Having the car talk with teens

Teenage boy learning to drive with his dad

Explain the true costs of buying and maintaining a car so your teenager knows what to expect and can be ready when it’s time to start driving.

Prepare for teens wanting to drive

The thought of your child behind the wheel of a car may send chills down your spine.

You may be able to put off this conversation because the trend to obtain a driver’s license is declining. Reasons include cost, urban living, and a license not being the “badge of being cool” that it once was.

If your child or grandchild has started to talk about owning a car or driving yours, it’s time to take this seriously.

Give a short car quiz

Teenagers want the freedom to drive, but don’t always understand the costs. Have them answer these questions when they start getting serious about wanting to drive.
 

  1. What costs are associated with buying a car? How much is the total?
  2. What costs are associated with operating a car? How much is the total?


Ask your teen to research all of the costs and make a list. You can check it and discuss it with your teen.

Check your teen’s car cost research

Make sure the list includes:

  • Sales tax, including both state and local, if applicable
  • Registration fees
  • Inspections, if necessary
  • Insurance premiums
  • Potential car repairs
  • Gasoline
  • Incidentals, such as a snow brush or money for tolls

This car conversation isn’t easy, and it may take the wind out of your teen’s sails. While a car may be a rite of passage to freedom, it can also be a rite of passage to adulthood. It’s your job to make sure that you’re the teacher.

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