Do you owe your teen a car?
Some parents seem to think that driver's license = additional vehicle. Should it?
"An old car is perfectly fine, as long as it’s safe. It doesn't need to be cool, it doesn't need to look good. All it needs to do is be safe, reliable, and get a kid from Point A to Point B," wrote the blogger, a father of two.
"I have no idea what the parents who are buying these kids expensive cars are thinking."
One commenter suggested that parents were buying their children's love. Another warned that getting too much too soon might kill a teen's motivation. A third suggested that youths be given "modest" cars, lest they develop a sense of entitlement.
Allow me to play devil's advocate: Why buy your kid any kind of car?
Oh, I know all the usual reasons: extracurricular activities, after-school jobs, sports teams, parents with long commutes and/or non-flexible schedules who can't get their teens from place to place easily.
But should that inevitably lead to a third car in the household? I've heard parents say stuff like, "She's such a good kid/works so hard in school/does so many things. We figure she's earned it."
Wrong. Driving is a privilege, not a right. Your kid should earn that privilege on a gradual basis, not be given the keys to a new car upon passing the driver's test.
To buy or not to buy?
You'd be looking at a car payment or cash outlay for a used auto right when the focus should be on saving for college or trade school. Talk to your insurance agent about the cost of insuring a third vehicle. Estimate the weekly price of gasoline and any expected repairs.
Add all this up. Sit down and fan yourself.
Next: Look for other solutions. Carpooling with friends? Public transit? Paying a friend or relative to pick up and drop off your teen?
Or, maybe, biting the bullet and rearranging your schedule a bit. Perhaps you and your spouse can take turns driving, or set up carpools of your own. Inconvenient, yes, but relatively short term. Driving three kids home once or twice a week might actually be easier than driving one kid five times a week.
If your kid really does need wheels, they shouldn't be trendy or spendy ones. Let him drive one of the family's current vehicles; if a new car is to be purchased, it should go to Mom or Dad.
Keep in mind, though, that a kid with his own car is usually somewhere else, whereas a parent's vehicle has restrictions. Many teens would be happy to use home as just a place to sleep and shower, but no 17-year-old needs that kind of freedom.
Working to feed the car
I'm all for high-schoolers working part time as long as it doesn't interfere with grades. But once your kid has a car, he runs the risk of taking on extra hours to pay his share of auto expenses. Teens shouldn't work so much that their education or health suffers.
If your kid is employed, he should chip in for gas and/or insurance. Yes, that will nibble away at his meager earnings. Welcome to adulthood.
Or try this: You'll pay the car costs as long as your kid saves at least 75% of his paycheck. That's the deal I swung with my daughter; I drove her or let her use my car to get to work after school and on weekends. (Hint: This is something you need to bring up when they're still too young to drive -- and it needs to be an ultimatum, not a topic for debate.)
Do your kid a favor: Don't make things too easy. Getting everything he wants right from the start could lead to some tough adjustments later in life. Unless, of course, you plan to be around forever to help him pay for things he can't afford.
It won't kill Junior to drive his mom's Subaru to the dance. And if he feels it will? He could always walk, or take the bus. Or stay home.
Readers: Were you given a car as a teen? Do you plan to give your kid one?
More on MSN Money:
(Oh, and I took the bus to and from high school EVERY DAY until the day I graduated - the Toyota wasn't used for my driving until I started college, because public school buses don't charge for gas).
Worked over the summer de-tassling corn and hoeing beans in Iowa. Made good money, saw a used 1970 Chevy Nova 2 door. Grandpa went with me to look at it, said it was my money and if I wanted it I could have it. First he took me to the insurance company and let me see for myself how much car insurance was going to cost me, a 16yr, driving a big block Chevy. I could afford to get the car and drive 3 months before all of my hard earned money ran out. Waited till I graduated college before I bought my first car and could truly afford it. Great lesson, but I still dream about that car sometimes. Lol
No. I worked for my first car and other things. If they want a car they can work too.
I have been working since before i even had working papers, haven't had a summer of since the 7th grade when i started working at a camp. I am 23 years old and my parents split the cost of my first new car, i have ALWAYS been grateful for that. There is nothing wrong with getting your child a new car provided you raised him right.
Tue 11/6/12 YES on the Car for Your TeenAger !
Great Motivation Tool ! You will be Amazed with the results of TAKING AWAY THE CAR
when Your Child misbehaves. Taking the Car gets Their Undivided Attention Immediately !
Riding a School Bus is NOT Cool !
You can't wait until Your Child get their Drivers License & are able to Drive Themselves. Then You worry yourself Sick when they don't return Home on Time & don't answer their phone .
Damned If Ya Do & Damned If Ya Don't Catch 22
SPW in Alaska "Airborne"
'But should that inevitably lead to a third car in the household? I've heard parents say
stuff like, "She's such a good kid/works so hard in school/does so many things. We
figure she's earned it." Wrong.... Your kid should earn that privilege on a gradual basis,
not be given the keys to a new car upon passing the driver's test.'
The parents did not say that they felt they HAD to buy their kid a car just because the kid passed the driver's test.... They said that she earned the car by helping out, behaving, and doing well in school. How else would a teenager gradually earn ANY privileges? And if they can afford to reward their kid with a new car, then that is THEIR right.
Also, just because the kid gets the keys doesn't mean that they get complete freedom and there are no rules. If the kid doesn't follow the rules and curfews then the keys get taken away.
I bought my own 1st vehicle (an old beat-up pickup truck for $300), worked and paid my own way through college. I did live at home through 1st 3 years of college, but was responsible for all expenses (clothes, insurance, tuition, food, gas, etc). When I got married my last year of college and moved out "on my own", my parents told me to not even think about moving back home anytime in the future if it did not work out. I never did. I knew the value of hard work and money, and saving for the future.
Both my kids were provided mom's old 100K+ mile hand-me-down Ford Taurus when they got their licenses. Both kids worked in high school and college. Both were responsible for paying for their own insurance, gas and 1/2 of their college tuition (or equivilant amount of scholarships). Both kids graduated in 4 years with zero debt, and savings to boot in the bank - and jobs. I gave both kids the down-payment for their 1st homes. Both are married and doing fine.
I agree - you should not give your kids a totally free ride. They have to understand the value of earning their way through life. But I also agree that you have to be there to support your kids, and hopefully they will support you in return if ever needed. It's a 2-way street.
Worked and bought my own car before I had a license. Didn't give my kids any cars. They worked and bought their own plus paid their own expenses. Totally off to buy these kids their car. How will they learn how to provide their own if parents keep buying them everything?
Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.
WHAT IS FRUGAL NATION?
Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.
ABOUT DONNA FREEDMAN
Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
The popular online program lets you earn Amazon cards, PayPal cash and other rewards.
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
Are you being stalked behind the wheel? Here's how to tell and what you can do about it.