Gently Used: Helping Your Teen Spruce Up Their First Car

Posted on Sep 4 2015 - 2:58am by Desk of Editor

Most families get their teens a used car for their first vehicle. It’s an unwritten rule of parenting. Why do this? Because parents know that there will be dents and dings, and a new car just isn’t worth the risk. So, here are some tips on choosing a used car that’s still safe for your youngster.

Teen Spruce Up Their First Car

Search For Cars Through Dealerships

Searching for a car through a respected dealership is probably the best way to go. With private sellers, you don’t really know what you’re buying. It could be good. It could be bad. But, when you buy from a trusted dealership, you can at least take the vehicle back if there’s a problem.

Most dealers also have some kind of inspection process to make sure the vehicle is in good working order before selling it. Ask about any guarantees on the inspection or what they do before the car is put up for sale. Used car dealers will typically sell a vehicle that’s 5 to 10 years old, but you’ll be hard pressed to find high-mileage or very old models.

For that, you’ll need to search online classifieds. If you do go this route, have the vehicle inspected by a trusted mechanic before you buy it.

Get It Inspected

Getting your vehicle inspected isn’t a difficult process. Just make sure you take it to a mechanic you trust. Your mechanic will diagnose any problems and tell you about how much it might be to fix everything. From there, you can take the car back to the dealer or seller and use the repairs as leverage in negotiations.

And, while this doesn’t always work, it can and you should at least try it.

For example, a common problem with northern vehicles is that brake and gas lines rust out. If you know this is a problem on a vehicle you’re about to buy, you can negotiate for money off the vehicle so you can get the repairs done. Most sellers will be flexible on the price if it’s not already selling for below market value.

And, normally, negotiable repairs are limited to critical systems. So, if there’s impending doom in the windshield wiper blades, you will probably have to eat the cost and pay for replacement wipers yourself. If the problem is in the fuel system or heating and air conditioning, you can probably negotiate that down to get it fixed. If the seller won’t budge, move on to another vehicle. There’s plenty of them out there.

Tidy It Up

Spend time cleaning it up. New car seat covers can really make a dramatic difference on the interior and make it look almost new. A steering wheel cover can hide years of wear and tear on the steering wheel, and a new paint job on the outside can help make the car look young and fresh again.

Newer paint additives and coatings can also make it more difficult, or impossible, to scratch the surface of the vehicle. This will prolong the life of the body, and reduce future maintenance. If you can afford it, use a product like Ceramicpro (usually available through detailing shops or dealers) to protect the paint from stone chips and scratches.

A simple shop vacuum, car paint wash (not detergent), and wax is usually all that’s needed to keep the vehicle looking great.

Keep A Log Of Maintenance Done On It

Stay on top of the mechanical maintenance. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for replacing the oil and filter, the in-cabin filter (if there is one), the spark plugs, cap and rotor electrical system, the brakes, rotors, clutch and flywheel (if the vehicle is a standard transmission), and timing belt or chain and water pump.

Manufacturers usually list regular maintenance intervals along with the suggested work that needs to be done. If you follow the routine maintenance schedule, there’s no reason why the vehicle shouldn’t last for several hundred thousand miles, especially if it’s an import like Honda, Toyota, or Nissan.

Rotate the tires on a regular basis, and check the tire pressure once weekly and inflate or deflate the tires as necessary. Clean the vehicle weekly, and log everything you fix.

Doing this might seem like a lot of work, and for your teen, it probably will feel like a lot of responsibility. But, this is the price of owning a vehicle. You should spend time relaying and teaching this to your child so they he or she grows up with an appreciation and respect for the responsibility of owning a vehicle.

Rebecca Warrington has worked in child education for many years. She likes to provide her insights online and has also guested on a number of different websites.