Deals on wheels: Should you buy your child a car?

Deals on wheels: Should you buy your child a car?

As far as I know, only one reader of Get Rich Slowly knows me personally. And last week, I was having lunch with my one-person fan club. (Actually, I am not sure she's even a fan, but she did buy my lunch. Thanks, Lisa!)

“You really stirred up some controversy with one of your recent posts,” Lisa said, a forkful of salad in hand.

“You must mean the one about not paying for our kids' college, right?” I said.

“Yes, that's the one. You know, it really made me think.” Without telling me her opinion on the subject, she said, “What do parents really owe their kids? Financially speaking, of course.”

“I actually wanted to write a blog post on that.”

Though Lisa and I went on to talk about all the financial gifts parents can give their children (we decided that parents taking care of their own futures is a great gift to give their children), this post is about cars. Should parents pay for their children's transportation costs … or not?

A Car With Strings Attached

When I turned 16, I immediately got my driver's license. I arrived home with a plastic ticket to freedom burning a hole in my wallet. As I understood it, I would be allowed to drive the family car, so I was totally surprised when my mom said my birthday present was parked out behind the garage. Even though my heart rate increased, I tried not to show my excitement as I nonchalantly walked outside … to find a small matchbox car “parked” in the snow. Ha ha. Very funny, Mom.

So, back to Plan A. Yes, I would be allowed to drive the family car. Yes, my parents would pay for the insurance and repairs, as long as said repairs were not from my own irresponsibility. I would pay for the gas, and I would have to forfeit the family car to my sister as soon as she turned 16. That gave me 22 months to save up for my own car.

“The hard part of this deal,” my dad said, “is that the car is the bargaining chip. When you get grounded, you'll get grounded from the car. We will pick you up from work, and you'll have to find your own ride to school or ride the school bus.”

Not that I ever experienced that part of the deal or anything. Ahem.

My husband had a different experience. He had to buy his own car right away and pay for everything. Like most things, we each think the way we were raised worked out best for us. And that always makes for interesting discussions.

Transportation Valuation

The way I see it, we have three options:

1. Buy and give a car to our kids. Pay for everything.

  • Pros — This gives you an opportunity to pick out the car. It should be something that is reliable, getting up in years, and something low on the cool-meter. I think a four-door sedan that their grandparents would drive is a good choice. Buying the car also allows your child to save money for something else.
  • Cons — Is it necessary and the best use of the family budget? Would the child take care of it as well as if the child had had to pay for it him/herself? Does this help the child to manage money better or not?

2. Allow our children to use our car like my parents did, but pay for all (or some?) expenses, other than gas.

  • Pros — The child has a longer time to save up money for other expenses. It's a good “bridge” between learning to care for a car, pay for gas, and buying his or her own car. It also is a privilege that can easily be removed. (My husband argues that driving privileges can be removed, no matter who owns the car. He is right, of course.)
  • Cons — The child may not fully grasp the whole cost of car ownership if they only pay for the gas.

3. If the kid wants a car, the kid can buy a car. And pay for everything.

  • Pros — The child would fully grasp the whole cost of car ownership. I believe this scenario is the one in which the child would take the best care of the car.
  • Cons — This would require having a cushion in case of unexpected repairs, and careful budgeting to make sure the child can afford all the expenses associated with car ownership. (WOW! This sounds suspiciously like real life!) It does not allow them as much time to save for other expenses.

(As I have mentioned before, we live in a rural area. If you can live without your teenager using a car, that's great! It would be doable in our case, but not convenient.)

As I look over this list of pros and cons, I am leaning toward something that's between the second and third options. I would be fine with allowing the child to use our car, but it probably would be more helpful if they had to pay for the gas and a percentage of repairs and insurance. I know I was surprised at how much oil changes, new tires, and wear and tear repairs added up to once I bought my own car.

While we have at least six years to make this decision — and I don't want to speed this up at all — I would like to start prepping our kids with our expectations so they aren't surprised when I tell them their birthday present is parked by the garage.

Would you buy your child a car? If so, would you expect the child to pay for any expenses?

More about...Transportation

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AMW
AMW
6 years ago

Teenagers having a car of their own to drive is more of a gift to the parents than it is to the kids (ask any taxi mom/dad). If we had the resources, we would have bought the kids a car just so we could get some time back. We did not have said resources so my children were in charge of buying their own. As soon as they got their license they were required to pay for their own insurance and gas. We also required that they put 1/2 of their wages in a a savings account for college and… Read more »

Katelyn
Katelyn
6 years ago
Reply to  AMW

I totally agree! In my case, giving me a car was as much a gift to my parents as it was to me when you consider how much time it freed up for them. I think I would give my theoretical kids a car allowance: kids have X amount from mom and dad to spend on a car. If the kid wants a better car, they can pay the difference in cost. Same with insurance. They pay the base insurance costs, and mom and dad pay the difference to bring it up to whatever coverage level makes sense. They pay… Read more »

Sophie
Sophie
6 years ago
Reply to  Katelyn

In our case, the gift of a car came with strings – yes, the parents paid insurance and repairs (we covered gas), but the deal was that if you had the car, you were on carpool duty for any (and all!) younger siblings as well as running errands for the parents on request. The theory was that by having our own parent-approved vehicle, our parents knew that our ride was safe and well-maintained and that we would never be in the position of feeling we had to accept a ride from a friend who shouldn’t be behind the wheel. The… Read more »

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
6 years ago
Reply to  AMW

Sorry, I am late to the party, but I totally agree with the convenience to the parents…if you don’t count the worrying I’ll probably do!

Daria
Daria
6 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Aberle

I agree. We gave each of our kids a car. They were not allowed to drive siblings or friends, until they had driven for a year. They paid all expenses associated with the car including insurance. Our children had been working part time since they were 14 and had had to save 1/2 of their earnings so they had a good cushion. Both my husband and I work so it freed up time that I was not carpooling them back and forth to work or activities. My parents required us to buy a car ourselves and pay all expenses, but… Read more »

Tina in NJ
Tina in NJ
6 years ago

Son felt that my old clunker was beneath him. He needed a new car. When Dad refused to co-sign on a lease, Grandma co-signed. We said we’d pay insurance if he bought a car. Since we’re footing most of college, he’s contributing some of the insurance. Leased car has far too many miles on it to turn in at the end, so Son is probably going to be driving it a long time. In a year, he’s needed 3 new tires (they’re “performance” tires) and the car doesn’t have a spare. All his friends got new cars from mom and… Read more »

stellamarina
stellamarina
6 years ago
Reply to  Tina in NJ

No no no…..don’t co-sign grandmas and grandpas!

nicoleandmaggie
nicoleandmaggie
6 years ago

I always felt badly for my friends whose parents bought them nice cars (usually also had exotic vacations, nice clothes, the latest music etc.) and then didn’t have the money to afford to pay for college. Different priorities.

frugalscholar
frugalscholar
6 years ago

Ditto.
You’re teaching your kids values when you spend money on them–or on yourself.

val
val
6 years ago

We did a hybrid of these. we bought our children a used car (to share as each one started driving). But they had to pay insurance, gas, regular maintenance etc. If there was a repair due to their negligence, they paid in full. If something MAJOR went wrong (mostly due to the age of the vehicle) we helped out, but they still paid. They had been saving since young for a car, so were actually pleasantly surprised that they didn’t have to buy the car itself. It also taught them some negotiating skills and compromising since they had to learn… Read more »

Lauren
Lauren
6 years ago
Reply to  val

I’ve never thought about having one car for all kids to share. Very interesting-I will have to think about that! I especially like the part about work taking priority over social events.

When did you allow the younger kid to ride with the older kid to school? That would make me more than a little nervous.

Also, What about when they left the house? Did they then have to buy their own car?

Ivy
Ivy
6 years ago
Reply to  val

That was the option I was missing in the post and that makes most sense to me as well. Make them a present of an used car, not a ridiculously expensive one, and because we are buying it, we get to pick the make and model and make sure it’s reliable and not a gas guzzler either. That way they don’t get to wreck the family car and leave us all stranded. But of course the usage costs are all theirs to cover, that way they do get the full view of car ownership costs.

Lauren
Lauren
6 years ago

My parents bought a used car for me. I then had to pay them back, writing them a check each month. I also had to pay for my own insurance, gas, and repairs from the beginning. I found this to be completely fair. After two years, I wrecked that first car. Thankfully I had already paid them back entirely for the car. They then bought me another used car and the whole thing started all over again. *Except-I had to reimburse them the “safe driving bonus check” they wouldn’t be receiving from the insurance company due to my wreck. Of… Read more »

Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life
Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life
6 years ago

I’m from a super wealthy town, EVERYONE had a car growing up. My parents were not a fan of the car gifting philosophy or even us driving (with the amount of teen car deaths). I took the bus all four years of high school. It wasn’t until I wound up living at home one summer during college and had a job to commute to that I got my license. My parents never bought me or any of my siblings a car, though they’ve always been generous about giving us rides or letting us use them when needed. But living in… Read more »

Kathy
Kathy
6 years ago

My dad used to say “any parent who gives their teenage kid a car has a secret death wish”. He went on to harp about how, statistically I would die in a car accident. It was harsh, but then he asked if any of my friends had been in accidents and died, and shared his experiences with friends who died behind the wheel. He did ultimately let me have a car (and a license) at 17 – after I had to pass his test. But yes, it was a rite of passage when kids turned 16 to skip school, take… Read more »

Dave Lalonde
Dave Lalonde
6 years ago

I like the idea of having a teenager being responsible for paying a portion of the costs. I’m all for them learning how to budget efficiently but, I worry that if they might over work themselves in order to pay their portion, if it will affect their grades.

Nina
Nina
6 years ago
Reply to  Dave Lalonde

This is how things worked for me, my parents would match half on expensive purchases, with the other half coming from my savings. Didn’t happen for a car as I had a job before that but this was the case for a new computer for example. They did this because they felt I should enjoy my free time rather than work but they also wanted to instill some financial responsibility. The only thing I wish they’d done was to share more information on my actual savings instead of not allowing me to know how much it was. Still, I understand… Read more »

Dave Lalonde
Dave Lalonde
6 years ago
Reply to  Nina

Wow that’s great! Mad props to your parents for trying to install that financial responsibility. Were you ever overwhelmed by it considering how you were on the younger side?

getagrip
getagrip
6 years ago

I agree as another person said that a car is as big a gift to the parents as to the kids for a number of reasons since now you don’t have to be the taxi or the coordinator of the family vehicle. This is especially important if they need rides to school, to work, etc. and there is no public transportation or easy bike rides to get them there. I also noticed the author didn’t include doing a dollar for dollar plan, e.g. the parent matches every dollar the child puts in to some set amount (the child can always… Read more »

JenK
JenK
6 years ago
Reply to  getagrip

On the “gift to the parents” — if the kid can’t drive, it’s harder to send them to the post office, dry cleaner’s, grocery store, pick up smaller kids from school, or buying everyone else’s birthday / holiday gifts.

(This may have been influenced by my mother hating to drive and hating to shop.)

Brian@ Debt Discipline
[email protected] Debt Discipline
6 years ago

We have 15 year old twins, they will be driving next year. We are discussing out options now. We are leaning towards helping them with a car and having them pay for gas, insurance, etc. As other as stated this helps free up mom and dad from being a taxi. Also the fact that we are going to be debt free this year changes are ability to help them more them we would have been able to in the past.

Brian @ Luke1428
Brian @ Luke1428
6 years ago

Our agreement is that we will be dollar matching (up to a certain point) to help each of our kids buy their first car. For example, if they can put 2k towards the car, we will add 2k so they can buy a 4k car. While they live with us, we will help with insurance and maintenance but probably not gas. And they won’t be getting one at 16, they can drive the family car until they go to college.

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
6 years ago

Several people mentioned the dollar for dollar match. I didn’t even think about that, but it’s a great idea.

Ruz
Ruz
6 years ago

From a budget perspective, is the family budget involved, or only the child’s? My brother bought his own vehicles, but my parents paid insurance. This was because it was much, much cheaper for him to be covered on the parent’s plan. When I was old enough for a car, I chose not to buy one, but instead, if I needed a car, I had to arrange it so that my parents could get to work, etc. Learning to share resources, and saving me some money. Instead of three options, it is more a sort of scale… Now, I will say… Read more »

Rachael
Rachael
6 years ago

My dad took a different route- he found us decent vehicles and he paid half, we had to come up with the other half. He paid for car insurance but we paid for gas and maintenance. It worked out very well and I highly recommend it.

victoria
victoria
6 years ago

My family’s routine growing up was that the kids got one older car as a gift at age 16. We were responsible for paying insurance, gas, and expenses, though they would often pay for repairs if not caused by negligence.

If we totaled the car, we replaced the car ourselves.

I’m not sure what we’ll do for our own kid. We live in a much different setting — city vs. small town/suburb, so a car is less of a need for the way my daughter is likely to live.

Waverly
Waverly
6 years ago
Reply to  victoria

Maybe pay for half of her bus pass or subway pass?

Shawn G
Shawn G
6 years ago

My siblings and I had to pay for our cars along with the gas, insurance and repairs. It worked well to teach responsibility, and hard work. I plan on doing the same for my kids when they get to that age.

Money Saving
Money Saving
6 years ago

My parents spent $2,400 and got me a used 1986 Crown Victoria (back in 1998). It was a real POS, but it taught me a lot of responsibility and allowed me to save up money before college.

I think giving a teenager a ugly car is a good idea. If they want something nicer, then they can use their own money to look flashy. Otherwise it frees up the parents time and gives the teenager some responsibility and freedom.

cgirl
cgirl
6 years ago

My folks had me save 1/3 of everything I made/got as a kid, they let me use the savings when I went to buy a car. Living in rural Minnesota 15 years ago,I was able to buy a decent (if over 100,000 miles) car for $2,000. My parents paid my insurance, I paid gas, my dad taught me to change my oil, my dad did what minimum maintenance was needed. I’m very thankful for them paying insurance, I didn’t pay my own insurance until after college. It would have been hard for me to pay for insurance because I didn’t… Read more »

Carol
Carol
6 years ago
Reply to  cgirl

I saw one girl so excited to get a car for her birthday, but then most of her after school paycheck went to gas, insurance, and maintenance. I think she was almost working to pay for the car, just so she could drive to work.

phoenix1920
phoenix1920
6 years ago

I just purchased my car based on the fact that my oldest daughter is 10 and my car will become her car when she’s old enough. For my girls, I wanted to buy a car that has a lot of safety measures (back-up camera, lane departure warning, and collision warning.) I am afraid that kids now are too attached to their phones and will try to text and drive–something I hope to teach them never to do. If only there was a way to ensure kids followed all of our advice . . . From my perspective, a huge disadvantage… Read more »

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
6 years ago
Reply to  phoenix1920

YOU are in charge of your minor children. Let the kids know that if they ever use their cell phone while driving for anything but calling the State Patrol on an aggressive impaired driver they lose driving privileges for a year.

AND they are in charge of getting to where they want to go in that event.

phoenix1920
phoenix1920
6 years ago
Reply to  SLCCOM

I hope my comment did not come of as indicating that I do not impose rules and consequences for my children. As for rules regarding driving, by the time our kids are driving, we only have 2 years left before they move away for college. I don’t want the rules I try to instill in them to be something that disappears once they move out.

I do not agree with taking away driving privileges for that long. I want my children to be good drivers before they leave for college and they need to practice that important skill.

Shan
Shan
6 years ago
Reply to  SLCCOM

Maybe you haven’t had the lovely experience of raising teenagers, but no you are not in control of them. You can set consequences, but they ultimately make the decisions and some of them are very very bad decisions because they think they know better than you and they are trying to assert their independence. You just hope that they are lucky and don’t get hurt or hurt someone else, and will learn their lesson. I mean how would you even know if they did text while driving?

Becky
Becky
6 years ago
Reply to  phoenix1920

One possibility is to get your child a car with a manual transmission. No opportunity to text and drive if both hands are busy!

Steve hauck
Steve hauck
5 years ago
Reply to  phoenix1920

Please check further into the ownership and liability information that you have, some states will hold you liable if the child is a dependent on your taxes; a bonus however is that your insurance would come after theirs for stacked protection.

Jane
Jane
6 years ago

I spent my teenage years in a car-centric community and drove a family car when it was available. Our family of five (with three boys, one just a week old!) will likely do the same. Our kids are still very little, but I anticipate buying a modest, third car when our eldest turns 16. But honestly I’m hoping that we can perhaps push that to 17. Boys are so impulsive, and that impulsivity on the road scares the living daylights out of me. I know it is unrealistic to think that we can keep them from driving until college, but… Read more »

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
6 years ago
Reply to  Jane

As a side note, congrats on the baby! I assume you’re the “Jane” who posts frequently, so I knew the baby was scheduled to make an appearance soon. I assume everything went well, so congrats!

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
6 years ago
Reply to  Jane

And I also wanted to add that I understand the brain development issue. We’ve been pretty blunt with our oldest that driving is a privilege, so he shouldn’t expect to get his driver’s license when he turns 16 if he shows disregard for common sense. He has a long way to go, so we’ll see!

Nick
Nick
6 years ago

There was never any question of my parents buying me a car – the very idea was and is absurd. They let me use their little station wagon if all the behaviour etc. was in line (sometimes it wasn’t). If you want a car, buy one and don’t buy something else. Being sixteen is not some magical moment when you get one of the biggest parts of adulthood (from a kid’s perspective) with none of the responsibility. I had a couple of clunkers as a teen, but when I eventually moved to the city I actually went without a car… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago
Reply to  Nick

I hear what you’re saying, but the downside of that choice is that your kid is going to be a passenger in a dangerous gun-loaded car that you cannot control and whose driver you cannot educate– unless you hire him a chauffeur.

Nick
Nick
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

True enough. And I am highly aware that the driving conditions here are much less forgiving than where I grew up. Going off the road on the Canadian prairie means driving on a field. Going off the road in the Coastal mountains means a cliff, a rock face or the ocean. That said, we have a very assertive graduated licensing system here in BC. It doesn’t take many mistakes to lose a license when you are a new driver, and every new driver has this excellent big green N sticker on the back of their vehicle (which is a beautiful… Read more »

Adrian
Adrian
6 years ago
Reply to  Nick

I think that N for new driver idea is very sensible. I’d never heard of that, but I wish the US would implement something like that. I think it would be a red flag to help the other drivers and the police to watch out for those rookie mistakes.

Megan
Megan
6 years ago

When I was a teenager, my parents bought a car that I could use. Their reasoning was that if they bought the car, it’d be safer and less cool than what I’d choose. (Which is probably true; I had a friend whose parents were in the “buy it yourself” camp who bought a salvage title 15 year old Corvette.) I had to pay per mile to use the car for myself, at the IRS standard rate. But if I ran errands for them, I didn’t have to pay for those miles as long as I kept track of them. So,… Read more »

Mrs PoP
Mrs PoP
6 years ago

In our family, it was laughable to think that parents might buy a car on our 16th birthday. If we wanted to drive, we shared the family car (which was as old as I was), but always were subordinate to parental needs on it. Mom and dad paid insurance to have us as secondary drivers on it, and since we weren’t out joy riding, let us use the family gas card to refuel, but that was it. They were mostly paying to free up their time from driving us to friends’ homes when we were old enough to drive. We… Read more »

kiki
kiki
6 years ago

Probably would have helped to LEAD with the fact that you live in a rural area (i.e. that you made a family decision that resulted in them having fewer options). It’s a totally different scenario then.

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
6 years ago
Reply to  kiki

Thank you for the suggestion. You’re right…being in a rural community impacts us in a way that wouldn’t if we lived in an urban area.

Carla
Carla
6 years ago

I don’t have children but my mother’s rule was if you want to drive, you buy your own car and pay for your registration and insurance. She also never allowed me to driver her car since she didn’t want to risk her insurance getting screwed up. Since full coverage insurance for a 16-year-old new driver in the early 1990s was about $250/month in California, there was no way I was going to drive until I was a an adult and able to fully support myself, even if my car was a dangerous beater (and many times it was until my… Read more »

Cherie
Cherie
6 years ago

really it depends on the lifestyle and family living situation Many families can’t afford to buy their kids a car, or pay the insurance – so that’s out My parents had one child and two cars – I was allowed to use their cars – they rarely needed both when I wasn’t in school – and I didn’t use it much even so – and they paid for everything I have three kids – the oldest just turned 16 and hasn’t even thought about getting her permit – weird right? But I’m planning to buy a used car, heavy on… Read more »

Mary
Mary
6 years ago

My husband and I are in the minority here. When our son (an only child) turned 16, the lease on my car was up and we bought him a car for his birthday. Yes, it was a new car and we paid for gas, maintenance and his insurance. It was understood that when I needed the car I got it and would drop him off/pick him up from school. We choose to get him a new car because we knew he would be going off to college and didn’t want him on the road in an unreliable car. Our son… Read more »

ncb
ncb
6 years ago

My parents opted for 1.5: They bought me a used car and made me pay for gas, oil changes, and general upkeep. (They paid the insurance premiums for me.) And when I was in a wreck, I got rides to and from work and school until I could pay the insurance deductible to get it fixed and running again. It worked well, and I think it taught me a lot, but I think it’s important to note that they were already financially squared away. If they didn’t have their ducks in a row, I would not recommend doing it that… Read more »

Laura
Laura
6 years ago

Er. I think the question in this post is strictly for those who live in suburban/exurban/rural areas and/or who are affluent enough to afford it. We live in the inner city and aren’t wealthy enough to buy DS (age 16) a car, so it’s a moot point. That said, when we were house-shopping 5 years ago, my #1 criteria after “safe” and “affordable” was “near public transit”. In part that was to allow DS mobility without us becoming his taxi service. More importantly, DS needs to demonstrate that he has a real burning desire for a car. It’s by no… Read more »

Cherie
Cherie
6 years ago
Reply to  Laura

agreed – no need for a car in a city with public transportation – when I lived in manhattan I never had a car – only bought one when we moved to the burbs – and I was a working professional long before that point

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
6 years ago

I wasn’t allowed to have a car (or drive the family car) in high school. I got my license at 16 but never had a problem getting rides. I also wasn’t allowed to have a job. My job was to take care of my (quadriplegic) mom and to get good grades. I didn’t start driving until I was in college.

I hate driving to this day. I’d love to live in a city where I didn’t need a car. I settle for having the shortest commute humanly possible 😉

Parent
Parent
6 years ago

@ Mary – you are not alone. We bought a new car for me when my son got his driver’s license and let him use my 8+ year old sedan. This was very useful for us as we have to drive him back and forth to school (not to mention everywhere else) as there is not a viable bus option where we live. Unfortunately he had an accident after about 3 months of driving and we just used the insurance settlement to replace the car with a very similar car. We let him know that this was his one “freebie”… Read more »

Erin
Erin
6 years ago

We are a one car household, and we live in a pretty urban environment. I imagine when my kids are old enough to drive that we will allow them to use the family car, negotiated the same way my partner and I do now-we go days without driving it. Many of my friends’ kids aren’t even interested in getting their licenses; they use public transit and bikes. I think it would be ridiculous to buy an extra car when there’s already one sitting there not being used often. When I got my license at 16, I could borrow one of… Read more »

Tonya
Tonya
6 years ago

I’ll probably come across as one who spoils their kids. When mine turned 16 they got to drive our other car (usually the van). When I got one in college and a second driver, I bought an old beater for the college student; younger one still drove the van. I made them pay for gas but did everything else. The oldest will graduate from college soon, and I will likely be buying a new car and having her buy the 2007 from me, at a good rate, of course. When we got married, my husband had a car his grandparents… Read more »

Alex
Alex
6 years ago

Well, I currently drive a new model Lexus and I’m selling it this year because I’ve had a change of heart. I have no plans on buying them a car. I originally thought that I would pass down the car to them and allow them to share it when the oldest turned 16 in 7 years. Instead I’m getting a Prius and will pass that on to them. Insurance and gas (if they can afford it cellphone bill as well) will be on them. We have already prepaid their college funds and my gift to them is first year living… Read more »

Tina
Tina
6 years ago

Both of my kids are driving age. Since my FIL passed away a few years ago(when my oldest was turning 16) he inherited his truck and we paid for everything as long as it was used for school. He had to take his sister to and home from school and had to pick up my niece from another school. When my daughter needs the truck, the kids figure out the schedule. Now that my son is about to graduate HS, we will need another car for our daughter to get to school. So we are planning on getting a more… Read more »

Juli
Juli
6 years ago

When my older sister got her license, my mom got a newer car and her old one became the kid car. Big sis wasn’t in a rush to get her license, so I ended up getting my just a few months after she got hers. We shared the car until she went off to college, and by then little brother had his license so he and I shared it. We had to pay for the gas, and our portion of the insurance. My dad did the oil changes and most of the repairs himself. All of us kids got after… Read more »

Marsha
Marsha
6 years ago

My 21- and (almost) 19-year-old sons commute to college in the same minivan we bought new when they were 9 and 7. They didn’t get licensed until 18, to save on insurance costs. We pay all the car expenses because we consider it part of their college costs. We made a deal with them years ago that we would pay 1/2 of college costs, and they would be responsible for the rest through scholarships, loans, and work. They each earned large merit scholarships and decided to live at home to save money, so we’re more than happy to pick up… Read more »

threadbndr
threadbndr
6 years ago

My son got his DL at 18 and inherited my late father’s car (with my mom’s blessing). It was a 1970s TANK – Olds 98 big block. His insurance and taxes were cheap (and were his responsibility). He paid for gas and learned to do his own oil changes. He still owns that car and swears he will restore it (or at least salvage and rebuild the engine someday. It even gave him the gift of a side job restoring old muscle cars.

Keri
Keri
6 years ago

My mother’s car was on its last legs when I crashed it two weeks after getting my licence. (The accident was completely due to my inexperience as a driver). She made the decision to buy a solid, three year old Corolla with 10,000 miles on it, with the intention to giving it to me two years later when I could have a car at college. I didn’t pay a cent for the car, but once it was mine, I paid for all of the repairs and gas obviously (my parents helped with insurance until I was out of school since… Read more »

DrB
DrB
6 years ago

We told our kids that they could get their driver’s license when they could pay for their portion of car insurance. Yes, this significantly delayed their obtaining a license.
They could have a car when they could afford one. Excited to say that my 19 year-old son purchased his car this morning — a 2003 PT Cruiser.

stellamarina
stellamarina
6 years ago

When it came to teaching the kids driving, I taught them all to drive a stick shift first…..in a big university parking lot on the weekend. It is amazing how many cannot drive a stick shift any more. They got to use the family cars if it was available once they got their license. They would help with the gas. When they came home from college at vacation time we now had to let them be adults and live their own lives…however we did not want them getting killed on our long drive around the island because they fell asleep… Read more »

Sally
Sally
6 years ago

I am definitely in the no category here. Have them learn personal finance with the car while you can supervise them, and instead, put the money you have to their college tuition.

A-L
A-L
6 years ago

I was fortunate that my family could afford to pay for my car expenses. When I was of age to get my license they got an old car (a diesel tank a year older than me) and paid for insurance and probably maintenance. I can’t remember how gas was handled. At the same time, however, it helped me to excel in high school. Both my junior and senior years of high school I took courses at the closest college, which was about 45 minutes away. I also was able to take on leadership roles in extracurriculars, because my parents didn’t… Read more »

Rail
Rail
6 years ago

My first vehicle was a 250cc motorcycle when I was 14. It was $200 bucks and dad gave me 50 toward the purchase. When I turned 16 dad gave me the 70 Chevy(family car) that was rusting out. I did a head job in the H.S shop and tuned it up only to have the tranny go South a month later. Parents had always raised me to work for a living so I never expected them to do a lot for me, Dad was good about letting me use his car for dates and such when I needed a car.… Read more »

first step
first step
6 years ago

My older daughter got her license about a week after she turned 16 because it helped our family for her to be able to drive herself and her younger sister to activities. At that time, she used either my or my husband’s car. A few months later, we bought a newer used car for my husband, and she started driving our 2002 Accord. Our neighbor pays her $20/week to drive her daughter to school, and that helps to offset the gas and insurance costs. Allowing for higher gas prices, with 3 cars/drivers, we’re spending less on gas than when parents… Read more »

Diane C
Diane C
6 years ago
Reply to  first step

I admit I’m rusty on the details, but IIRC, insurance companies frown on this practice. If there’s ever an accident (heaven forbid), you could be exposed to liability for providing “unlicensed taxi” services. Better to have the other child fill the gas tank periodically than to accept a set amount on a weekly basis.

Adrian
Adrian
6 years ago

I am REALLY struggling with this. My youngest son turns 16 on Thursday and I don’t know what we’re going to do yet. He hasn’t had driver’s ed yet (too immature) but when he does, we can’t afford to buy him a car (even a beater), there are no grandparents left to gift one to him, and we NEED our cars every day for work. I’m even nervous about letting him drive them, because if he wrecks one of them, we can’t afford to replace it. He would like to get a job, but can’t find anyone to hire someone… Read more »

Cherie
Cherie
6 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

everyone’s situation is different, and yes, sounds like if he wants to drive he’ll find a way – nothing you can do so no need to feel guilty about it – we’re in the situation we’re in – do your best and let the rest go

Nick
Nick
6 years ago

Truth is I’d be happy if my kids didn’t start driving until their awareness of mortality kicked in for real (which often isn’t until about 20). More than one of my high school classmates didn’t survive the first couple years of driving, and it was almost always for stupid rookie mistakes. And they took a couple others with them too.

Alcie
Alcie
6 years ago

Late to the party . . . but I find the concept underlying the “need” for a teenager to have a car to get to work, school, or activities to be an interesting issue, and not necessarily a given even if one is in an area where driving is generally “required”. When I was about 13 or so, my mother decided that she was spending too much time chauffeuring me (and my younger brother) to visit friends and do optional activities, since our friends were scattered pretty widely. She instituted the 2 rides (round trip) per month rule for each… Read more »

A Frugal family's Journey
A Frugal family's Journey
6 years ago

Interesting post…Our family devotedly listens to Dave Ramsey and believe we will eventually do what he did for his kids. I think it fits right in-between the three options you had provided. Dave Ramsey told his kids he would match whatever they could save up for a car (in essence, pay for half their car). We believe this is a decent middle ground that still teaches them the value of saving. Learning from Dave’s mistake, we plan to put a cap on the amount we would match as we don’t believe a teenager should be driving an expensive luxury or… Read more »

Big-D
Big-D
6 years ago

When my son was in High School, I purchased a late model truck with low miles and a small engine, stick shift that he could use. Here was the deal we made: * He had to do decent on grades, then I paid for insurance. If he dropped below 3.0, and lost the good student discount he paid for the difference. That was a difference of $200 for 6 months. * He paid for his own gas. * He had to tell me where he was going and when he would be home * He would perform and pay for… Read more »

dannymalt
dannymalt
6 years ago

Where I live the price of the car doesn’t matter much, it’s the high price of insurance that is the issue. I live in Ontario, Canada. If your under 25, and the primary driver of a car, your insurance could easily be over $400 a month! Even worse if your under 20. So you almost have to share the family car and be a secondary driver. If an “extra” car is bought so that # of cars is greater than # of parents in household, then that extra car automatically makes the teenager a primary driver of that car, and… Read more »

audi servicing birmingham
audi servicing birmingham
6 years ago

Interesting post Lisa. A car really is a child’s ticket to freedom so it’s hard to know whether you should do everything you can to aid that freedom or remind them the nothing in life is free. The decision isn’t too hard here in the UK- we don’t have things like Drivers ed, instead you have to take lessons that often cost £30 each and the test is over £100- with learners often taking about 30 lessons and the first time pass right not as high as hoped, you can imagine the cost! Here it is a case of “if… Read more »

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