Once your teen is driving regularly, you may find that all the drivers in your family are jockeying for use of the car. Here are some of the questions and rules you'll want to review as a family so that these issues are settled fairly:
- When will the car be available for teen use? Are there hours (such as when you're at work) when it will never be available?
- Who pays for gas?
- Who takes responsibility for car maintenance?
- Traffic tickets should be paid for by the person who gets them. (The punishment for parking tickets should be the fine itself. You may want to suspend driving privileges if your teen is ticketed for driving violations.)
- The car is not to be lent to anyone.
- Your teen must report where he's going before he takes the car out.
What if your teen decides she wants her own car? To buy or not to buy a car is an individual decision, but remember: Too many students work 20 plus hours per week for the sole purpose of paying for their wheels. These are some of the same students who fall asleep in class and who have no time to do assignments.
While there's nothing wrong with expecting your teen to cover some automobile expenses, consider whether she really needs a 2,500-pound monster that's her sole responsibility to keep “fed.” You may want to suggest that she hold out and share the family car (or cars) for as long as possible.
If sharing the family car becomes difficult for logistical reasons, the two of you may decide that getting him a car is necessary. It's highly unlikely that your teen will be able to afford a car himself, so the two of you will probably have to collaborate on the financial terms. And as long as you are contributing financially, you still have some say over the car he'd like to buy. If you're purchasing a used car, have it checked out by a mechanic so you're sure it isn't a clunker.