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Best time to buy a car

I need to buy my son a car in february when he turns 16. I’ll be looking for something used, reliable and somewhat “cool” for a teenager but by no way luxurious. Want to go as cheap as possible but still be safe for him. Thinking of something like an xterra, 4 runner, pathfinder type thing. Hoping to get by with $15,000 or less.

With the economic scare right now, I wonder if my best deals might be right now and not wait until February? I see some 2008 cars in the paper with 10,000 miles for $15,000 now?

Anyone have any thoughts on timing and if I should consider acting now?

I think now or Feb 09 would be a good time. For cheaper, I would recommend a Corolla (or similar–Ford Focus etc) or a used mid-sized car. My kids learned to drive on well-used mid-sized vehicles. To me they were a good compromise between safety and economy. Many kids end up having a fender bender in the first six months of driving experience, and these mid-sized cars are relatively inexpensive to fix. In my view, a 16 yr old does not need an Xterra, 4 Runner or a Pathfinder. Your budget may not like the relative lack of fuel mileage, either.

Near the end of any given month a sales person on commision will want to make a bangup deal to close the month.

I’d focus first on the “safe” part. That would rule out SUVs and direct the search toward economy sedans or coupes. SUVs tend to the the least tolerant of driver errors in exactly the kind of situations in which newbies make errors…entering off ramps too fast, entering curves and turns too fast, and making sudden evasive maneuvers made necessary by situations that a more experienced driver would have anticipated.

With that budget you could get him a brand new econobox, a Scion, a Fit, a Yaris or such. I’d go that direction. It’ll have all the latest safety features, be the most reliable, not have enough power to get him in trouble, and he’ll have the coolness factor of having a new car.

All the trucks you mention bet poor gas mileage. Does that matter to you? The Pathfinder and Xterra both get an EPA average of 17 MPG but the Pathfinder uses premium. The 4runner gets an EPA average 18 MPG on regular. These are midsize SUVs. You can get better mileage with a small SUV like a Rav4, Escape, CR-V, Tribute, and several others. SUVs have a tendency to roll over a bit more than a car would due to the high center of gravity. If it’s properly driven, the issue is small. Speaking of small, small cars will fare worse in a crash than a larger vehicle will. Again, it is unlikely that there will be accidents if the driver is prudent.

if your son wants a cool car, let him buy it himself. Get him something boring so he won’t be overly tempted to impress his friends. Get something cheap like a crown victoria

If you desire an SUV I would lean towards domestic midsize. They are firesaled, the Japanese models you list hold their value better.

If you get an SUV for a teen make sure it has roll over and stability control to compensate for the higher tendancy to roll and less forgiving handling.

Buying your 16 year old kid a $15,000 car is the biggest mistake YOU will ever make…You will still be buying his cars when he is 40, if he survives this one. Since it’s YOUR money, buy him something cheap, slow (4 cylinders) and un-cool. If he insists on “coolness”, tell him he can buy anything he wants when he is spending HIS money. Is a Ford Focus cool enough?

I would buy RIGHT NOW. You will NEVER buy a car this cheap again. By February, the inventory overhang will be gone and the Dealers that remain will be buttoned down tight, offering take it or leave it deals on the dregs of what is on their lots today.

man i dont know much but this.Its a buyers market right know.dude get him a plain jeep cherokee.A 4 door is cheaper on ins.Plus he can take his friend cool!Make sure its 4 wheel drive.You can get a 2000 for about 35 hundred.Install a rollcage you got safe as your going to get.

a 4x4 Jeep?
why not just hand him a gun and tell him that the little hole on the end is where he’s supposed to look through

If you are determined to buy your son a fairly expensive car, rather than making him pay for it himself (a big mistake) and to make that purchase an SUV (an even bigger mistake), then probably nothing will deter you from spoiling your child and simultaneously giving him a vehicle that is prone to roll-over.

The reason why I make these statements is because it is human nature to not truly value things that you did not earn. The thought process that will go through your son’s mind (not on a conscious level, necessarily) is that you will buy him a replacement vehicle if he wrecks this one. And, by choosing a type of vehicle that is not forgiving of driver error and youthful behavior, you will be making the situation potentially worse. I am basing my opinions on both practical experience as a high school counselor for 29 years, as well as many studies that have been done on adolescent behavior.

That being said, Consumer Reports recommends the following vehicles as being “best for teenagers”:

Acura RSX
Acura TSX
Ford Fusion
Honda Accord (4 cyl.)
Honda CR-V EX ('05 or later)
Honda Civic EX
Honda Fit
Hyundai Sonata (4 cyl., '06 or later)
Hyundai Tucson
Kia Optima ('06 or later)
Mazda3 (w/ side curtain air bags)
Mercury Milan
Pontiac Vibe ('06-'07)
Scion tC
Subaru Impreza (not the WRX!)
Subaru Forester (not the XT)
Toyota Camry (4 cyl.)
Toyota Corolla
Toyota Matrix ('06 & '07)
Toyota Prius
Toyota RAV-4 (4 cyl., '01 or later, w/o 3rd row seat)

From that list, if I was buying a car for a teenager, I would choose the Kia Optima, due to its low price, decent reliability and safety features.

I wish you good luck with some serious decision-making!

I agree that these are really poor choices for a teenager-- all truck-based SUV’s with very high centers of gravity, especially the Xterra.

I know your kid is always the exception, but I would never buy a teenager anything this nice because there is probably at least a 50% chance he is going to wreck it. Can you afford to write a $15k car off? Have you checked what it’s going to cost to do full collision on one of these SUV’s being driven by a teenager? It’s going to be a lot!

The list posted by VDCdriver was very good.

I have often heard that end-of-month is a good time to drive a hard bargain with a car dealer.

My friends who buy new cars every 3-4 years buy at the beginning of the model year so that the car they drive for four years seems newer than it actually is and the bluebook is higher than a car the same age with the same mileage that is the previous model year.

I buy at the end of the model year clearance, or I buy 3-year old cars when they come off lease, because I drive cars for 20 years.

For a teenager, I urge you to buy a clunker and put liability-only insurance on it. Make the kid pay for his own gas and his own repairs. This is the only shot you are going to get to teach the kid to take good care of his stuff, and to understand that there are tough breaks when it comes to possessions, and he has to be prepared for them. Just be sure that YOU pay the insurance until the kid is at least 18 and has the car in his own name. When kids go broke, insurance gets cut first.

No one ever bought me a car, and looking back, that was for the best. I learned early that no one owes me anything, so it never occurred to me that anyone might ever give me a car. My Dad paid my car insurance until I was 21, but he did it in self-defense. That was a big help for a starving student.

I bought my daughters cars because although they both had part-time jobs in high school and college, they never made enough to support a car, and school was their first priority. I put them in stick shift 240 Volvos in high school. Ugly, slow, safe, reliable, easy to work on. I made them help with all maintenance tasks so they know how cars work and how to take care of them.

When they were well into their college years and had proved that they could and would take care of their own cars, I got them both 10-year-old BMW 328s. Those get full coverage insurance which I am still paying (Ouch!)

I find it funny how they recommend an RSX(sporty coupe) and a Prius on the same list.
Though, I would recommend the prius as well. Slow and uncool and won’t be able to show off except the inside of it.