Looking for the best site to buy used cars? If you're a teenager, you might want to think twice before taking this step. Chances are, you cannot legally purchase a car in your state until you reach the age of 18. Even if the state allows it, many dealers prefer not to sell to underage people because of the legal implications.
With a few exceptions, most states don't allow minors to buy a car. Plus, teenagers cannot purchase auto insurance without the signature of a parent or legal guardian.
Minors and Car Ownership Laws
Generally, minors cannot purchase and register a vehicle in their names unless they are emancipated. The problem is that when you buy a car, you enter into a legal contract. Underage individuals may sign legally binding agreements, but the contract can be deemed voidable. A teenager can "disaffirm" his contractual obligations at any time without suffering legal consequences, explains Sam Houston State University.
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Some states allow minors to purchase their own cars. However, if the teenager changes his mind after buying a car, the dealer would have to cancel the contract and make a refund. The same could happen if the teen's parents ask him to return the car. For this reason, most dealers won't sell to someone who is underage. On top of that, minors cannot take out an auto loan or purchase car insurance.
The easiest way to do things is to buy a car and then transfer the title to your teen when he turns 18. Meanwhile, list yourself as the primary driver and add your teenager to your policy as a named driver. This way, he will get the same level of coverage as you. Even if your child has a driver's license and buys a car, he cannot legally drive it on the road or in a public place without insurance. Any company that offers auto insurance plans will require the signature of a parent or legal guardian when dealing with minors.
Research Your State Laws
Car ownership laws vary from state to state. Minnesota residents, for example, are legally allowed to buy a car after completing a state-approved driver training program. They must also be at least 17 years old at the time of purchase, according to the Revisor's Office. High school graduates age 17 or older and employed, emancipated minors holding a valid driver's license have this right, too.
Texas is one of the few states that allow minors to title and register a vehicle. But as mentioned earlier, most dealers won't sell to someone who is under 18 years old. Other states, such as Michigan, require dealers to obtain parental consent before serving underage buyers. Emancipated minors are subject to different regulations, though.
Emancipation is a court process through which a minor child is freed from parental control, explains the Children's Law Center of Massachusetts. Generally, someone who is 16 or 17 years old can become emancipated by joining the military, petitioning the court or getting married. The exact requirements depend on the state. An emancipated minor can purchase and insure a car without the need for parental consent.
Now that you know what to expect, assess your options and come up with a plan. If you have a job, you could try to save money and help your parents buy you a car. With some luck, you could find a used model that looks new and fits your budget. See what's available on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist before heading to a dealership. Private sellers are more likely to negotiate the price and may offer better deals than a used car retailer.
- Sam Houston State University: Contractual Capacity
- Office of the Revisor of Statutes: 2020 Minnesota Statutes - Ownership and Registration by Minors; Prohibitions
- State of Michigan: Parental Consent to Sell a Vehicle to a Minor
- Massachusetts Legal Aid Websites Project: Emancipation and the Legal Rights of Minors in Massachusetts
- Texas Independent Automobile Dealers Association: Selling to a Minor