Parenting, Abington Style: What should a teen driver drive?

Parenting, - Abington style - Adriane Heine

The question comes up for nearly every parent of a teenager. Should a third car be added for the new driver’s use, or should you stick with the cars you already have, making the new driver ask to borrow your car? If the answer is affirmative, should the teenager buy the car himself, should it be a Sweet 16 gift, or should it be another one of mom and dad’s cars, an addition to the family fleet?

With a soon-to-be- 17-year-old who has been licensed for six months, this has been a hot topic in my household this year. Initially, I thought we would not add a car. I liked the idea of my daughter having to ask to use ours. The costs associated with a third car seemed insurmountable, and I wanted to keep her humble, her behavior dictating her privilege to drive.

Then I realized how convenient it would be if she had a car. No more daily drives to and from school, practices, her job and her friends’ houses. In addition, she could take on some of the carting-around of her younger siblings.

She had worked hard to save up, and her hope was that she would buy herself a car. While I considered her motivation honorable, it didn’t take long scrolling through to show her just what her earnings could not afford.

We ended up sharing the purchase price for a used car in decent condition. She was to pay for her own gas and pitch in on the insurance. Looking back, I see how naïve I was.

First of all, our new driver got her license in late November and we all know what this winter was like in our area. Our budget had not been enough for all-wheel-drive and, despite our best efforts, she was caught out on slippery roads numerous times. Luckily, her crashes were only into snow banks, and the only injuries were to her ego.

New drivers are inexperienced, and until they get hundreds of hours of driving time behind them, they will have minor mishaps, even without snow or ice. Take backing out of the garage, for example. Luckily, the molding around a garage door is not as expensive as it looks. One thing we did do right was not spend a lot of money for a shiny new car. Not only did each new ding and scrape not send us over the edge, but the cost of insurance is significantly lower when the car isn’t worth much.

When the car is “shared,” paying for the repairs due to these minor mishaps is not a perfect science. In addition, the tires that seemed fine when the car was purchased in good weather suddenly needed to be exchanged for hearty snow tires. I soon realized it would not be possible for my daughter to afford to keep up with all of the costs involved. We had projected and planned for the insurance and gas, and we thought she could certainly handle the cost of regular oil changes, but we had neglected to foresee the larger costs. Saddling a 17-year-old with that level of responsibility is too much. Considering their full schedules of school, activities and work, it can be crushing.

We eventually altered the original plan, taking full ownership of and responsibility for the car and using her contribution to pay off insurance. I am hopeful when I say that it seems our oldest is finally out of the “minor mishap stage.” In hindsight, I would do things differently, and will next time. It will be less than a year before our next driver comes of age.


Abington style

Adriane Heine

Reach the Abington Journal newsroom at 570-587-1148 or by email at

Reach the Abington Journal newsroom at 570-587-1148 or by email at