How are Others Managing Teen Driving?

Hello Wise Community!

My 17-year-old is scheduled to take their driving test next week. I'm trying to figure out a reasonable approach to their driving and am wondering what others are doing. My teen would love for their father and I to purchase a car for them to use as they like, as they think this is what most of their friends have. They do not have enough money saved to purchase a car themselves. I am trying to strike the delicate balance between supporting growth toward independence and discouraging an attitude of entitlement.

For context:
My teen is mature and responsible, with like-minded friends. They push themselves hard in school and participate in school sports teams. They work a paying job during the summer, but not during the school year. 
It is not essential that my teen have 24/7 access to a car. I can take them to school in the morning, and there is a bus home in the afternoon. It would be convenient for them to have a car during their sports season (Fall, which just ended) and for social reasons as their friends live quite far from us.
My family could afford a third car; however, I work from home and can be somewhat flexible in when I need access to a car. If our teen gets their own car, my husband and I would prefer to purchase it so it is a relatively new car with many safety features.
We have another, older, adult child in the home who shows no interest in getting their license, and who gets by using a combination of public transportation, ride share, rides from friends, and coordinating their commute into work with my husband as much as possible.

So, my questions for you:
What have your provided for your teen driver, and what do you expect from them?
What advice do you have for me?

Parent Replies

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Our kid profiles sound very similar to yours. We have a safe car that our 17 year - old can drive as a privilege, not a right. Few families provide free vehicles for their children in my kids' social circles. We reward safe driving, checking in with texts when arriving somewhere, are careful with freeway and night driving (more restrictions), and encourage practical getting around. Sometimes BART or the bus is just a smarter alternative. Also, college freshmen have restricted and difficult parking options, so you may be stuck with the car when your child goes to college. One more thing -- have you noticed how expensive your vehicle insurance will become with your new driver? It would be good to investigate this in advance. We were also late to the party in this respect as our eldest child graduated college before getting her license.

My daughter and I have shared one car for about a year and a half. We live near public transportation which both of us are open to using as needed. I generally use the car daily, and during the day she takes public transportation, rides from friends, or walks. In the evenings/weekends, she may use the car for school or friend activities. During the summers, when my daughter spends many days babysitting, she has priority for the car because she needs the car for that type of work. I pay her insurance and gas. We just had a funny situation this weekend when I planned to drive to the grocery store, and she planned to drive to the movies. I decided the grocery store could wait until the next day, so she took the car to the movies, and then wondered why we were out of eggs and bread the next day (ha ha).

We have four kids.  We added them to our insurance and they all used our cars when they started driving.  We didn’t have too much trouble working around our different schedules, but none of us needed to drive on a daily basis.  Our biggest issue was that we enforced the 11:00 pm curfew (required by law until one year or they turn 18) and one of our kids wasn’t too happy about that.  More often than not, she ended up getting rides from someone else, so she could stay out a bit later.  Now (two in college, two graduated), two don’t own cars, one was given a car as a gift from his grandmother, and one bought his own car and has his own insurance.

We're still figuring out the details, too, as my teen has only had his license for about 6 months, but so far we're making do without the extra car - given how much more we're now paying for insurance, plus the difficulty parking on our street, a 3rd card just doesn't make sense for our family. I work from home with a pretty flexible schedule, so he borrows my car when he needs to stay late after school and will miss the bus, to get to sports practices, when he's going out with friends, etc. I like that he has to plan ahead and "book" the car and be responsible about it. In exchange for using the car he has to clean it inside and out periodically, which I hate doing so that's a win for me. I don't think most of our friends' kids have their own cars, although I'm sure it seems that way to teens who don't have their own cars. :)

You are a very wise parent; go with your gut on this. Your child does not need their own car, and buying one for them could indeed lend too much to a feeling of entitlement. You can work out when, where and how they can borrow your car, set the rules, and stick to them. Also, they should contribute to gas for it. They can buy a car when they can afford to one so that they can appreciate its true costs and responsibilities. If you want to have a recent model car because of the safety features, by all means, get one - for yourself - and have that be the one your kid gets to borrow from you.

BTW, I think they are mistaken: in my experience, most local youth do not have their own personal vehicle provided by their parents. Our kid has a bicycle, ride-sharing, and rides from her parents.

Just FYI, we got our 16 year old a beater a few weeks after getting his license, and my insurance premium went DOWN by a few hundred per year because he became the primary driver of that car and just an occasional driver on mine. It also kept him pretty close to home :)