When I was a kid and my older cousin turned 16, his parents bought him a sports car for his birthday. Except it was a Matchbox car. When I turned 16 myself, my parents bought me a car too. In my case it was a (very cool) 15 year old British car that didn’t run. I spent the next year buying parts for it so that my dad could get (and keep) it working. I did also help with the repairs, but am not sure how valuable my help was. In my son’s case, he has a car fund that he has been adding to over the past year that I match at 50%.

But I do know people who have gone out and bought their kids working, late model (or even brand new) cars for their 16th birthday. I think it depends on the kid, the car, and the situation as to whether or not that might be a good idea. For example, there’s a kid at my son’s school who drives a Hummer. I can’t think of a single reason as to why a kid might need to drive a Hummer. I’m pretty sure the kid didn’t earn the money for it, but of course I could be wrong. There are some kids out there who make a heck of a lot of money.

I can see pros to buying your child a car. For one thing, if you buy the car, you completely control what they drive. Safety safety safety. It’s a lot easier to steer them away from a sports car and into a tank when you’re the one paying. (Of course, you could do this anyway. After all, you are the parent, and they are not yet 18.) It may also be a matter of convenience. If your child has their own car and is in a lot of activities, then they can handle their own transportation. Parents can only be in so many places at once.

I can see cons as well. Kids that have a car handed to them might not appreciate it the way they would if they had had to work for it. They may view their parents as a magical money source. They don’t get to learn about saving for a large purchase or to have the pleasure and self-confidence that comes from finally reaching their goal. I think a lot of this depends on the kid though, and their previous experience with receiving gifts.

If you have a child, will you buy them a car when they turn 16? Or have you done so? Why or why not? Will you do anything else instead?