Five rules for purchasing a teenager’s first car

About three weeks ago, we started a search that Junior had been waiting his entire life to begin. Yes, we began the long and painful search for Junior’s first car. Junior has been saving for this since he was 10 years old. Allowance, birthday money, holiday money, several years of Garlic Festivals spent on a street corner selling bottled water to tourists trying to find their way back to 101 and a brief moment of employment for his uncle has culminated in enough money to buy…
Not very much.
So Harry and I chipped in for half – OK, maybe a bit more than half. Because we’re nice that way. Also? I am sick of that kid driving my SUV. It’s scary. Anyway, along the way we discovered a few rules for buying a car with a teenager.
No. 1: You have to kiss a lot frogs before you find a prince that starts with the first turn of the key.
Yeah, I’m not sure that makes a lot of sense, but here’s the truth. In a nearly 16-year-old’s price range, there isn’t a whole lot out there that isn’t covered in duct tape or – and I wish I was kidding about this – has a front seat that appears to be stained with urine. The giveaway was the fact that when we opened the door the smell wafted over us like a litter box on a hot summer day. Also? There were three cans of Red Bull rolling on the floor in front of the stained seat. Seriously people? I don’t care how cheap your car is, clean the seat and toss out your trash before you put an ad on Craigslist, OK?
And is it too much to ask that you show me a car with all four tires? It makes it easier to test drive.
No. 2: That beautiful 1-year-old car with low miles usually isn’t what it seems.
Look, if there is a 1-year-old car on a used car lot with low miles and an even lower price, it always has the word SALVAGE in the title. I don’t even have to ask for the CARFAX to know that.
No. 3: Just because a BMW is on the used car lot, doesn’t mean it’s in your price range.
Quite possibly, this lesson was the toughest of all. We got to the lot and there she was. A gleaming beauty. She was on a platform. Her top was down. Her paint sparkled in the morning sun. And I swear to you, the minute we walked by her, that BMW winked at my son. And he was smitten. Sadly, as with all BMWs, this beauty was out of my son’s price range, causing him to ask the age-old question, “Why is it only old guys can afford cool cars?”
No. 4: The perfect car, with multiple airbags, that your mother likes best, is always the uncoolest car on the planet.
Oh, we found the car of my dreams. It had airbags in the front. Airbags on the side. Airbags in the rear. Heck, I’m sure it even had airbags on the airbags. Basically, if Junior hit anything, the car would turn into a giant pillow, cushioning my child. I loved the car. Junior hated it. I pointed out that it had those stupid, tiny wheels that teen boys like. Ahem. The car was still hated. And not purchased by us.
No. 5: You don’t have to go far to buy your first car.
Honestly? We spent weeks on every auto site on the web. We drove to San Jose multiple times and even considered a trip to Martinez. And then, exhausted after weeks of searching and finding nothing we drove by a car lot near our house in Gilroy and found the perfect car at the old Honda dealership (which now sells used cars). Our salesman was still working at 70 because he enjoys what he does. He sold us a car. Junior loves the car. We got a good deal. Everyone was happy.
Of course, Junior does still have to pass his driving test. Yeah. We’ll see how that goes.

Leave your comments