Nov 17, 2010

Buying Your Child a Car (Janssen)

As far back as I can remember, my parents made it clear that they would not be buying me or any of my siblings a car when we got our licenses. If any of us wanted a car, we'd have to buy it ourselves.

In December of my senior year, the inconvenience of me not having a car (and having early morning seminary, school, daily play practice, and a part-time job) changed their minds. They bought me a car. It was a 10 year old car and it. . . .was not a great car. In a year, they probably put more money into it than they paid for it in the first place. (Needless to say, I loved this little car with all the ferocity a seventeen year old can muster).

Eventually, about a year after I went away to college and the car became Merrick's main transportation, they replaced it with a much nicer, new little red Hyundai and that car eventually went to my youngest sister who still drives it.

When I was driving my parents' cars, they paid for the gas and I paid a small portion of my insurance. When they bought me my own car, I was now solely responsible for the gas and paid a slightly larger portion of my insurance.

Although I could have afforded a car, I never ever ever considered buying one because doing so would have cost the vast majority of my savings and I was unwilling to do that. Better to drive the minivan.

Bart's parents also said they wouldn't buy their children cars. To the best of my knowledge, all but one of their children purchased their own cars while in high school (there is one amusing picture I've seen of four of the children lined up beside their four cars along the sidewalk in front of their home). Bart said he wasn't, for a moment, willing to not have his own car. He saw it as a complete necessity.

Of course, buying a car, insuring it (as a teenage boy), and paying for gas meant that practically every dime Bart made went directly to the car. He worked three jobs his freshman year in college. He paid a high price to have his own car, including having no savings.

Because this is an issue that was such a big deal to both of us in high school, we have talked at length about what we plan to do as far as cars go for our children (seeing as our daughter just turned sixteen weeks old on Friday, I think we have some time).

Our plan (which we reserve the right to alter) is to buy a car that our children can drive when they turn sixteen. It won't be a particularly nice car, but it'll be reliable and nice enough that we don't spend a fortune on upkeep. They'll pay for gas and part of their insurance. And when they go off to college, the car will stay with us and become the primary possession of the next child. They'll have some of the financial responsibility for a car, but not such a huge burden that it prevents them accumulating any savings or forcing them to work an enormous amount to shoulder the burden.

What about you? How did your parents handle a car? What do you plan to do with your children?


Anonymous said...

My family got a "family car" when the oldest turned 16. I think it's much better for parents to "own" the car than for the 16 year old to own it. That way parents have more control over the car. I'm also not a fan of having the teenager pay for gas (if the oldest is doing shuttling around for the parents..why should they have to pay for it?) depending on where the teen is driving.

Then again, I'm not really a fan of teenagers have jobs outside of high school. In my family "school" was your job (and with all the AP classes and the tough high school we attended, that was a lot). It was taken pretty seriously too with my parents always involved in our schoolwork, etc... We also did after school activities and I think having a job from 4-8 after school or whatever would sincerely limit that. However, I did do some tutoring after school which made me some money as well as babysitting (in CA that earned you A LOT)--just not a "working at the local grocery store type of job."

Anyway, I guess I agree with most of your post. I think when our kids reach that age we'll have a "family car" and as long as grades are kept up we'll be paying for insurance and most of gas....

Melanie said...

Several months after I turned sixteen, my parents bought a ten year old stick-shift box on wheels that got amazing gas mileage. The mileage was so good that I could usually fill my tank out of the change that my friends and I could wrangle together. When I got ready to leave for college, they thought I needed a more dependable ride since I would be further from home so they bought a car from an elderly lady we knew and passed the old car down to my brother. It wasn't cool but it worked!

We will probably purchase a "family car" - something at least 6 years old with a stick shift and good mileage. My two daughters are only 20 months apart so that car is going to get a good workout, I'm sure.

Melanie said...

As I approached 16, my dad said that I wouldn't even be able to get my license until I could pay for the driving lessons (most everyone I knew paid about $200 for a 3 day private driving school rather than the months-long after school course). Eventually my grandparents agreed to pay for the school.

Again, my dad swore that I'd have to get a job and buy my own car. But then there was talk of buying my grandpa's car (he was a hazard to the road), and when that didn't work out, the idea of me having a car was so ingrained in my and my parent's mind that shopping for a cheap used car was pretty inevitable.

I ended up with a ten year old Ford Taurus that leaked power steering fluid. My parents paid for the car, my gas, and insurance, and I was responsible for taking over the seminary carpool and chauffeuring my brother and sister around.

I am fully aware that my parents provided A LOT for me - more than I deserved. I don't know that I'll let my kids have it so easy.

Ralphie said...

Mommy did buy me a car. I paid for the insurance and the gas. And it went to my younger brother once I graduated from high school.

I had a nice nest egg of savings by that time and once in college rode my bike EVERYWHERE. Which was the cool thing to do anyway.

Carly said...

My parents supplied old, used, rusted, working cars... that we all loved devotedly! I still mourn the day they sold "my" 1972 rusted olive green Datsun B210. Loved that car. I think they paid $400 for it, but it ran great and fun to drive.

I also was not required to have a job in high school (hello AP classes, sports, yearbook...) and so did not pay for gas or insurance. But I did feel very aware of my "debt" to my parents and didn't abuse the privileges. I got a job the last half of my senior year, after soccer ended, and (if I remember right) paid most of my gas at that point. I think this worked for me... I'm not so sure it worked for my younger siblings who were more inclined to take advantage.

I think my parents bought us cheap semi reliable cars more for their benefit than ours... my mom couldn't be the taxi driver forever sort of thing. I was VERY grateful.

Unknown said...

Our oldest bought his own car. We bought it back when he left on his mission. Our next child, who is driving, doesn't have money to buy a car, but we appreciate that he can do the seminary shuffle and bop around for us, so he pays some gas and half his insurance and uses his brother's old car. Works well. We're about to downsize to just two cars, and are looking forward to the break in gas, insurance and maintenance costs that will mean!

Me? I drove a ford maverick "three on the tree" and was never a person who cared about what a car looks like. Still don't.

Kimberly F. said...

I never had a car in high school, and it was a trial. I lived close enough to school to walk, so that wasn't a problem (although I would have dearly preferred driving).

I had a part-time job at age 16 (this was non-negotiable, 16 year olds in my family had jobs) and had to rely on my parents or friends to get me there and back. I could borrow one of my parent's cars if it was around and they didn't need it, but seeing as they both worked full time by that time, it didn't happen a lot. Mostly they took me to and from work.

I also had to rely on friends or my parents not using their cars for social engagements. It didn't always work, but I could usually borrow a car in the evenings since both parents were home from work by that time. I did not have to pay for my own insurance. I paid gas occasionally - if it was low and I had been driving the car a lot, I'd fill it up.

I'd like to point out that I wanted to buy a car, but my parents dissuaded me from it. I could have afforded it, but they said the money would be better spent on college. They didn't outright prevent me, but I basically couldn't have gone against their wishes.

During my second year of college, they bought me a car. That was a complete shock. By that time my parents were much more financially well-off and they decided it would be a nice thing to do. No real lesson or reason behind it. It was a brown 1993 or 1994 Honda. I drove it to and from college (Texas to North Carolina) several times, and once picked up my sister in New York City with it. It was a great car.

The car I have now I inherited from my grandfather when he passed. It should last many more years (I'm hoping ten, honestly). This all just means that I'll be lost when I finally do have to buy my own...ha.

Packrat said...

I didn't have a car until after I was married. I had to drive the family car.

For the most part, our children just drove one of the family cars. We always said we weren't going to buy our children cars or pay for their insurance, either. But, life happens.

Note: Having the car to drive was a privilege not a right.

Our son eventually bought his own car - against our wishes. (Not so much that he bought a car, but we were against the car he purchased.) He really didn't need one. Every other child in this town had one, so he thought he needed one too. Most of the time, he was able to pay his own insurance. (I don't get the people in this town. They buy their children great big four-wheel drive pickups.)

We gave our daughter our old Jeep when she left for college. Since she lived off campus and had to get to a laundry mat and grocery store, she needed a car. She also worked at a fast food place and often didn't get off work until 1:30 AM. Couldn't have her walking home alone at that hour of night.

When the Jeep died, we bought our daughter a Subaru which she still has. While she is in school, I pay the insurance. As soon as she gets a job, she has to pay her own.

Kimberly said...

My parents bought us a car to share and then sent it to college with us when my brother got a job so far off campus to make biking impractical in the snow. In H.S. we paid gas. In college we paid gas, insurance, and maintenance. Josh bought his own car and loved it. He says kids should have to do it that way. I'm not sure where I stand on the issue. Maybe we'll match money they save towards a car or something.

A note about working in school: I was not allowed (the whole school is my job thing) and when I got to college I would have really liked at least one job under my belt. I guess there is no perfect parenting style.

Karen said...

Actually, we (Bart's parents) did buy a car for the kids to drive (meaning Bart's older sister and brother). However, it didn't last too long, despite low miles. The engine blew a gasket (or some such thing) on the freeway during it's first year in our possession. After that it was history, and the kids made do with the family cars until there was too much competition. (Within a few years we had 4 to 5 kids all driving and living at home.) It was then that 4 of them bought their own cars. (Our oldest son didn't. He was in France for two years and when he came home, he continued to borrow the family car or walk until he got married.)

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Natalie Feulner said...

I started working toward buying my car at age 15 - I worked at the baseball concession stand for $5 an hour. I then went on to work part time at an afterschool program. I was able to purchase the car (from my grandma for about $2500) by the time I was 17.5. However, I was not allowed to get my license until I was 18 so I rode the bus to school in the morning and walked to work in the afternoon. My husband and I haven't really talked about this yet but I think it's important for children to raise money for their own car. They can later sell it to younger siblings if interested or take it to college.

Anonymous said...

I didn't have a car and I still don't. I learned to take the bus. I choose to live in an urban are and paid more for my house to have more walkable amenities. When I was a teenager I also lived in an area with good public transport. As an adult I bike to work. Good for me and good for the environment and way cheaper than any car.

Anonymous said...

Oh, also. what the heck is seminary carpool?

Brandi said...

I had to pay for my cars. My dad is an auto mechanic (which is amazing!), so my very first car cost me $350 with a $50 tow home. I paid for all repairs (which for me, meant cost of parts, my dad did the labor for free) and gas, they paid my car insurance.

After I moved to college, they continued to pay my car insurance for a while, and after a year and a half of starting my business, and paying my own way through college (with the exception of car insurance), they gifted me with my mom's '05 car. I honestly wasn't comfortable taking it, but my business requires lots of driving, and I've treasured it every day.

We will provide our children with a car so long as they have to pay for some aspect of it, and they better be either working or involved in extra-curricular activities. If not, I see no good reason for easy access to cars.

Camille said...

I'm surprised at the amount of people who had cars at their disposal when they were teenagers! It makes me want to show my mom all these comments and say, "See? Everybody else got a car! Not fair!" in my poutiest teenager voice :)

I walked a mile and a half to school everyday. I walked fifteen blocks to my part-time pizza hut job. I walked to my extra-curricular activities. I walked to my friends see a pattern here?

I also had to pay my own insurance, even though it was a rare occasion to get to drive. I was so sick of walking everywhere (especially in winter)that buying a car was the first thing I did when I got out on my own. Of course, I almost immediately put on about thirty pounds.
Probably should have kept walking :)

Ben and Summer said...

Your plan is exactly my plan. My hubby lived in a really rich area where all the parents bought their kids BMW's to drive to H.S. since the safety ratings were so high. I'm not OK with that, and I'm pulling for the idea of owning an extra family car that all kids who are of driving age can drive (when they live at home). Great post!

Kate Nally said...

My family handled it EXACTLY how you and your husband plan to. Our car ended up being my dad's old car (he FINALLY upgraded) and we were responsible for gas money and a portion of insurance - my parents felt it was important for us to learn to get in the habit of making insurance payments. However, I'm pretty sure my parents would chip in for gas if we needed it because school was our primary job.

Melissa said...

Once I had a steady job and had proven myself a decent driver with the family minivan, my parents agreed I could buy a used car. All expenses were halved; gas, insurance, and car payment. That way I was able to also save for extracurricular activities, such as football games, homecoming, prom, and grad night.

Stelle Courney said...

You know, your plan is good enough to work, since each and one of you will have to provide a share on some of their extra savings to pay for gas and insurance, in which it will be a lesser financial burden for all of you in the long run.

Angelica Emmanuel said...

Oh, why didn't they let you choose on your own back? They should've brought the car to a shop that could restore it! Well, I think they were just being considerate. It's just as well that they changed their minds.

Brittanie Holderness said...

Mmmm, thinking about it, a car can be a good gift for a kid. For one, it's an excellent test of responsibility. Let them drive the car, and they will be responsible for the upkeep and repairs. It's a little something to bring them joy, but more importantly, it would help them understand the effort required to handle such a large thing.