No need to get in a tizzy over cramming in last-minute back-to-school car shopping. Tips for parents come in quite handy here, so check them out and be prepared to ease your mind over this often angst-ridden parental chore.

The recommendations come courtesy of Kelley Blue Book which, not so coincidentally, has also released its list of 10 Best 2012 Cars for Back to School.

Chief among the considerations for buying a car for your teenage driver going back to school is price, but getting the right car at the right price means following some strategic guidelines.

Research, research, research. – There’s no getting around the necessity to do your homework – even if that’s something you don’t like to do. While Kelley Blue Book offers a great deal of information that you need right on its website, such information is also available on other third-party comparison sites (including, the websites of manufacturers, and magazine evaluation sites (such as and Besides consumer ratings, vehicle specifications, side-by-side vehicle comparisons, and pricing, you’ll also want to know about the safety and reliability ratings, warranties, amenities, options and available discounts or incentives.

Investigate ownership costs. – When considering any vehicle for your teen’s use for school, it’s more than just the purchase price to take into account. You also need to investigate what the car is going to cost you, the parents, over its ownership period. Check out tools such as 5-year cost-to-own calculations, to factor in the cost of fuel, maintenance, insurance, repairs and other expenses during the ownership period.

Comparison drive several models. – While you and your teen may have just one model in mind, it’s helpful to drive several others – at least two or three – in order to make a fair comparison and be sure you’re buying the right car for your teen and your household. Don’t be swayed by advertising or too much of your son’s or daughter’s opinion. What it comes right down to is getting the right fit, the car that most meets your requirements for safety, reliability, fuel economy, price and also how well it drives and handles.

Negotiate price from invoice up. – Never walk into a new car dealer and negotiate a price on a new vehicle from the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) down. Always go from the invoice price up. KBB offers what it terms Fair Purchase Price (Edmunds calls theirs True Market Value Price). This reflects real-world pricing, which is often thousands of dollars less than MSRP.

Tips when buying used. – You wouldn’t generally buy clothing without first thoroughly checking it out and you should never buy a used car without a rigorous mechanical inspection by a professional. You’ll also want to check out the private party value (if you’re buying a used car from an individual) as well as check used car pricing to help determine the car’s actual condition and value. Both KBB and Edmunds offer these tools to consumers.

Consider buying certified pre-owned (CPO). – While CPO vehicles may cost a bit more, when you’re buying a used car, you want to have all the assurances possible that the car is in tip-top physical and mechanical shape. CPO cars include manufacturer’s warranties, full vehicle inspection and more.

Make use of the Internet to shop. – The Internet has made back-to-school car shopping easier than ever. Instead of putting miles on your car and taking hours to physically visit dealerships to look at cars for your teen, use the inventory of vehicles for sale on a number of different car shopping sites. These can help you narrow down what you want and find it available nearby, making your final consideration list for test-drives a whole lot easier.

Drive the car yourself. – Finally, parents should never just plunk down the cash or sign on the dotted line for a car for their son or daughter without first driving the vehicle themselves. You have many more years of driving experience than your teen and know what to look for and how a safe and reliable car should look and handle. Here’s another instance where listening to your teen’s wants and needs instead of insisting on what’s best may not be the best strategy. Sure, get your teen’s input, but insist that you have the final say.

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