When I was 15, my dad died. When it was time for me to get my license and a car, my mom gave me my dad’s El Camino truck. My dad loved El Caminos; he would buy beat-up ones for cheap, refurbish them, and then sell them for a profit. The one I inherited was a beat-up one he had bought but wasn’t able to begin to fix up before he died. I took shop class when I was 16, and during downtime, we could bring in our cars for a car wash. I’ll never forget my humiliation when I brought in the El Camino, and huge, rusted chunks fell off when we washed the car. The El Camino wasn’t a good car to drive in the winter, so my mom sold it. She then bought me a beater Ford Escort, and I paid her a payment every month until I’d paid her back in full. Should you consider buying your kid a car? My husband and I firmly believe there are many reasons why parents should not buy their children cars.
1. Kids Need to Learn How to Earn What They Get
One of the reasons you shouldn’t buy your kid a car is because they need to learn how to earn what they get. Part of your job as a parent is to teach your kids responsibility.
Of course, you should provide for their basic needs, such as housing, clothes, food, etc. But giving them everything they want in life is not going to teach them to appreciate what they are given.
You could argue that they will have to pay for the gas and any repairs but not the actual car. Even with those financial responsibilities, it may not be enough to teach your kids that they get what they earn for themselves.
There is a saying that if you “give a man a fish you feed him for a day but if you teach a man to fish you feed him for a lifetime”. Applying it to this situation means giving your kid a car isn’t the best thing you can do for them.
2. They Need to Learn Patience
Depending on the type of car your child wants, saving up money for it will take some time. However, in doing so, she will have learned a valuable lesson. Hopefully, that patience will continue throughout her life so she doesn’t get into the habit of buying things on credit before she can truly afford them.
As an adult, I’ve had to wait for many things that I wanted until I could afford them. My husband and I didn’t even buy our first house until we were in our early 40s.
3. Buying Their Own Car Could Help Them Build Credit
Even though it’s preferable that kids save to buy their own car, some argue that a loan could work to their advantage when buying their own car. If they are responsible for making their payments on time, it can help them build their credit for future purchases.
Putting your kid in debt at a young age isn’t necessarily the ideal situation. For one thing, you will probably have to co-sign the loan. But perhaps it’s a better option than buying your kid a car and paying for it yourself.
4. They Shouldn’t Expect the Best
Many kids now expect that they will have the same standard of living their parents have while they are still quite young. These kids don’t realize that their parents have been working 10, 20, 30 years to earn the standard of living they currently experience.
When I started out on my own, I struggled, as many of us have. When I moved out, most of my furniture came from garage sales. Most of my clothes came from second-hand stores. Most of my early cars were beaters.
One of the things I remember most vividly about reading Michelle Obama’s biography, Becoming, is that Barrack Obama had a car in college that had a hole in the floorboard of the passenger seat. Michelle Obama wrote about keeping her feet far from the hole and seeing the pavement rushing past. Clearly, I had a similar experience with my dad’s El Camino, and many of you reading might have also experienced driving a beater car because it was cheap.
5. They May Not Take Care of It
Another one of the reasons you shouldn’t buy your kid a car is because many teens are not good at taking care of their stuff. If yours is one of them, do you really think it’s a good idea to spend thousands on a car for them?
Before shelling out a ton of money on a vehicle, consider whether or not your kid is ready to take responsibility for the car. Talk to them about changing the oil, filters, wiper blades, and other regular maintenance.
If it is clear your kid expects you to pay for repairs and give them gas money, you can certainly say no to the car.
6. Is it the Best Use of Your Money?
Buying your kid a car may not be the best use of your money. This is just one more reason you shouldn’t buy your kid a car.
For instance, you might be able to take the money and invest it for your future retirement. Or, pay down debt instead of buying your kid a car.
7. It May Cause Them to Study Less
If your child is given a car, it may lead him to feel like he is free to come and go as he chooses. This is especially true if you have not given him strict rules on when he should be home at night.
With too much freedom, your teen may spend less time on the things she should be doing, such as studying. This could cause her grades to drop and threaten her ability to get into a good college.
So, what do you think? Should you buy your kid a car?