Aaron Widmar
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When Should a Teen Own Their First Car?

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When your child’s old enough to drive, they’re going to start bugging you about getting their own car. As a parent, you have to decide what’s best for your child — and that means you have to choose whether your child will get their own car at 16 years old or wait until later.

Should a teen own their first car immediately when they get their license at 16? Or is it better for them to wait a few years? Here are some factors to consider when making your decision.


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Ask these questions to decide if your teen should own a car yet


Who will pay for it?

Just because a teenager thinks they deserve a car doesn’t mean it’s your responsibility as the parent to pay for it. Apart from the initial purchase expense, there are still insurance, gas, and maintenance costs. Whose wallet will that come from? If your child doesn’t have a job to pay for their own car bills (including car insurance), you shouldn’t feel obligated to pay their bills for them.

A great solution is that if your teenager is willing to get a job to pay for a car (or pay you back for it), only then can they obtain a car. Have them pay the costs to reap the benefits and learn responsibility.

How important is the car?

Buying, insuring, and maintaining a car are major expenses, and if your family doesn’t have the room in the budget to afford another car, you need to decide if the need for another car is important enough. Just because your child has their driver’s license doesn’t mean they deserve their own car.

If your child needs to get to their part-time job, they will need their own car. However, if your teen just wants a car so they can drive himself to school or band practice, that doesn’t necessitate owning a car. Public transportation, school buses, and carpooling with friends are still solutions. And if your teen does occasionally need a car, you can lend yours.


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How trustworthy is your child?

It might be hard to admit, but your teen could be too reckless to responsibly take care of their car (hence the higher insurance premiums). If your child has a history of impulsiveness and bad decisions, you have to make the call as their parent.

You could wait until your child is a legal adult to obtain a car without your involvement. Even a couple more years under their belt can increase their maturity substantially.

Could you afford an accident?

Statistically, your child is very likely to get into a car accident as a teenager, even if it’s just a minor fender bender. Although your teen might relentlessly promise that they won’t, they’re still getting used to driving a car and are going to make mistakes.

Instead of hoping that your child will never get into an accident, crunch the numbers to see if your family’s finances could survive one. That will give you a better idea of how big of a risk having a car would be.

If your teen really needs a car and has proven their responsibility by getting a part-time job to pay for it, they should be allowed to have a car at 16. But if you’re concerned about the risk or expenses, a car might not be necessary right away.