Buying Your First Car: What to Look for in a Good Deal

A 2022 Kia Carnival sits in the driveway on a rainy, foggy morning.

Most teens look forward to their 16th birthday and can’t wait to start driving. You may have to start with your mom’s boring sedan or your dad’s rusty pickup. Eventually, you will be anxious to purchase your own set of wheels. It can be a complicated process and one that can leave you unhappy if you make the wrong choice. Here are some tips on how to buy your first car.

A major concern, especially for young drivers, is the vehicle’s safety ratings. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) publishes an annual report that shows which vehicles will perform the best in an accident. Some of the most attractive cars are also the most unsafe. Don’t let your desire to “look cool” cause you to buy an unsafe vehicle. Some of the most important safety features to look for, according to the Motors Co. UK website include automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, evasive steering, lane-keeping assist, automatic high beams, and rear cross-traffic warning.

With gas prices skyrocketing, another factor to consider is how efficiently the engine operates. Patrick Chrinko, a teacher at the Upper Bucks County Technical School’s (UBCTS) Automotive Technology program said, “[The] Honda Civic, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Corolla are cheap to repair, reliable, and have good fuel economy.” Breakdowns are inevitable but you should research the vehicle’s history in regard to things such as the engine, suspension, and exhaust system. You should be aware of any previous recalls and any crashes through CarFax. Shawn Rudden, a teacher at UBCTS’s Automotive Collision program said, “A question you should ask when buying a used car is, ‘What three things should I replace in the next six months?’” Make sure the vehicle you choose is something you can afford, and determine if you will pay cash or finance it. Don’t forget other expenses such as insurance, registration, and gas. Don’t be focused on a vehicle with all the “bells and whistles.” Make sure it is safe, reliable, and affordable, yet something that you will be happy to drive.

There are some accessories available that can make the car more enticing such as Apple Carplay, WiFi hotspots, rear entertainment systems, and Bluetooth capabilities. Just be sure that these luxuries don’t cause distractions while driving. Once you’ve purchased your first vehicle, your next step is to make sure it stays on the road. “Maintenance is the key,” said Chrinko, “follow the manufacturer’s service intervals.” Service intervals can be found in your vehicle’s manual. If you take all of these factors into consideration, you will be better equipped to choose the car that best fits your needs. Get ready to put your new car knowledge in drive!


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