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Buying kids cars

Buying kids cars

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.

See Also

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?

View Comments (8)
  • I’m solidly in the “no cars for kids” camp.

    A car is one of the great modern luxuries, and in high school, a symbol of status. If a kid wants that luxury or status, he or she needs to work for it and earn it. Giving your child a car is a great way to breed entitlement and a lack of respect for the work it takes to own and maintain a vehicle. If a kid works for his car, he’s going to appreciate and respect it much more than if it is a gift. He’s also going to have a much better understanding of the expenses and repsonsibilities that come along with owning a car.

    I’m not saying that every kid with a car will be spoiled or have no respect, but I do think it’s a real possibility and sends a bad message about work, money, and the pursuit of vehicular happiness. As a self-confessed car nut, I think one of the best things my parents did for me was refuse to give me a car. At the time I thought it was one of the greatest injustices in history, but in hindsight it taught me a lot.

    And you said that at 16 you received a 15-year old British car that didn’t run- are there any 15 year old British cars that do run? ;)

  • My siblings and I all had to buy our own cars, and occasionally received help from our parents for gas and repairs. They also paid our insurance as long as grades were up, etc. It can be a good financial lesson to require a child to purchase their own things. However, I think there is an argument to be made for buying them a car, or contributing to it if you can afford it. It would probably end up being more safe and reliable. If they are involved in activities, such as sports that prevent them from working and keeps them out of trouble, it would keep you from having to drop off and pick up so much. You can also require that they run other errands, etc. for you.

  • Where I am from, once I got to College, a car was not a luxury, it was a necessity. I’m from Northern Ontario, and there was no public transit, and while we lived in a town, it was a very small town approx 50km from school. With harsh winters and lack of people around, it was pretty necessary that I have car.

    My parents bought me my first vehicle. It was a non-operational, 600$ 1984 Mazda Truck. It was older than I was. Although they bought it, I put in the money to have it repaired to working condition, paid the insurance, the gas, and all other associated costs (including the 5 consecutive Sundays that it broke down and I had to have it repaired. By the 5th Sunday, I had roadside assistance on speed dial.)

    All of my friends had cars, all purchased by their parents, but they were all either hand-me-downs or clunkers that were really cheap and terrible. I guess it depends on the necessity. Living in Toronto now, I wouldn’t buy my future kids a car because public transit is probably better than driving here. I don’t think a car is a good “reward” or “gift” but rather something that should be looked at as an appliance to life, in some situations necessary, in others, not so much.

  • I think it really depends on the situation; if the child wants a car simply because its cool then I’m not going to buy the car for them. On the other hand if like in the situation one of the commenters posted about where they needed it to get around in northern Ontario; that’s a valid reason to help out and let the child have their own car. If you live in a big metro area that reason quickly goes out the window.

    When I did finally get my drivers license my parents let me borrow their car, they had two, when I needed it and that worked out quite nicely. I think I’m more likely to do this than anything else.

    I think that kids that have their cars purchased and paid for them don’t understand the full cost of owning a car. 10 or 20 years ago it was cheaper to have and drive a car, now that cost is becoming very significant.

    Have you considered the increased costs of owning a car in helping guide your sons decision to have a car?

  • I think our plan is to let the kids drive our oldest car while we get a new one. My parents let me drive the “farm truck” (a lovely beast of a truck with a constant smell of hay and cow) until I could buy my own car. I appreciated getting to take myself places but also had the motivation to earn a “nice” car by getting a part time job. We’re a few years away from this decision though so it may change.

  • If kids buy their own cars, there’s probably a larger incentive to keep them in good shape. Parents may want to help pay for the car purchase in return for the right to influence the decision of what car to buy.

  • We bought a brand new car for my son to drive – but it belongs to my wife. Therefore my son negotiates to use it, an we hav some control over his movements and activities. The other advantage of a new car is that we could get the latest safety features which we considered important while he is inexpensive. We also charge him for fuel, but we look after the rego and insurance.

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