• Car Shopping for Teens

    Sure, you may want a brand-new, tricked-out car. It's always fun to think about the dream car custom built just for you. But there's a lot to consider and a number of steps to take before you drive off the lot in your new ride.

    If you're planning on buying a car, think about safety when shopping around. Statistics show that new drivers are the most likely to get in a collision. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death in the U.S. for people ages 3 to 33. In 2003, 14 % of all drivers involved in auto collisions were young drivers (15 to 20 years old). Given the statistics, safety should be your first concern when shopping for a car.

    Here are a few things to think about:

    • What you think you can afford does not always equal what you can afford

      Purchasing a car is just the beginning of the expense. You also have to spend quite a bit of money on registration, insurance, maintenance, gas, along with taxes and fees. Many of these costs (like insurance) are higher for teen drivers. Believe it or not, sometimes these expenses can add up to more than the price of the car. Ask your parents or a responsible adult to go over your choices and make sure your budget fits the vehicle you choose.

    • Keep an open mind

      It's easy to become fixated on the car you want rather than considering your options. Your parents may be pushing for a sensible sedan instead of the sports car you've been fantasizing about since you were eight. It doesn't seem cool to be practical, but it's a good idea to weigh the opinions of more experienced drivers. The sensible, safe car may have advantages you haven't thought of (i.e., lower insurance rates).

    • Think about your driving habits and environment

      If you live in the snow-covered Rocky Mountains, a convertible is probably not the best choice. If you live in an urban area with a lot of stop-and-go traffic, a four-wheel-drive SUV will cost you a fortune in gas money. Think about your daily drive and shop accordingly.

    • Bring an experienced car buyer with you when you shop around

      Even if you are spending your own money on the vehicle, you will need to negotiate. An experienced buyer is usually better at spotting problems, negotiating a fair price, and estimating the total cost of driving. Having a license gives you a bit more independence, but don't cut the cord yet. Be willing to listen to advice. Being too headstrong may cost you a lot of money in the end.