Four Ways to Upgrade Your Teen’s First Car on a Budget

You probably remember your first car fondly, no matter how much of a beater it was. It no doubt gave you your first taste of freedom and, no matter how unsightly your vehicle, it was yours. From the air freshener that hung from the rear view mirror to the cassette tapes you listened to while driving, it was the little things that made your first car memorable. That’s why, when your teen starts to drive, you may opt against the purchase of a new car in lieu of an older ride like you used to drive. This gives you the opportunity to help your teen fix up his ride like you once did.

Here are a few car upgrade options that can help your new driver upgrade his car on a budget – whether it’s on your dime or his.

  • Brighten it up. Consider custom lighting for your teen’s new ride. Whether you invest in black lights for the car’s undercarriage or simply replace stock headlights and brake lights for LED ones, there are inexpensive ways to change the lighting on your teen’s car and brighten it up.
  • Mix it up. There are multiple ways to improve the look of your wheels by upgrading the tires or tire accessories. You might consider buying a set of larger wheels, shiny new rims or even inexpensive spinners that can be placed directly over the car’s existing rims.
  • Amp it up. Long gone are the days of toting around a case of cassettes to listen to while driving. Help your teen amp up his existing stereo system by replacing old, blown-out speakers with new ones, installing a new CD player or, best of all, by hooking up an iPod or MP3 adapter.
  • Shine it up. A fresh paint job can go a long way toward making an old car sparkle like new. But if it’s not worth it to you to give your ride a fresh coat, sometimes a thorough wash, polish and wax can make a used car shine like (almost) new.

Once you’ve helped your teen fix up his new ride, make sure to keep it protected with an affordable auto insurance policy.  Some companies even offer special teenage car insurance discounts for good grades and other incentives. So, don’t research only the options for freshening up your teen’s car; also be sure to get online and learn about all of your auto insurance options while you’re at it.

The post was written by Micah Moon.

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4 thoughts on “Four Ways to Upgrade Your Teen’s First Car on a Budget

  • I remember my first car in the UK was a PONY lol. I purchased it with my own money and pimped my own ride like the frugal bloke that I am! Great suggestions you post above, I like the lights suggestion.

    I think if more parents teach their kids about money and that blowing their part time income on pimping their ride to the max instead of saving it could cost them in the long run. Cheers mate!

  • Worried about your teen driving too much? Get him/her one of the many used SUVs (preferably a smaller one like a Toyota RAV4 or Ford Escape) that will soon be available as gas approaches $5 per gallon around the U.S. Some advantages: 1) slightly more protection in the event of a crash vs. a compact car, 2) higher fuel prices might cause your teen to think twice and make only the most necessary trips, and 3) you’ll be able to save on insurance as most SUVs aren’t considered “sports” (re: higher risk) vehicles.

    • I didn’t think about the sport car aspect. I’m always thinking that a teen should have the most beat up car available that’s still reliable. I don’t believe in getting a teen a new car. The MTV aspect of My Super Sweet 16 has kids thinking that everyone gets a new Range Rover for their 16th birthday.

  • My father’s first car was purchased for him. It was a considerably-used, dirt-brown and dirt-cheap Subaru. He rarely wanted to get caught with it – but after a few solid years of driving, no crashes, and more experience as a driver, the transmission did him a favor and finally gave out. Giving him the opportunity to purchase his first truck, new.

    So, a few paint touch-ups, a deep clean, and a little patience go a long way!

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