So, you’ve decided to trust your child with the responsibility of owning a car. Naturally your next step is to check some websites for used car values, then maybe contact a few relatives or friends to see if you can get a good deal from someone you know. But there are a few things you should consider before you put your son or daughter behind the wheel of just any car.
Of course, the first thing any parent or guardian will consider is safety. Everyone makes mistakes from time to time when they’re driving, especially early on. Fatal car accidents have been reported around three times more prevalent for people under the age of twenty, so you definitely aren’t being paranoid when you consider every available safety option. Here are a couple recommended features to keep an eye out for when choosing a vehicle for your kid.
- Airbags (Should be harder to find a car without these, but still)
- Supplemental Restraint System (Side airbags)
- Traction Control
- Tire Pressure Monitoring System
- Electronic Stability Control
- Anti-Lock Braking System
- Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear View Camera
After looking over cars with as many of these features as possible, you’re probably now thinking about your budget, and whether you’ll be able to find the right car in an affordable, preferably used package. The answer is often yes, as long as you’re willing to be patient and do a bit of shopping around. You may have to sacrifice a feature or two for the sake of affordability, but that’s to be expected. If you have the money, you may feel justified in buying new, but due to heavily increased depreciation rates coupled with youthful recklessness, you may be better off with a car that won’t give you an ulcer if your child comes home with a dent or scrape in the side. If your kid is anything like me when I was that age, they might scratch the entire right side of the car on their way out of the garage for the first time, and if that’s the case, you’ll be thankful you recognized the value of used cars.
In order for your kid to use the gift that you’ve bestowed upon them, of course, they’ll need gas. Where that gas will come from is inevitably up to you. You can choose to give your kid a break, to let them remain a kid for a while longer and help pay for their gas until they get a job for themselves, or you can teach them that with great power comes great responsibility and that if they want the power of mobility then they’ll need to accept the financial responsibilities that come with owning a car. If you’re the one paying for gas, of course, the MPG is going to be of more direct concern to you. If you’re leaving that up to your child, then taking MPG into consideration is just the compassionate thing to do.
Yet another aspect that may directly affect you is the longevity of the car in question. If the car breaks down or starts to require heavy maintenance before your child has reached a certain level of independence, then guess who’s going to be paying for that? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The goal when it comes to longevity is to buy a car that will last until your son or daughter is financially independent enough to repair or replace it themselves. Make sure to check how many miles have already been put into the car, and to get an accurate report of its history. You can look online at how long certain brands are known to last, and you can always check up on how other cars of similar make and model have fared against the test of time to get a good idea.
Don’t Go Vintage
Some people enjoy spoiling their children, and while I’m not here to judge anyone’s parenting, I will tell you that buying a badass vintage car or otherwise cool vehicle for your kid is usually a terrible idea. Let’s be honest here, you’re already pretty cool for getting the kid a car, and if they’re not satisfied by the car that you got for them, that’s their problem to work through, not yours. Buying a vintage car will inevitably have you ordering rare parts online or paying someone else a buttload to do it for you, and keep in mind that your kid almost definitely doesn’t know how to drive a stick, which can be a harder thing to teach than driving is to begin with. If you’re up to it, I won’t stand in your way, but there’s a good chance you’ll care more about the car than they do, and that’s a tale told by many a disappointed dad.
Honestly, your best bet will probably look pretty boring. It shouldn’t be flashy because it will most likely fall victim to at least a couple minor mistakes, and it shouldn’t be too small, because let’s face it, those tiny smart cars don’t look like enough protection for your most valuable cargo. And if a car isn’t enough protection to carry your pizzas, then it probably isn’t enough protection for a human child either.
Out of everything we’ve gone over, the most important thing when putting your child on the road is making sure that they’re ready. While it may seem selfish for me to say, remember that when your son or daughter is on the road that they are becoming party to a worldwide social contract not to play bumper cars at 60 MPH. If they aren’t ready for the responsibilities of being a driver then people will be put at risk. I can’t tell you exactly what advice they might need, since kids are snowflakes of discord — each a being composed of a distinctly unique and different type of chaos — but you know your kid, and when in doubt, a solid speech on responsibility and the dangers of propelling yourself around town in a two-ton metal death machine will do wonders to instill a bit of caution in a new driver.