Explaining Car Ownership Costs to Teens

Buying your first car can be downright scary if you haven’t worked through all of the variables. Many first-time car buyers don’t stop to consider all of the potential ongoing or emergency costs they may encounter. Stepping in and helping your teen navigate the complex world of car ownership and maintenance is a great way to bond with them while making sure they avoid many of the pitfalls of car ownership. Here are three topics to raise when explaining car ownership costs to teenagers.

Maintenance Costs

Explaining vehicle maintenance to a teen can be difficult. Unless your child is a gear head or in trade school, they probably haven’t considered the different factors that go into vehicle maintenance costs. Talk with them about different brands and models of vehicle, and how and why certain varieties are more expensive to maintain. Most people know about the basics, like oil changes and brake replacement. Spend some time going into detail on some of the more costly but essential maintenance costs like suspension or transmission issues. If you can, work with your teen ahead of time to help them be able to identify some of these problems quickly.

Insurance Costs

Depending on your age, driving record, and other factors, car insurance can very quickly become a costly monthly bill. Most teens aren’t thinking about these variables that may well lead to a bill they can’t afford to pay. You might wonder: Can I insure a car not in my name? The answer is maybe. Talk to your insurance company about whether or not you can protect your teen’s vehicle and how much doing so might cost. Get quotes for the costs for them to insure their car on their own as well. Doing this work upfront will save you and your teen a lot of headaches down the road. Some important things to look into are the cost differences across different vehicles, as well as whether your teen can benefit from good student discounts.

Mileage, Age, and Depreciating Value

Unlike many large purchases, buying a car is seldom an investment with a return. As most of us know, cars depreciate beginning the moment they leave the sales lot. Talk to your teen about what their wants and needs are from their first car. Most teens don’t need a newer or more expensive car. If the most important thing is transportation to and from work or school, then buying an older used car may be the way to go. Go over topics like mileage, condition, and Kelley Blue Book value. Make sure to emphasize that taking their time is vital in this process. Checking multiple dealers and independent sellers is a critical way to find the best possible deal, and the same is true with test drives.

Ultimately, one of the most important things to emphasize with your teen is that finding the perfect first car is almost impossible. Work with them to prioritize their needs and help them consider all of the factors in play. Car buying is a daunting prospect for even experienced adults, but bringing up these essential topics now will help you and your teen avoid big mistakes in the future.

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