Most parents, regardless of their income, consider providing their teen with a vehicle one of their parental responsibilities. But for the average consumer, the expenses that come along with having a new driver in the family can be daunting.
Whereas this is a time of excitement and newfound freedom for teens, parents can find themselves consumed with anxiety. They have dedicated their lives to keeping their child safe, and now that ability to control a teen's circumstances is fading.
If it's time for your teen to hit the road, there are a few things for you to consider that can help alleviate some of the stress.
Although your teen may have dreams of a shiny new model of the trendiest car out there, don't feel pressured to purchase a car that will break your budget. A solid used vehicle is a perfectly reasonable choice.
It might be a challenge to find cheap car insurance for a new driver, but there are ways to minimize the extra cost. Investigate whether it will be cheaper to add your teen to your policy or get them their own individual policy. You also want to see if the insurance carrier offers discounts for teens who have excelled academically or have taken certain driving classes.
Finally, you're not a bad parent if you ask your child to share some of the expenses. Meet as a family and discuss what your teen might be able to contribute to the cost of the car, insurance or maintenance. It is more than fair to set a requirement that the teen is responsible for paying for their own gas.
In choosing a vehicle for your child to drive, safety should be your guide. Something cute and sporty may be your teen's dream, but smaller sports cars won't keep them as safe as a larger vehicle and they can be more costly to insure. Look for smaller SUVs or mid-sized sedans that have a good safety rating with IIHS or Consumer Reports.
Also, look for used vehicles that include safety features such as rear-view cameras, blind-spot detection, collision warning or automatic braking. These features can increase the price of the vehicle but are a much better expenditure than cool rims or leather interior. If you do purchase an older car that doesn't come equipped with extra safety features, much of this technology can be installed on older vehicles for minimal cost.
Many states are implementing graduated driver's license programs that ease new drivers into the driving experience in phases. If your state hasn't made the transition yet, that doesn't mean you can't set some limits of your own.
Consider restricting the number of passengers your new driver can have in the car at one time. Even experienced drivers can struggle to drive safely with a group of loud teens in the car and distracted driving is a significant factor in new driver accidents.
Put limits on nighttime driving until they have a bit more experience. Night driving can pose challenges that a new driver is not prepared to navigate. Additionally, the hours after dark are when other drivers are more likely to engage in hazardous behaviors.
Strictly prohibit the use of cell phones in the vehicle. The dangers of texting and driving are sadly too well known with a quarter of all accidents today being caused by it. Be prepared to enforce this rule with heavy consequences if your teen breaks it.
Having a child of driving age can be the cause of both financial and emotional stress. You can alleviate some of the financial worries by making common sense choices about what kind of vehicle your teen will drive and by including them in financial responsibilities. Although parenting is never worry-free, you can mitigate that stress as well by choosing safe vehicles and setting boundaries designed to introduce your child to the road slowly.