keep tabs on your teen’s driving.

Is Your Teen Ready to Ride?

Find the right first car for your teenager to hit the road in.

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