Cars for Teens – Top 10 Questions

We have been an expert participant on the Yahoo! Answers web site for many years, particularly in the Cars and Transportation section, Buying & Selling sub-section. We answer questions and provide advice about a wide variety of topics related to automobile buying, selling, insurance, maintenance, and car brands.

Although the Answers site is open to anyone, we have found that most visitors and questioners are teenagers and young adults who have had little or no experience in buying, selling, or owning cars. Their questions are natural and appropriate for someone who is doing some of these things for the first time.

The web site is quite popular and is very active. Thousands of questions are asked — and answered — each day. However, in our years of participation we have seen many of the same questions being asked over and over — and over — and over again.

We have compiled what we think are the top 10 questions that teens and young adults want to know about cars. Here they are.

Top Ten Questions – Cars for Teens

Q1. What car should I buy? What kind of car should I get?

A1. Even though this is the most common question, it’s also the most difficult to answer because everyone has different likes, dislikes, preferences, budgets, and personal circumstances. Askers usually have at least a couple of specific year/make/model cars that they prefer and are asking which is the best choice. Unless one or more of the cars is known to be especially unreliable or unsafe, we typically suggest that they do some research on their own by looking at owners surveys in Consumer Reports magazine or web site, visiting Kelley Blue Book (kbb.com), NADAGuides (nadaguides.com), and Edmunds (edmunds.com) to review data and prices for the vehicles they like. We also suggest doing long test drives in any vehicle they think they might want to buy.

Q2. Is this too many miles for a used car?

A2. The asker usually is looking at a particular car that has very high miles, like 150,000 miles or more, and wants to know if they should buy. They are assuming that it’s possible to determine if car is going to be reliable or not simply depending on how many miles it has on the odometer. But it’s not that simple. Some cars with only 50,000 miles can be junk. Others with 200,000 miles are great cars and will go for another 100,000 miles easily. So it is not possible to determine a car’s health by mileage alone. In fact, the only way to determine a car’s condition is to have it checked out by a professional mechanic before it is purchased. A mechanic can not only tell you if the car has any current problems and what it’ll cost to fix them, but also tell you about potential future problems based on his experience with that car make. It might cost $75-$150 for a mechanic’s inspection but it could save you hundreds or thousands if you make a mistake.

Q3. I just bought a used car and it has problems. Can I return it and get my money back?

A3. The short answer is, no. Not unless the dealer or seller gave you a warranty or return guarantee in writing. Otherwise, used cars are sold “as-is” which means that there are no return rights, no warranties, and no guarantees. This is true even if the seller misrepresented the car or even lied about its condition. Therefore, it is up to the buyer to make sure the car is in good condition before the purchase. We always recommend having a professional mechanic inspect the car and the buyer taking the car on a long test drive.

Q4. I found a car on Craigslist for a great price. Is this a scam?

A4. If the seller has a story about being in the military or otherwise out of touch (no phone or mailing address), and says he/she will ship you the car for free, that you can inspect the car for a number of days, and that your money will be “protected” by eBay, Amazon, Yahoo or some other service — it is a scam. The “seller” has no car, there is no eBay or other “protection” service, and he’ll take your money. He is located in some foreign country where he’s safe from the law and can’t be found or prosecuted. If you’ve already fallen for this common car scam, we hope you kissed your money goodbye because you’ll never see it again.

Q5. I need to buy a car but I have no credit and no job? How can I buy a car? How can I get a loan?

A5. First of all, a buyer has to be 18 years old or older to legally sign any kind of contract, including a car sales and financing agreement. Second, banks and finance companies require a good credit score , a steady job, and no excessive debt in order to get approved.

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If your credit score is less than 680, you may get approved but at a higher-than-normal interest rate and possibly a higher down payment. If your score is much worse, your choices are limited — buy with a co-signer or borrow money from family or friends. Some dealers, called buy-here-pay-here dealers, finance their own loans and don’t care about credit scores, but interest rates are super high and their cars are overpriced older models that often have problems.

Q6. What car can I buy with $1000? Or $3000? Or $5000?

A6. It is simply common sense that the older the car, the poorer its condition, the higher its mileage, the cheaper it will be. You don’t get much car for $1000. You’ll only do a little better at $3000 or $5000. That’s not to say that it’s impossible to find a good car for those prices but it takes a much longer time (and lots of patience) looking, driving, and inspecting before you find such a jewel. We always recommend getting a professional mechanic to look over any such car before you buy, regardless of what the seller or dealers tells you about the condition of the car. If you discover problems after the sale, you won’t be able to return the car or have the seller fix it.

Q7. What is a good first car ?

A7. Without any preferences, the best first cars are compact sedans that have high reliability, low insurance rates, good gas mileage, good performance, are comfortable to drive, have good styling, low maintenance costs, and room for passengers. The Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla are the perfect fit for those requirements.  If you want something a bit larger, go for the Honda Accord or Toyota Camry. Other cars from Hyundai, Mazda, Nissan, and Subaru are also good choices. Although some American models, such as the Ford Focus, would also make selections, the safe bet is with Asian brands. European brands such as Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, and Audi do not make good first cars. They are expensive to buy, expensive to insure, expensive to maintain, and expensive to repair — and are not especially reliable.

Q8. Is $9800 a good price for this used car?  Can I talk the seller down by $1000?

A8. The price that the seller is asking might be a good fair price, or not. Even if you talked the seller down by $1000 or more, it might still not be a good fair price. The only way to know what’s a good price is to know what the car is actually worth. Check with Kelley Blue Book (kbb.com) and NADAGuides.com (nadaguides.com) to find out. More than likely the seller already knows the fair price (because he’s visited Kelley Blue Book) and is asking a bit more. When you find out what the car is worth, you know the fair price. If you want to try to negotiate a lower price, go for it.

Q9. I want to get a car from my friend and take over payments. Is this OK?

A9. No, it’s not OK. First, your friend is not very smart. He hasn’t read his finance agreement and apparently doesn’t realize he’s violating that agreement and could be sued. Second, he can’t transfer the title to you since he doesn’t have it (the bank or loan company has it), so you won’t actually own the car, even though you make payments on it. The seller could ask for his car back at any time, and not return any of the money you’ve paid. And if you wreck the car or it gets stolen, he’s still stuck with the loan. Not very smart.

Q10. What is the cheapest car insurance for a teen?

A10. No such thing as cheap auto insurance for a teen driver. You see, car insurance companies base their rates on what kind of drivers cause the most accidents and make the most claims. That happens to be teenagers and young drivers, especially males driving sports cars or high-performance “sporty” coupes. All insurance companies use the same data but rates can vary between companies and between states. The best way to find the cheapest auto insurance rates is to — ask. Shop and compare multiple car insurance company rates for free and pick the one that has the best deal. Be careful because if you only buy the legally required minimum liability coverage, you are exposing yourself to law suits if you cause an accident that exceeds your insurance limits.

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