The US ranks the third most expensive country to learn how to drive. Unlike other countries, most states in the US allow anyone aged 16 and above to start learning to drive. That’s a tender age to get behind the wheel – most 16-year-olds are still in sophomore year. Still, whether in high school or not, learning to drive is a costly experience for an adult learning to drive – not everyone jumps behind the wheel at 16.
Learning to drive is one expense, but what about the additional fees needed to save for a car? Below, we’ll look at the cost of learning to drive and the money a young learner driver needs to put aside to get a motor on the roads.
Learning To Drive
The first expense any young learner driver will have is learning to drive. Most young drivers are funded by their parents or by saving money from weekend jobs and holiday money over the years. The cost of learning to drive varies dramatically depending on which state they’re learning to drive in. Some states like LA and New York are notorious for being pricey states to learn to drive in.
The cost of a practical driving session is between $50 and $150 per session, depending on the state. In the US, a young driver must pass theory and driving tests before gaining that all-important driver’s license – classroom sessions cost between $30 and $180.
Buying A Car
By far, the biggest expense for young learner drivers is buying a car. According to Statista, the average cost of a used car now sits at $22,000 – a price most young learner drivers aren’t going to be able to afford on their own. Still, some small dealerships sell used cars for a fraction of that price, but they often come with a price – the need for more repairs and maintenance.
The option of leasing a car for a 16-year old is pretty much out of the question because of the need for a good credit score – although some young learner drivers are fortunate enough to have a family who is willing to buy the car for them. The best way to find a bargain is to visit multiple showrooms and shop around online. There are numerous online trade markets where people privately sell their cars.
But there are minor risks that come with a private sale – you can never be too sure that you’re getting a good deal, and there’s no security if something does go wrong as you would have with an established dealership.
Putting A Car On The Road
Those are the two primary initial expenses of learning to drive in the US, but keeping a car on the road rapidly becomes a lifelong expense. The first of those expenses is car insurance. Even though premiums should decrease at around age 25, insurance has never been more expensive than it is now for a young learner driver.
According to Quote Wizard, the average cost of insurance for a new driver in the US was $4,762 a year in 2021. That’s because learner drivers have less experience on the road and are statistically more likely to be involved in an accident within the first few years of driving. If a learner passes their test at the earliest age possible, insurance does tend to decrease before the age of 25 so long as there hasn’t been a claim since taking out the insurance policy.
Still, learner drivers can often reduce their premiums by adding experienced drivers as named drivers to the policy, looking for insurance tailored towards new drivers, or looking out for specific discount schemes like the Good Driver, Student Away At School, and multi-car discount schemes.
Naturally, if a young driver takes out a new insurance policy and has multiple claims within the first few years, the statistic of insurance reducing in price at around the age of 25 goes out the window. But that’s just insurance. There’s the cost of the license, which the DMV charges anywhere between $20 to $1,000, depending on the state. Then there’s the cost of registering the car, which can be between $8 and $225.
Running And Maintaining A Car
The expenses listed above are the initial and most eye-watering expenses involved with getting a car on the road. But it doesn’t stop there. Young learner drivers have to consider the cost of running and maintaining a motor. According to the AAA, in 2020, the average cost of owning a car in the US was $9,561 or $797 a month. That fee can be taken with a pinch of salt, considering that takes into account expensive car models and frequent long-distance driving.
The average cost of running and maintaining a car will include gas prices, insurance prices, repairs, and maintenance fees like servicing and car washes. It’s a fee that will likely reduce as the years go by and a driver becomes more experienced with fuel economy and driving, in general, that reduces the cost of insurance premiums. Plus, if a young driver buys a new car from a dealership, they tend to come with warranties and maintenance packages that make the first few years of driving cheaper.
Taking all that into account, a young learner driver should, on average, save $27,122 – but that’s accounting for the average cost of a used vehicle being $22,000. Realistically, a young learner driver can start to drive for a fraction of that figure with the right car and perhaps with a helping hand from the bank of mom and dad.