Comedian Jeff Dunham says people who buy new cars for their kids have it all wrong. 16 or 17 year old kids, he emphasizes, don’t need a new car–they need a bumper car. And he was talking about his own daughter! I totally agree! A kid does not need a new car! It’s mostly a want, either by the kid, or even the parent.
The closest thing to a legitimate sounding opinion I’ve heard for buying a brand new car for a kid is for safety, that new cars incorporate the latest and best safety features and it’s worth paying the extra money for better survivability in the event of a crash.
Maybe. But maybe not. I’m not convinced that the newness of a car has as much to do with safety as the make of a car. Think Volvo here—historically one of the safest cars available irrespective of age. I’m also equally certain that when human beings are feeling the itch to spend money, nearly any decent sounding justification can and will be used to support the decision, reason and logic be damned.
Five reasons why your kid does not need a new car
What are some compelling reasons for not buying a brand new car for your kid? Here are five:
1. Cost. OK, I admit that I didn’t even have to think about this one—but we should never overlook the obvious. Unless you’re searching for ways to spend money, this is absolutely one of the very best ways to waste a whole bunch. Cars, after all, cost a lot of money, and not all of it in the purchase price.
A new car will require greater outlays for insurance, ad valorem taxes (if you have them in your state), as well as maintenance and repairs. After all, you can’t put less expensive used parts in a new car, nor can you use a friend or backyard mechanic to maintain or repair it.
A good quality used car will save you money on all of these recurring expenses, in addition to the price of the car.
2. Humility. Most of us consider humility to be a valuable personal characteristic in a person, especially in our own children. But how is that quality imparted in a kid who’s about to get a brand new car?
A brand new car is virtually a counter teaching on humility; if it’s a trait we’re trying to instill in our kids, this is close to the worst way to make it happen. It would be difficult indeed for a teenager to not get a big head when showing up to his high school parking lot with a brand new car.
3. Future rewards and merit. A new car is one of life’s financial rewards. They’re something we buy for ourselves as a way of compensating ourselves for hard work, accomplishment and thrift. What has your high school child accomplished that warrants such a bonus? By giving them a new car, you’re separating rewards from merit.
Maybe this is old fashioned, but I think kids shouldn’t have a new car until they’re in a position to contribute to it financially, and in a major way.
4. Personal responsibility. This might be an expansion of future rewards and merit, but by giving a kid something for nothing, no lesson of personal responsibility is being conveyed by the parents. It’s one of the best examples of something-for-nothing—a message no teenager needs to learn.
In my experience (I have teenagers myself), I think most people tend to overrate their kids’ levels of maturity and responsibility. A car is one of the best—and last—opportunities you will have to teach them this lesson before they head out into the world.
5.Damage control. Now let’s get back to that bumper car thing! Jeff Dunham may have made this suggestion in jest (watch his Jeff Dunham’s Very Special Christmas DVD, it’s a real hoot!) but it’s really a serious point.
Kids WILL get into fender benders—many without rational or cohesive explanation—it’s part of the whole learning to drive experience. Do you remember what it was like when you first learned to drive? It’s part of the whole teenage thing! Would you rather that happen in a $30,000 new car, or a $3000 “beater”? And which do you think will cost less to fix???
Let kids cut their teeth on a beater, then let them have the joy of trading up as they gain more experience, responsibility and financial capabilities. Not only will you save a ton of money, but you’ll also be giving your teenager a chance to learn the satisfaction of personal accomplishment as he moves through life.
Can you think of other reasons why buying a new car for a kid isn’t a good idea? Or am I all wet on this subject?
(For more thoughts on this topic, check out Teenage driving: Should you buy a car for your kid? over at Car Negotiation Coach; it’s well worth a read!)