Should You Buy Your Kid a Car in High School?


Posted By Gaby

This, like many of our arguments, stemmed from a conversation on our way to a family gathering. Yeah, we’re out of town frequently, and at least ⅔ of the time we’re with family.

Eric recently lost the love of his life, his Celica, in a freak flooding accident that left his car dead in a pool of rainwater. After a considerable mourning period, Eric realized that his days with Celica were over and he purchased a reasonable, yet boring, SUV. It has hubcaps and no 6-gear standard transmission. Rav4 will never occupy the place in Eric’s hear that Celica did. Never.

So, as we’re making the trek to King City in our new Rav4, we were talking about how car payments suck and how it’s very likely we’ll have to start another car payment for another family car once this one’s over. I commute and did I mention we travel a lot? Eric continued the discussion by saying that by the time we’re done with the future car payment we’d be buying a car for Chinchilla, which stopped me in my tracks.

“Whaaa?” I yelled in disbelief, mouth agape for effect, which was unnecessary since we were driving in the dark. “No…we won’t be having a car payment because Chinchilla will still be in high school and there’s no way in hell I’m buying a new car for a high school kid!” Eric made his points, which some would argue were good points, but I was still sticking to my guns. And I still am.

Eric will charm you with his runner’s calves and charming yet douchy personality, but you will listen to me:

He. Is. Wrong.

Kids shouldn’t get new cars, no matter how good they are, even if it’s just a Kia (no offense, Kia owners). Buying a car for a high school kid that will commit you to a 60-month payment plan is not a good idea in my book. This is the time for us to teach our kids about appreciating the things they have and helping them learn to take care of things, and by getting them a new car, you’re telling them they can get whatever they want, whenever they want. Not to mention that they’re just learning to drive, why would you give them a brand new car to fuck up? I mean, hell, I really shouldn’t be trusted with a new car and I’m a grown-up!

When I went to school, I didn’t drive, but I had friends who did. I had a friend who bought his own car and paid for his driver’s training. And I had a friend who got a car from his parents. The one who bought his car took care of it—he saw the value of it. My friend who didn’t? He did ridiculous things with it and had about 6 inches of trash in the back seat. I really believe that if my friend who was given the car had to pay for it, he would’ve cared for it. I want my kids to understand the value and the significant responsibility of owning a car. Buying them a new car won’t be the way.

Eric argued that if Chinchilla is a good kid with good grades, then we should reward her with a car. Again, I gave him another anecdote of a friend with a car. She was a good kid, but had an older boyfriend. Once she got her car, she drove out of town to be with her boyfriend, ditching class. You really want Chinchilla to be doing that with your payment-plan Yaris? I realize that kids will do what they do, new car or not, but cars are like Red Bull to kids. (It’ll give you wings? dah dun tsh!) Let’s try and keep control of our kids for as long as we can.

Look, I’m completely fine sharing the family car with my kid because it gives me some control and it gives them an opportunity to demonstrate responsibility. I’m not even against helping my child buy a car if she has saved money and will be helping cover the costs of owning a car. And when she’s in college and needs a car, then we can explore the possibility of buying her a new car. But not in high school. That’s just crazy talk.

Posted By Eric 

Cars for Kids sounds like a government program Obama should start! Obviously, I am pro cars for kids but not for all kids. I want to show my kids if you work hard in life, you will be rewarded. Yes, sometimes you work hard and get nothing *wah wah.* But if my daughter is doing well in high school and is on track for college, I would like to reward her with a car during her senior year. I am not talking about a BMW but maybe a Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic. Maybe even a decent used car would work. The vehicle should last them from senior year to the end of college. So I am thinking around 5 to 6 years. Because I can tell you one thing, I sure as hell am not driving my kids to and from college like my wife’s parents did.

See, because Gaby did not have a car, she had to hitch rides with her uncle at 5am. If that was not possible, her father or mother had to take her to college and get her there before class started. Often times she would wander the campus between classes because she had no dorm and no car. That is ridiculous. In all fairness, her parents didn’t have the money to buy Gaby a car at the time. Once Gaby was in her third year of college and money became available for my in-laws, they bought her a car. I am sure that if Gaby’s father could have, he would have bought Gaby a car in high school because he knew Gaby had a good head on her shoulders. She got good excellent grades and she was very trust worthy.

Like I stated before, only if my kids are doing well will they get a car. Minimum requirements: a 3.5 grade point average unless they are active in a school sport or important extra-curricular activities. (Drama and band do not count.)

If they are active and involved, a 3.0 GPA is okay. On top of that, I will evaluate my kids individually to see if they can mentally handle a car. If my kid rolls with a bunch of tools, no way in hell is he going to use one of my vehicles. Gaby used a couple examples of good kids who went wrong once they gained access to a vehicle. Yes, that happens. But she also had a few friends that went to college and became party animals and dropped out. So should we not send our kids to college now, too?

Getting a car puts your kids in a position of responsibly— it’s one of their first life tests. They either sink or swim. With or without a car, some kids are going to make bad decisions regardless.

I don’t want to parent in fear. What if my daughter gets into an accident while texting? What if my son gets hurt playing a sport? You can jump on MSN and they will tell you 99 things you should not do as a parent. What did parents ever do without MSN 20 years ago?! I follow my instincts and my instincts tell me to reward good behavior and accomplishments. I believe in paying my kids money for goals and assists in sports. At work, when we do good work what do we want? Money! Yes, you probably love your job but nothing can make your day like a pay increase. It motivates you and keeps you hungry. I think motivation is a powerful tool and I want to make sure my kids are taught to stay fully motivated. And if the thought of a new cars gets them to hit the books and work hard, I am willing to pay out.

And no, you can’t be my kid. Tryouts are once every four years.

[polldaddy poll=6882198]

4 Responses to “Should You Buy Your Kid a Car in High School?”

  1. wtg22

    Hey now, don’t knock the Kia! We love our Sorento! (Even though they totally spell Sorrento wrong.)

    While I appreciate Gaby’s argument about appreciating the things you have, and while I agree that a brand-new car is not necessary for a high school kid, I have to side with Eric on this one. I don’t know if I’d buy Lucas a car just for good grades, but I think I’d have to be the total package kind of a deal. Like, you’ve been a trustworthy, responsible person who’s worked hard at school and is involved in activities…you deserve a car. However, the bigger reason why I’d buy him a car would be to teach him responsibility. I might have him pitch in and pay for his insurance, for example, if he has an after-school job. I would want him to understand that just because he has a bit more freedom now, he still needs to respect our rules. If he breaks them, we take the car away.

    And in California, not having a car pretty much means you can’t do shit. I do not want to cart my kid around after he’s got his license and when he’s in college.

    Now, I have to say, I didn’t have a car in high school, but my circumstances were different. I knew I was going to college in New York City (I didn’t apply anywhere else, nor did I intend to apply anywhere else.) I carpooled and I borrowed my mom’s car on days I didn’t carpool (she would hitch a ride to work with a coworker who lived in our town). And when I left for college, I, like every other New Yorker, used public transportation. If we lived in an area with good public transportation, I would be telling my kid to catch the bus, the Muni, the subway, the T…whatever’s clever. But we don’t, so a car will have to do!

  2. alex

    Personally, I think we should be teaching our kids to take care of those things as soon as possible. Based on how your kid treats their belongings, you’ll be able to gauge if they are ready for a vehicle or not. I agree with Eric on this but I would probably buy them a good used car instead of a brand new one. I mean, if your kids get good grades but tend to be irresponsible about certain things then I’d think twice about it but if they have a good head on their shoulders, why not?

  3. JONELLE garofoli

    I have an almost 3 year old and a 16 month old. As long as he is doing well, earns the car and works to pay for his own gas, by all means, take yourself and your little sister to school. I never had a car and HATED relying on rides from people because BOTH my parents worked. It sux as a kid not having that availability when needed especially since I played sports and was very active in clubs throughout highschool

  4. Robert

    I’m going to have to agree (to an extent) with Eric on this. (sorry comadre!) As long as your child meets all of the requirements (ie grades, sports, responsible, etc) and if you have the ability, a car is not a bad idea. However, I would never EVER buy them a new car. It would definitely have to be used. That car will be beat to hell. So, a used Civic or Corolla is not out of the question. And as parents, you always have the option of bringing your kid right back to earth if they start slipping. No car for you! (for a week or whatever).


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