A car on sale

When considering what kind of car to buy for your new teen driver, don't overlook used cars as a viable option. After all, few things depreciate faster than a new car. Many parents feel obligated to go the new car route for their novice drivers due to safety features. Yet, there are plenty of safe—and much more affordable—used car options out there. But, before you run to the nearest used car lot, consider the following tips:

Know your budget beforehand

If you want to know a surefire way to get taken advantage of at a car dealership, just walk on the lot without a budget in mind. Before you even think about going car shopping, sit down and figure out how much car you can afford. That way, you'll be shopping with your head instead of your heart. If you're unsure how to estimate a price range you can afford, there are some handy tools available to help you.

Do your research

Remember: knowledge is power. Don't set foot on a used car lot without a target list of cars on hand. This doesn't mean that you can't change your mind, but it gives you an excellent starting point. How should you go about creating a target list of used cars? Do a little homework. Use sources like Consumer Reports to research used car reviews. Then, determine which used cars fit into the budget you've determined. Not sure how much a particular used car costs? Refer to Kelley Blue Book to get an estimated value. Knowing these details in advance will save you from a lot of haggling with used car salesmen.

Get a Vehicle History Report

Even if a used car looks pristine on the lot, it's still imperative to learn everything you can about that car's history before the sale. What kind of information can a Vehicle History Report tell you? It'll tip you off if the car got totaled in an accident or if the odometer got rolled back. Several companies sell Vehicle History Reports using the car's vehicle identification number (VIN). If there is anything negative in the report, it's best to cut your losses and move on.

Have the car inspected

Even if the Vehicle History Report comes back with an all-clear, it's still a good idea to get the used car inspected before making an offer. For added reassurance, request to take the car to a mechanic you trust for the inspection. Getting a used car inspected before making an offer can help you avoid purchasing a lemon.

Be a master negotiator

The best way to gain the upper hand in the negotiation process is to come armed with information. All the research and homework you've done up to this point will come in handy now. Don't determine your offer based on the asking price. Consider what the car is worth based on market value. Besides consulting Kelley Blue Book, consider checking eBay for auctions on similar cars. Check to see if you can find a comparable car on another website for a lower price. Use that information to your advantage during the negotiation process.

Prepare yourself for your used car shopping and you'll be able to find a great car for your teen.