Help for Buying Your <del>Porcupine</del> Teenager a Car

Who are these odd creatures that flit in and out of our home? They eat our food (so much food), use several outlets at once to charge a variety of devices, grunt from time to time in either gratitude or complaint, and can even sometimes be seen smiling.

These (sometimes) prickly porcupines, er…teenagers, can be difficult to know how to embrace and even more difficult to know how to please. In between bowls of cereal they are often asking for a ride somewhere.

That is until they can drive themselves. Then, the requests change.

“You know, if I had my own car, I could help with your errands.”

“If I had my own car, you wouldn’t have to take me to practice.”

“This wouldn’t be a problem if I had my own car.”

Having an extra driver with their own vehicle can definitely simplify scheduling. It can also increase blood pressure. It’s a decision to be handled with care, much like a prickly teenager. It can often feel like we aren’t getting anything right with our teens. But, the process of buying a first car is something that can be easier to get right than we might think.

Communication is Key

Before the car shopping begins, there needs to be clear communication between you and your teen. This will save lots of headaches down the road. Here are some questions to bring to the “meeting”:

  • What is the goal of your teen having a car?
  • What does your teen want to use the car for?
  • Who will buy the car? Will you share the expense?
  • Who will buy gas?
  • Who will pay for insurance?
  • Who is responsible for repairs?

A conversation about these questions can open up communication and avoid anyone misunderstanding and getting disappointed later. Hopefully, everyone can come to the table with an open mind. Maybe this is a time to incentivize good grades or other positive behaviors in the process of negotiating.

A conversation about these questions can open up communication and avoid anyone misunderstanding and getting disappointed later. Hopefully, everyone can come to the table with an open mind. Maybe this is a time to incentivize good grades or other positive behaviors in the process of negotiating.


After a clarifying conversation, there should be a clear budget. Sometimes the budget that seemed so ideal at the kitchen table feels rather small when it comes to the actual vehicle. This is a fantastic time to look at branded title dealerships in Utah and around the country. If you can’t find something in your neck of the woods, look online. For example, at TJ Chapman, we ship our rebuilt title cars around the country so you can get an unbeatable deal delivered right to your driveway.

There are so many great cars in great condition at great prices. It just takes some digging. Boundaries are often hard to hold with teens, but this boundary is an important one. Setting it together will help this process when the shopping starts.

Fuel Efficiency

Whoever ends up footing the bill for gas, they’ll be happier with a smaller bill. As you start to narrow down the search for the right car, make miles per gallon a part of it. Look at how many miles the other drivers in the household typically drive. Will your teen be driving more or less? Do the math and let them see the numbers, especially if they are paying for gas. Real life teaches real lessons.


If we could afford an actual tank for our teenagers, we’d perhaps all want one. Sure they might not be fuel efficient, but they are safe and slow. These are two things we would really like our teens to be! But, tanks aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, so we have to make the best of the inventory we have.

There is plenty of information out there that can give a safety rating to any car that catches your attention. Also, note the car’s center of gravity. Will it have a tendency to roll? Lori Chapman, one of our owners here at TJ Chapman Auto, fell asleep at the wheel with her three teenagers in the car. The car was a Mazda and did not roll because of its low profile, which saved their lives. What about side airbags? These are important questions to ask before buying a car for your precious cargo, especially your precious, inexperienced cargo that drives.

Sightline and Drivability

Every driver is different, and it is important to get a car that literally “fits” your teen. Make sure they have some time in a potential car to get a clear idea of how well they can see as they drive. Do they have clear sightlines? Is it too high? Too low? Find the blind spots and make sure your teen is aware of them.

Letting your teen test drive a car will help them get a sense of how natural it feels. If you can afford a car new enough to have bluetooth, that can be a helpful tool to minimize distractions for young drivers. While the outside might be the main selling point to a young driver, how they like the control panel of a car and how intuitive it is for them will make it both safer and more enjoyable.


Teens might put this on the top of the list. Style matters and a car becomes a huge part of their individual style. They will drive it to school, games, and parties. Friends will ride in it, laugh in it, and sing along to their favorite songs. Everyone remembers their first car. And we don’t really remember the sight lines or gas mileage.

While every category is important and worth attention, let style carry its weight as well. It matters to them, and there is the right car out there that can check all the practical boxes and work with their style as well. It might just take patience.

Good thing teenagers are super good at that.

If you have a teenage child you have probably already realized this fundamental truth: You will never make them truly happy. That’s just the way it goes. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you. It just means that they have a script in their head that we can’t read and so can’t always follow. Still, there is hope. Good communication with your sometimes lovable, sometimes prickly porcupine will start the process well. Spend quality time doing research and try to enjoy the process. Together, you’ll make a plan and find a great car.

And while that might not land you a long hug, it should definitely get you at least a solid high five.