When you’re finally old enough and have the budget to get your first car, it’s easy to get so excited or overwhelmed that you make mistakes. Some teens rush out and get the coolest looking cheap car they can find, only to later discover the hoses are held on by duct tape and the car is hugely unreliable. Some teens are lucky enough to get hand-me-down cars, or their parents are in on the new car hunt to offer valuable car-shopping advice. Either way, here are a few tips as you take your first steps to being an independent car owner.
Tips for Teens: Your First Car
Get used cars inspected before you buy
It can be an additional expense that doesn’t seem worth it, but having an impartial third party mechanic such as the guys at Convoy Auto Repair look over the car you want to buy can help you make a better informed decision, no matter your experience with cars. This expense is small in the long run and can save you thousands down the road.
Take your time
One of the most important things to remember as a new driver is to take your time, and this goes for everything! Rushing when you’re learning a new skill can lead to easily avoidable accidents such as rear ending someone at a stop sign or scuffing bumpers while parallel parking. Slow down and pay close attention to your surroundings. It's a good idea to give yourself some buffer time for the first 6 months or so since there is bound to be some issue you didn't count on that can make you late: unexpected traffic, lack of parking, getting lost, or a minor car issue.
Your driving instructor or parents won’t be in the car with you anymore, so the temptation to text your friend that you’re on the way will be HUGE. Do yourself a favor and put your cell phone on silent in the glove box or in your purse when you get in the car. It’ll be close enough for an emergency, but it won’t tempt you by buzzing and beeping while you’re driving. A recent study indicated that when teens talked on the phone while driving, it was their parents on the other end of the line over 50% of the time. Don’t be afraid to make your parents wait until you’re safely parked before calling back (in fact, being safety minded can make you seem more responsible to them). This includes looking at your phone for driving directions. We're not saying printed directions are any less distracting, but if you absolutely have to rely on your phone for driving directions and don't have someone else in the car to navigate, get a device that keeps your phone securely on the dash - where you can't touch it - and turn on turn-by-turn directions.
Take responsibility for your actions
While driving is often an everyday unavoidable task, it is inherently dangerous. You’re piloting a large, powerful machine down high-speed roadways with other people who won’t always be as responsible as you are. Staying sober, attentive, and cautious anytime you are behind the wheel will help keep you and those around you alive. Being grounded for asking for a ride home after underage drinking is a lot less serious than going to jail for manslaughter if you kill another person while driving drunk.
Know your car
Spend some time getting to know your first car by learning how to maintain it and keep it reliable. Know how to change the oil, check the fluids, identify worn tires, and check your tire pressure. Also get to know the signs for brake pad replacement, brake failure, and cooling issues. When you first get a new car, it’s always a good idea to spend a few days driving with the radio off to get familiar with the sounds your car makes, that way you know when something changes or starts to go wrong.
Your first car is a big step on the road to adulthood. It’s both symbolic of freedom, as well as increased responsibility. Taking care of yourself and your car will make you a better driver, and a better car owner!