My teen wants a car, now what?

When the moment arrives, my first consideration is safety because research shows that teenagers have about three times as many police-reported and fatal crashes as adults. This is partly due to the fact that teenage drivers have recently passed their driving tests.

Safety immediately rules out the skorokoro unless it is a fairly modern one with safety features, like “Electronic Stability Control, Antilock Braking System, day time running lights, and airbags,�? says the study. Shopping around for a vehicle that is both safe and economical is the way to go.

Now that the key consideration is out of the way and your teenager is most likely not getting a hand me down skorokoro, the next question is what options are available to the parents for a teenager who wants a car.  

Caution – a teenager never wants a car, in their mind, they need a car.

There are really four options:

  1. Buy a car for them;
  1. Let them pay for the car on their own;
  1. Contribute to their savings to buy the car; and
  1. Use the family car.
  • Research insurance costs. Insurance for teenager drivers can be very expensive, but teenagers like adult drivers may qualify for discounts on premiums by completing advanced driver-training programmes.
  • Don’t forget fuel consumption. Along with the vehicle purchase price and safety, consider the car’s fuel consumption. Cars with good consumption are easier on the wallet — and the environment.
  • Encourage good behaviour behind the wheel. Teenage drivers have more trouble managing distractions. Teach them that sending text messages and using cell phone or other electronic devices and drinking behind the wheel endangers their lives, passengers and other road users.

A teenager’s request for a car presents a great opportunity to learn about needs vs. wants and generally about money. As tempting as it is, if the parents have the money, I don’t recommend the first option.

First, because a car for a teenager, in my books is a want not a need. Second, because the parents miss providing their teenage child with important money lessons. For parents who are struggling financially, the only option is for the teenage child to pay for their own car. It feels harsh, I know, but the last thing parents struggling financially can do is to make matters worse by adding on debt by taking out a car loan for the teenager’s car. The key here is communication to manage expectations. As the teenager approaches driving age, parents must sit down with them and explain their financial situation.

Let them know that, they will have to work and earn money to buy the car. This gives the teenager enough time to be creative in finding part-time jobs. The other option, for parents who are financially able is to help the teenager by contributing in some way to the purchase price. The other option is to use the family car under some agreed parameters such as frequency of use and costs of using the car.

For all the options to buy a car, I don’t recommend the purchase of a brand-new vehicle. Why? Primarily because cars are guaranteed to depreciate. Since there is a huge difference in price between a brand-new car and a used one, the money lesson for the teenager is the purchase of assets that can appreciate over time, not those that will undoubtedly depreciate. Many car manufacturers have certification programs that offer low-mileage vehicles that previously were leased or had only one owner. This option typically is more expensive than buying any used car but pays off in the long run with increased safety, reliability and resale value.

As with everything in life there are pros and cons to each of these four options.

Buy a car for them
Pros — This gives the parents the opportunity to pick a car that is safe and economical. This option allows the teenager to save money for something else.
Cons — Is this the best use of the family budget? Does this help the teenager to manage money better or not?

Let them pay for the car on their own
Pros — The teenager will fully grasp the whole cost of car ownership and learn the differences between a want and a need.
Cons — This requires careful planning to give the teenager enough time to get part-time jobs and save for the car. And careful balancing of working to save for buying a car and other activities that are important for teenagers.

Contribute to the savings of the car
Pros — This is a good “bridge�? between buying the car for the teenager and the teenager buying the car themselves. The teenager will grasp, may be not fully, the whole cost of car ownership and learn the differences between a want and a need
Cons — This may not give the parents the opportunity to pick a car that is safe and economical since how much the teenager saved will be a factor to consider.

Allow them to use the family car

Pros — The child has a longer time to save up money for their car. This is a privilege that can be removed.
Cons — The teenager may not fully grasp the whole cost of car ownership if they only pay for some expenses for use of the car.

Other factors to consider:

You might want to read about how children can learn about investments.