For some parents, the back-to-shopping trip ends at a local car dealer.
“We always have people buy cars for kids heading back to school,” said Leonard Hodge, a used-car sales consultant at Gary Yeomans Ford in Daytona Beach.
However, choosing the right car can be difficult since the two sides are often at odds on what the student needs versus what he really wants. Parents, generally, are more concerned about reliability, gas mileage and safety features, Hodge said.
But students have their own minds. Performance, style and room for friends often are at the top of their list.
“Students want all of the bells and buzzers,” said Eric Frechetter, sales manager at Daytona Nissan.
The good news is there are plenty of cars out there that can please both parties, according to officials at Kelley Blue Book, a California-based firm that provides auto information, including up-to-date pricing and value guides.
Those considering a new entry-level vehicle will find the latest and greatest safety and technology advancements, a full warranty and, of course, that new-car smell. If saving money places higher on the “must” list, then there are plenty of dependable used cars that would suit the needs of any young adult, according to Jack R. Nerad, executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book’s website, kbb.com.
The company recently released its annual top-10 back-to-school cars list, which includes a mixture of new and used vehicles.
“This year’s all-new car entries, like the Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Fiesta, offer advanced technological features and forward-looking designs to engage any student with price points that won’t disappoint parents,” Nerad said in a prepared statement.
“There also are mainstays like the Mazda 3 and Honda Civic, which seem to make our back-to-school list year after year,” he said. “With so many well-equipped new cars and bargain-priced used cars on the market, we’d argue that this may be the best year yet to find a ride that will please both parents and students.”
Although it is up to parents to decide how much they want to pay for a car, the blue-book value of new cars on the list suggested by Kelley was capped at $18,000. For the used cars on the list, the editors narrowed it down to 2005 model-year and newer vehicles, with a suggested blue-book retail value of less than $12,000.
“The list is a combination of what buyers want and our understanding of the market,” he said.
The real answer as to what is the best car can vary, depending on personal needs, preferences and finances.
“I knew I wanted a compact car,” said area resident Denise Ivey, who purchased a used car for her daughter LaShonda, who enrolled in Daytona State College this summer.
Ivey said she looked for a good car that met her price, was not too old, still in good condition and had a reasonable amount of mileage.
“It’s a job (looking for a used car). You really have to look,” she said.
Ivey eventually found a 2000 Saturn for sale by a private owner. “I had always heard that Saturns were pretty decent cars,” she said.
To help parents and teens, Kelley Blue Book has developed a number of guidelines to consider when looking for a car, whether new or used. They include such things as taking time to gather research on several cars including expert reviews, real-world values, side-by-side comparisons, safety and reliability ratings and more.
Also, consumers should consider buying a certified pre-owned car. Some come with new car features, such as a manufacturer-backed vehicle warranty, full vehicle inspections and more.
“Always go to a reputable dealer,” Frechette said.
Students are advised to test-drive two or three models. Limiting themselves to just the vehicle at the top of their list might cause them to miss out on something even better, according to Kelley Blue Book.
Customers also should have any used vehicle checked out by a reputable independent service shop. Kelley also has a printable list of items that consumers can take with them when shopping for cars.
Parents are advised against buying a car for a teen without test-driving it themselves since their experience can help identify problems or shortcomings that a teen may not notice.