This post is for a dear friend who, although we were classmates, decided to stay young by having kids later in life. He thinks me surviving teenagers has somehow made me wiser. It has, at least, made me experienced.

His question: Is it a good idea to give a freshly licensed driver a car? Explain.

We could not afford to give our kids a new car when they turned sweet sixteen. It was probably best. Our strategy was to hang on to the old family jalopies for the kids to use. Then, when they were older teens and had matured, we helped them buy a first car.

Here are some fun facts we picked up from our household teen drivers:

  • If deprived of oil, a car will revolt by throwing a tie-rod.
  • If a water pump goes, yet a teen decides to ignore instruments and press on, a car—even a Jeep—will commit hari-kari by twisting its own innards.
  • If a small car stalls and is left overnight on a remote farm to market road, a redneck will try impress his buddies and back over it with his monster truck. (And now a moment of silence for the game little Honda Accord that had over 200,000 miles, but couldn’t survive the third kid.)

Knowing a teenage child is out driving on his or her own causes anxiety for sleep-deprived parents. It revitalizes the prayer life. I don’t know of a cure for the worry, but perhaps the following suggestions will ease the stress.

  1. Every child is different, but I think it is a universal principle that kids learn to take better care of things they have to work for and pay for. Sharing costs seems like a good idea. (Don’t worry—there will be plenty to share.)
  2. Teens are easily influenced by peer pressure. Most are immature and will inevitably make some bad choices. Bad choices with a car can be fatal. (In fact, cars are a leading cause of death among teens.) Start by carefully governing use.
  3. A car can present an awesome teaching tool. Granting expanding freedoms as a reward for obedience and wise choices will help develop personal character. When independence is granted too early and all at once, what is there to look forward to?

Every family situation is different and I don’t claim to have all the answers. But perhaps what Mary and I learned might help as you think about this important question.

McNeely & McNeely CPA Newsletter

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