Pros and cons of teenage car ownership
I’m against people buying cars for their teenagers. It’s not because I’m from the develop-their-work-ethic-by-making-them-take-a-job-at-McDonalds school of thinking.
It’s because cars are such economic millstones.
The ‘‘should I, shouldn’t I’’ teenager car question is one I find people feel strongly about.
Sadly, I find I’m a bit wishywashy on the subject.
Sometimes, I think it’s a great idea. Sometimes, it’s not. It all depends on where you live, whether you are loaded, and the nature of the teenager.
First, a confession: My first car was a hand-me-down when I was a teenager.
I got it because I told my mum I was going to save up for a motorbike.
She was a nurse in a casualty department of the local hospital.
She’d seen what happens to people who crash motorbikes.
She gave me her car and bought a newer one.
It honestly wasn’t my intention to scare my mum into giving me a car, but the story provides me with a segue into the topic of safety.
By the time my mum gave me the car, she was sick of seeing me trolleyed into her casualty unit bloodied and sad (broken arm from rugby, awful random street-beating from gang and inadvertently stabbed myself while carving a stick down the ‘‘waste-ground’’).
Cars are a leading cause of teenager death.
So, if a teenager is going to be driving a car, their parents might want it to be a decent one.
And, rather than have their teenager waste valuable study time working shifts serving burgers to pay for a hunk of junk on wheels, I could understand them adding an extra family car for the teenagers to share.
Rather than give them one, however, I’d side with parents who opted to keep the extra car in their own name leaving them more control.
But my preference would not be to add another car to the family driveway.
Cars are depreciating assets which cost money just sitting in the driveway (insurance, registration, and maintenance). There are better things to spend the money on like savings, mortgage, rainy day fund or university account.
I’d have the teenager driving one of the existing family cars.
Parents who want their teenager to know the value of money, can require they pay a share of the running costs of the car, or maybe charge on a per kilometre basis.
Many teenagers are on the verge of tertiary studies.
Running a car threatens their ability to save towards their study costs. It also lifts their living costs early in life, which is likely to result in a bigger student loan.
Cars bring a sense of freedom to teenagers. I can still recall how much I loved my first car, and the range it gave me and my mates. But that was in the days before student loans.
I’d rather teenagers avoided the cash-drag of a car for as long as possible.
There are better things to spend the money on like savings, mortgage, rainy day fund or university account.
Sharing your car with teenagers can have a downside, even if it keeps the cost of their freedom low.