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Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Teens' Cars
Our 19-yr-old son wants his own car even though we let him use the uncool family mini-van. Our requirements for owning a car are: must have a part-time job at all times while away at school and at home (full-time while home even better) to pay for gas and all maintenance. We'll pay the insurance. And we'll help pay for half the car (and we have input into what make/model). The problem is he doesn't have a job this summer and not enough money saved to pay for half the car (although he is close). And we figure he must have at least $1000 saved after the car purchase for potential major repairs with a cheap used car. While he has applied to many places for a job, let's just say he is not exactly the most ambitious kid. But he still wants a car. We are willing to put up with the complaining and stand our ground. Are we being reasonable? Anon
I don't know if you really need the $1000 saved up for repairs; I've had to buy clunkers and never did that. And if the car breaks down and he doesn't have enough for repairs, well then, that will be another great life lesson. natural consquences are ideal
Our daughter is just finishing up her freshman year in college (I'm actually heading to the airport this afternoon to pick her up!). We have a discussion taking place about whether or not she should have a car when she returns to school in the fall as a sophomore. She is 19 1/2, a very responsible, solid, trustworthy kid, never gets high, never drinks (and I'm not being naive here). She goes to school at a small liberal arts school tucked on the corner of a small rust-belt community in the Northeast. Getting into her little town is an effort, getting into her little town to get the bus to the nearest big city (Philly, NYC) is an effort, and she feels isolated and trapped at school. Is that enough reason to get a car? She's a big-city kid at heart and really wants a set of wheels. In the absence of a car, she's gone so far as to talk about transferring, which really speaks volumes about the extent of her feeling trapped. I suggested looking into Zipcar but it's not on her campus and she is not the kind of kid to rally the troops and petition the administration. So, here goes: Is it safe for my kid to even have a car all the way on the East Coast? Will it enhance or diminish her college experience? Will it separate her from campus life even further? Does that matter if its what she feels she needs to be happier? How do we manage the expenses of a car? Other pros and cons? What kind of say do we even have in this whole situation? She is coming home to a job and can put XXX number of dollars into the purchase, and we would make up the difference to make sure she has a safe car (whatever that means), and then we'd have to figure out the rest of the finances from there. She's a good driver and a great kid, and I want to help meet her needs here, but I am worried about this whole idea on many levels, most especially the safety aspect. If you've been through this with your college kid, I'd love to hear your experience or advice. Hard to let go in some areas, driving being chief among them
Beyond that, all her reasons for wanting a car seem perfectly reasonable. I had a hand-me-down car starting about age 17, with far fewer good reasons (and did fine).
To me, the bigger issue is who is paying for what, and what lessons you want her to learn from this around saving money, taking responsibility, taking a workshop on basic car maintenance, being clear about who is paying for repairs, etc.
I recently gave my daughter, now 22, my old car when the one she'd bought completely conked out. We had a number of issues with the car needing repairs, so I'm reminded that it's good to talk about who will pay for those (I felt more responsible since I'd given it to her, whereas when it was the car she'd bought, I didn't). Also, I noticed my daughter, while hypervigilant about oil changes, was pretty casual about driving off with a nearly flat tire, check-engine light on, etc. That's why I mention a workshop on car maintenance, and talks from you about not putting off needed repairs.
But I think you're off the mark on the discussion of whether she should have a car. That's between her and her savings account balance.
Here's another thought: Can you give her money to call taxis to get to the train or bus station? Gotta be cheaper than a car.
If she has friends at college, and people to live with, and her grades are fine, I wouldn't worry too much about her leaving campus a couple of times a month to go to the city. Best of luck.
You are smart to wonder if having a car will enhance or diminish her college experience. It could reduce her incentive to get involved with what the school has to offer, leading her to feel even more isolated.
My son is also a good driver and a great kid. Nevertheless, there is no possibility he will have a car at college (even though you can't prevent her from owning a car, legally, as a practical matter you definitely can as long as she is your dependent.). Safety is a huge concern. Is she experienced at driving in the snow? Does she understand car maintenance (when to service? when it needs an alignment? what to do when it breaks down? what to do when she has an accident?....) Even if she were to put her summer earnings toward a car, that is just the beginning of the costs. Think: insurance, maintenance, repairs, annual registration, gas (!), traffic tickets, parking fees, etc. How many hours she would have to work at a low paying job just to support the car? That is not how I want my child spending his time right now.
But all this being said, the worst part of the car discussion is that it distracts you and your daughter from the more pressing issue of whether she should cut her losses at her current school. My son, also a city kid, loves his small liberal arts college in the middle of nowhere in the east, but it is definitely *not* for everyone! Mother of SLA college student
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