How to Buy a Used Car for Your Teen

When it is time to purchase a Suffolk County car for your teenager, the process can be a challenge. You are looking for a combination of a vehicle that they can enjoy but is also safe and mechanically sound. So how do you strike the right balance and give your teen a good and safe vehicle for their use and enjoyment? Here are a few things we offer to help you.

Vehicle History Reports

Teen Driver at Certified Headquarters St James New York

Cars contain a unique vehicle identification number (VIN). If you are interested in a used vehicle, the first thing you should do is obtain a vehicle history report. The report will show the number of owners, where the vehicle has been located, and any repairs performed by a licensed repair facility. It will also tell you if the vehicle has been involved in any accidents if the incident required repairs. Depending on where you purchase the vehicle, you may also be able to review service records over the vehicle’s lifetime.


When purchasing any used vehicle it is important to perform an inspection of the vehicle both inside and out. The first thing to check is under the vehicle. You should be looking for any signs of fluids leaking onto the ground. Open the hood and look at the general condition of the engine. Inspect the outside of the vehicle for obvious signs of accident repairs or other bodywork. Look at the condition of the tires and signs of problems such as uneven wear or wear more on one side of the tire.

Then move to the interior. Is the car’s interior in fair to good condition? A worn interior might indicate hard use of the car or neglect by the previous owner. Start the car and make sure there are no engine or other warning lights. Do all the buttons and switches work as they should? Then have the teen sit in the driver’s seat and make sure they can reach all the controls, pedals, and mirrors. Do the seats move as they should so the driver can sit correctly. Check that the headlights, tail lights, and turn signals work correctly. Test the horn and parking brake for proper operation. Make sure power windows operate correctly and all the doors lock as they should.

Finally, take the car on a test drive. Leave the radio turned off and listen for any noises which don’t sound normal. The brakes should not squeal when applied, and a squeal when turning the steering wheel can indicate a failing power steering pump. The brakes should be firm, not fade after you press the pedal, and not cause the car to move to one side or the other. The suspension should be firm and the car should sit level and not bounce when going over bumps.

Vehicle safety

Teenagers can be less than perfect drivers, so a safe vehicle can help them avoid injury to themselves and other passengers. Although some people think larger vehicles are safer, this may not be true of a younger and inexperienced driver. Larger cars have bigger engines which can be too powerful for a teen to handle. Very small cars may be convenient to drive and park but offer less protection in an accident. A mid-size sedan may be your best choice. Also keep in mind that newer vehicles and vehicles with higher model trims have more active and passive safety features, but will cost you or your teen a lot more. So you have to decide what features are critical versus nice to have.

Other considerations

Some other things to think about for your teen’s car:

  • Do they need an SUV because they are a drum major or need to carry a lot of equipment? Buy the car which best suits their needs in the future.
  • Buy something with good fuel efficiency ratings, because your teen will need to pay for gas.
  • Talk with your insurance agent about prospective cars versus the insurance premiums that will need to be paid.
  • Review reports on what future expenses may be needed for mechanical repairs. Some cars can have very high costs for brakes, special tires, or other requirements.

After you do your research, come to Certified Headquarters on Long Island and tell us your needs. We have a choice of quality pre-owned vehicles perfect for your teen and you, and we are a CarGurus Top Rated Dealer for 2018! For more information, please reach out to us at 631-366-3700.

St James Preowned Car Dealership | Suffolk County Preowned Cars