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Tips on buying a car for your teen

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Where do you start when looking for a car for your older teens? They might be going off to college in the fall or just need a ride to their summer job.

Most parents are experienced car buyers. They basically know what they're doing. But when they have a persuasive teen hanging onto their arm at the dealership, it's possible they could get weak and buy a car that is out of their price range. So, what can you do?

Buying a car is exciting no matter how old you are. But for teens getting their first car, it's something special.

"Buying a car is so emotional.  You open up the door to the car.  You smell the new car smell, you're gone; you're in heaven," said Tywone Thomas.

Thomas is a car buying advisor who works with credit unions to get people into automobiles.  He has a book that lists the 10 mistakes to avoid when you buy a teen a car.

He says before you shop, stop at the kitchen table.  You need to let your teen know how much you are willing to pay so there is no begging for something better at the dealership.

"You bump into that car with leather, that's outside of the pricing parameters. All of the sudden it brings us back.  You can remind Sara, 'Do you remember? We talked about...these are the parameters. These are the expectations. This is what we need to stick with,'" said Thomas.

Parents should not shop without pre-approval. Have your loan secure since it makes you look like a cash buyer to the salesman.

"If you're financing a vehicle, get pre-approved first. That can eliminate countless hours at a dealership," said Thomas.

Don't accept the first offer, he says. Shop around for your teen's car. If it's a used car, get a vehicle history report.  Find out the dealer's invoice price.  The manufacturer's recommended retail price, usually in bold print on the sticker, is not the lower, invoice price.

When many of us got our first car it was used. That's just how it was done. Today, with the cash for clunkers rebate mixed with a bad economy, the best deal might be a new car.  A new car, if you can afford it, gives you peace of mind.

"If your student is going off maybe four or five hours away, do you want them calling you every time the car breaks down?" asked Thomas.

Don't pay more than $15,000 - $20,000 for a teenager's first car. Whatever you are willing to spend, don't compromise safety.

"It really doesn't matter what your economical background may be but I think safety, mileage per gallon, and reliability of the car makes a difference," Thomas said.

To obtain a free copy of the book, click here.

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