Buying Your Teen a Car: Is It Always a Good Idea?

teen-driversI can speak as somewhat of an authority on this subject because I have experienced the consequences of handing out cars with both positive and negative results. I have thus far supplied two children with vehicles which resulted in very different outcomes.

My oldest child is a girl and has always been of a practical and timid nature. She is very wise and academic and has a healthy respect for a machine that weighs thousands of pounds and enough gasoline to be considered a bomb. She thinks about such things and counts the costs. So, when she was about to turn sixteen I got to thinking about her having the ability to drive. My own grandmother refused to drive and was always in the position of begging rides from people over the years and I did not like the thought of that for my daughter.

Another thing that had me concerned was the fact that she had gotten into one bicycle accident, which really did not hurt her very bad at all, and she gave up the bike for good. I came up with the conclusion that she should take driver’s education and get her permit. She went along with this idea and enrolled.

Almost simultaneously my sister-in-law the principal who barely drove her car ten miles a day was trading in her ten year old car for a new one. She asked us if we wanted to buy it for a minimal fee because she was not going to get much for a trade in. It was a pristine car, a reliable one, and a safe one. She had all the maintenance paperwork and had kept it up to date from the day she bought the car. It was a no brainer.

My daughter was really enjoying driver’s education and of course she aced the written work. But then they began the actual driving part and her instructor was a man. He was the kind of guy who joked around with the kids and tried to be laid back. But my daughter told me he always had a travel cup with him and we both sort of wondered what was in that cup because he was so calm.

There were three kids in the car, one driving and two in the back seat. On my daughter’s turn to drive she was terrified but he kept encouraging her. Evidently about half way through the drive she almost came out in front of a large truck. She then proceeded to stop the car in the middle of the road and get out. She looked the instructor square in the eyes and told him that she was done and he needed to drive. Needless to say when we picked her up that evening the instructor came to the car, apologized profusely, telling us she had failed and would have to take the course over. We signed her up on the spot and tried again.

She passed the next time and began driving back and forth to school. Never did she deviate from the path that led from home to school and back again. But little by little her confidence increased and she is a wonderful driver today. I am extremely thankful that she can navigate her own life with confidence.

Now, my second child is a boy and not nearly as timid. In fact he was quite the risk taker which should have told me something from the start. And he was begging me to get his license from the age of fifteen. Of course by this time life had gotten a lot busier with my daughter driving about and getting involved with things for graduation and everyone else had an agenda too. It was kind of crazy so when he asked I thought it sure would help that he could get himself where he wanted to go. I also thought, well, I did it for his sister. I guess I could get him a nice used car as well.

A guest blogger from blogged recently about his experience, I think it is relevent, Jebedai shares: “I am here to tell you that it was almost the worst decision of my life. I am also here to adamantly state that just because one of your children get a car it does not mean the other one should automatically get the same privilege!!! Please heed my warning. You must take into account the disposition of the child and how responsible the particular child is. How are their grades? Do they do their chores willingly? Do they listen? Do they get into trouble at school? What kind of friends are they hanging out with? Delve deeply into the psyche of each child and take a good look. Sometimes it is hard to see but I should have.”

His grades were mediocre in some classes and great in others that he liked. He started projects or sports and wanted to give them up quickly but I always insisted on at least finishing out the semester or year. He had some questionable friends but it is kind of hard to tell at fifteen sometimes. And he had to be closely watched to complete any chores he was given. He was not mean and did not give a bunch of back talk; in fact he was the type of kid that grinned with a twinkle in his eye when he was doing something he knew better than to do. He had a tendency to make you laugh and often I would have to walk away to keep him from seeing. BEWARE of this child and for their good do not let them drive until they get much older.

Once I brought home the used truck I found, thinking it would be safe and hard to destroy, he turned into a different kid. He looked at that truck as if he had suddenly become an adult and was independent from everything. He used it as an apartment to entertain friends and get girlfriends. He let his school work slide and would often just get up and leave school whenever he had a notion. We would take it away from him and then give it back if his grades came up and he did his work at home. But the instant we did he was off and running again. He would not come home and would not answer his phone. He started running with some older kids without transportation. They used him for a ride and paid him with drugs. It became a nightmare.

We had to quickly regroup and reconsider but not before quite a bit of damage had already been done to our relationships. It also was quite detrimental to his life in regards to getting too much freedom too fast. We had to fight to get our relational positions back into place. It never got back to square one but we do have an understanding and respect for each other is falling into place again howbeit on a new level.

We ended up having to change schools in the end and get him caught up in school and away from some of his new friends. It was tough and he was not happy in the beginning but he did graduate and is happy about it now. But as I think how, if I would have used more wisdom, this could have been avoided. Perhaps not completely because of his predisposition to this type of behavior but I surely did not need to give him the key to the vehicle that accelerated these events. I know I would have been much more in control and aware if I was the one transporting my child from place to place.

Now I do realize that children can find friends who have their own cars and they can get into just as much trouble. But speaking as one with 20/20 hind sight I know that I wouldn’t give my son a car if I had it to do over again. I know that every child is different and have different maturity levels. I should have taken that into consideration, but I wanted to share my story so that you can have the opportunity to learn from my error and not make the same mistake with your child.

If you are thinking about buying a teen their first car please keep in mind the necessary maintenance for it, for example getting the oil changed, tuning it up, and in case of a fender bender, taking it for car body repair in London.

[About the author: Always curious, Ashley Hardway is constantly learning and passionate about sharing what she learns with others. Based in the Houston, Texas office of Morningside Nannies, she loves to help families grow stronger, help their environments and communities, and keep moving forward! Check out @NannyLady on Twitter to connect and find out more. Image]

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