When Should You Invest in Your Child's First Car?
- Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Some of you may read about a first car and think, "I don't know of any way my kids are going to be able to afford a car until they're out of the house!" This may be the case, but here's an example that will make this topic even more important to you. Let me explain:
Not long ago, I visited Poland to present a workshop at an International Fathering Forum, attended by fathers from Poland and quite a few neighboring countries. While I was there, I learned about quite a few societal differences between Poland and the United States, and one was a real eye-opener for me: the average Polish kid doesn't get a car until he has finished his course study at the university and begun working full-time.
Even though I wrote this chapter for readers in America, where teenagers typically get their first car at 16 or 17 years old, I realized that even if people in our country took the same approach as Poland (and really most of Europe) in this way, there would still be great reasons for kids to learn about automobiles while they live at home. I shared with those fathers, kids need to learn about automobiles with the family car, not after they are out of the house. Parents need to teach their children about car ownership and upkeep, and not leave them to learn on their own! The Polish dads quickly understood and agreed. One even told me he was going to begin immediately with his two sons, teaching them how to change the oil in their car.
If you find yourself doubting that your kids will own a car while living at home, this advice still applies to you! Your kids need to learn all they can about your car. They need to know how to purchase insurance, tags and taxes, fill the car with gas, check the oil level and many other lessons that you need to teach them.
Get ready for any and every argument from your teenager about why he or she "needs" a car. Then, stay ready, because if you don't agree to that first request, it will surely be followed by another ... and another. Eventually, for whatever reasons, you'll start giving the idea some real consideration. It's a big decision that needs to be made carefully.
Below are eleven questions that you will want to think about, research, and pray about during this process—and you may have others you'll want to add to the list. Write down your thoughts and decisions about these:
1. Who will pay for the initial purchase of the car?
2. Who will pay for the maintenance—oil, tires, windshield wiper blades, engine repairs, etc.?
3. Who will pay for the gas? I grew up writing down my mileage on the odometer, the date, gallons and cost at each fill-up in a small notebook kept in the car. This method helped tremendously in tracking the dollars spent on gas. Here's another related question: Are you willing to pay for gas if your child uses the car to run errands such as groceries?
4. Who will pay for the tags & taxes? This could be very important, depending upon the state where you live.
5. Who will pay for insurance? This is a huge consideration. Insurance premiums alone could help you decide the kind of car that you purchase. Adding a teenage driver to your insurance could raise your premiums by up to 200%, so make sure you check on good student discounts and what the stipulations are for that program. Another must when your kids begin to drive is to add an umbrella liability policy to your coverage. Their own safety is your biggest concern, but from an insurance perspective, the largest risk when your children begin to drive is the possibility of them injuring someone else. An umbrella policy will significantly reduce your risk, for only pennies on the dollar.
6. Who pays for violations—speeding, parking etc.?
7. Who pays for accidents?
8. Who is allowed to ride in the car, and how many at a time? What other activities are forbidden for your child while he/she is driving? (Listening to music? Talking on a cell phone? Eating and drinking?)
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