By Wendy Estrada, Branch Manager, MUFG Union Bank, N.A.
Learning to drive and buying a car can be an exciting time, especially for teenage drivers, and it’s an important step toward adulthood. While it may offer a sense of freedom and pride, it can also provide valuable lessons in responsibility and financial planning. The following tips may help teens become financially prepared for their first car purchase.
Create a budget
The first, and perhaps the most important step, is to establish a budget listing all sources of income and the expenses of car ownership. Determine if your parents, guardians or other family members might be willing to contribute. Perhaps they will match your savings toward a down payment, or they might decide to buy the vehicle and have you make the payments. Make sure your expectations are reasonable and clear. List the costs associated with owning a vehicle, such as gas, insurance and maintenance. Print your budget to clearly see what is expected and how much must be earned and saved.
If you don’t already have one, set up a savings account as soon as possible. Ask your parents or another trusted adult to take you to a bank and introduce you to a banker who can explain how making regular deposits can help you reach your savings goals, and how interest can help you grow your savings faster. Your banker can also help you determine which type of savings account will best suit your needs.
According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, as a general rule, to get a job with a company, you must be 14 years old, and certain limits apply to how many hours you can work until you turn 16. Many teens also earn money by babysitting, tutoring, delivering newspapers, making and selling jewelry and other crafts online, or mowing lawns, for example. Look for ways to put a skill or hobby to use to earn extra money, and with a little creativity and perseverance, you can make some extra cash doing things you enjoy.
When your savings goal has been reached, it is smart to do a little research before shopping for a vehicle. Whether you are able to buy a new or used vehicle will depend on your budget, and having realistic expectations before visiting the car lots will make the process a lot more fun. Read reviews such as Consumer Reports to find a make and model that is reliable and gets gas mileage that you can afford, and meets your needs. Ask your parents to call their insurance agent and research insurance rates for the types of vehicles you are considering.
Keep track of your budget and make sure that you’re able to keep up with your bills, and look for ways to lower your expenses. Keeping your car properly maintained can lower fuel and repair costs. Regular oil changes and tire rotations can help keep your vehicle running smoothly and increase your gas mileage. Consider asking for gas gift cards for birthday or holiday gifts. And note that many insurance companies may offer you more favorable rates for maintaining a clean driving record and your grades.
Be a responsible driver
There are many responsibilities that come with owning a vehicle, but perhaps the most important is being a safe, responsible driver. Obey the rules of the road to help avoid costly tickets and fines, or even worse, losing your license or hurting someone.
The foregoing article is intended to provide general information about helping teens save for a car and is not considered financial or tax advice. Please consult your financial or tax advisor.
ABOUT WENDY ESTRADA
Wendy Estrada is the branch manager of the Lincoln High School student-run branch for MUFG Union Bank, N.A. MUFG Union Bank, N.A., is a full-service bank with offices across the United States. We provide a wide spectrum of corporate, commercial, retail banking and wealth management solutions to meet the needs of customers. The bank also offers an extensive portfolio of value-added solutions for customers, including investment banking, personal trust, capital markets, global treasury management, transaction banking and other services. With assets of $108.8 billion (USD), as of June 30, 2014, the bank has strong capital reserves, credit ratings and capital ratios relative to peer banks. MUFG Union Bank is a proud member of the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (NYSE: MTU), one of the world’s largest financial organizations with total assets of approximately ¥259 trillion (JPY) or $2.5 trillion (USD)1, as of June 30, 2014. MUFG Americas Holdings Corporation, the financial holding company and MUFG Union Bank, N.A. have corporate headquarters in New York City.
1 Exchange rate of USD=¥101.36 (J-GAAP) as of June 30, 2014