When Your Teen Wants a Car
There's a great probability that, sooner or later, your teenager is going to want to have his own car. The question is, will you agree to let him have one?
Let's dispel the notion right up front that every teenager needs to have his or her own car. Plenty of kids do just fine without a Jetta of their own. They walk. They keep riding their trusty bikes. They skateboard. They take a bus. They bum rides from their friends (and that's another issue), or from you.
Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the brothers who host National Public Radio's Car Talk, polled 5,000 listeners a couple of years ago on whether or not a 16-year-old should have his own car. Sixty-seven percent of those listeners answered with a resounding “no.”
We all know, however, that plenty of kids do own cars. Check out any suburban or rural high school parking lot. Chances are that it's filled with students' cars. When contemplating whether or not your child should have one, consider these points:
Remember that buying the car is only the first expense. Fueling, maintaining, and insuring a car is expensive business, too.
Does your teen need a car, or just want one because all her friends are getting them? If she goes straight from school to her job at the assisted living center every day, and right on to her dance lesson after work, then it may make good sense for her to have a car. If her primary motivation to getting one is to load up her friends and cruise around on Saturday nights, however, she doesn't need a car.
Is your teenager responsible enough to have his own car? We'll discuss this at length in the next section.
Will letting your son or daughter get a car make your life significantly easier? If your child's school is 20 minutes from your house and you're making two round trips a day, you're spending a lot of time as a kid chauffeur. Letting her drive herself to school could take a lot of pressure off your schedule.
Is there money available to buy a car? Even used cars can be expensive. If buying a vehicle is a strain on your finances and your teen doesn't have money to pay for a car, postpone the purchase until she can buy it herself, or your financial position improves.
Carefully considering these questions, and discussing them with your teenager will get you started in deciding whether or not he should have his own car. Be sure to read the next section carefully before deciding whether he's responsible enough to own a vehicle.
More on: Teen Driving
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Personal Finance in Your 40s and 50s © 2002 by Sarah Young Fisher and Susan Shelly. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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