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?
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I had a great car at 16, but I paid for the monthly carpayment and my own gas every month.
I worked as a nanny for 10 years. I know many wealthy families who gave their children cars, both new and used. Some felt entitled but most were grateful. The difference depended on whether or not the parents commanded respect and taught them to be appreciative.
I certainly do not think teens are owed a car, but I do not think there is anything wrong with giving them one either. Its how you have raised your children, what you expect from them, and what consequences you follow through on.
The difference is that my 2 sons knew they were spoiled by having a car, gas and an allowance while they were in high school.
Now that they're grown, they're doing the right things for themselves. My younger one works while working on his masters degree.
Should all kids have a car while in high school. Probably not. I may be one of those that shouldn't have had one, but I think it has to do with how we as parents explain why they are getting the car, what we expect in school and school sports, and from them as future productive members of society.
Taking and oassing driver ed in HS was mandatory in the eyes of my parents. Then, my siblings and I could only take the course in our HS senior year. As long as we attended college my parents paid for the additional insurance on the family vehicle. There was no vehicle given to any of us for exclusive use and we were required to pay for the gas used.
If we chose to get our own vehicle, then all expenses were ours to make. Once out of school (no student discounts) we were expected to pay our own way. Even in times of economic turmoil we were expected to contribute some nominal $$ amount or via chores around the house back into the family.
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