Should you buy your teen a car?


If you think watching your child taking his/her first few steps was tough, wait until they start learning to drive in their teen years. Suddenly they’re all grown up and they want to be independent. Relying on you less is their first order or business.

So they pass their learner’s and driver’s test and they’re now legally allowed to drive a motor-vehicle, so what now?

We all know that some kids get around by using public transport, bicycles or bumming rides from other friends (or you), but some kids do own their own cars.

Sooner or later, your teenager is going to bring up wanting a car. Accepting the notion that they don’t just want one because all their friends have one, and that they need something to get from varsity classes to their part-time job, a number of things will cross your mind: “Do they really deserve one? Will you buy a new or used car? Should they pay it off themselves? Which car is safest, reliable and economical?”

Stick together

Most parents will want to choose a car that they think is best for their child, but it might be a good idea to do it together and having your teen involved in the process could be time well spent. You are older and wiser, and you probably know what is best, but allow your child to play a role in the choice of car.

Safety first

Whilst looking for something together, take the time to teach your teen about car safety. Point out that a car is only as safe as it is dangerous and that the responsibility of being a safe driver protects not only the driver, but other road-users too. They might roll their eyes at you, but there are far too many drivers out there who put themselves and others at risk by being careless and by not following the rules of the road. Make sure they understand the consequences of drinking and driving: that it can land them up in a holding cell, or worse, in court for killing someone on the road. 

Not every family can afford a new car with special features and other loaded systems, but if you do have means for this, some cars now have anti-crash systems which support safe driving habits. Using audio and visual technology, these cars warn the driver if they approach another vehicle too quickly, or if they stray from a lane. Some also have a ‘mute audio’ function that turns the radio off when the driver and passenger’s seatbelt is not secured.      

Split the costs

Suggest that they show responsibility by contributing towards the car. Perhaps you could make an agreement that he/she will pay back a certain percentage towards the car once they start their first proper job. Explain the maintenance costs involved in owning a car. If your child is working, ensure that you cover the deposit and total cost of the car on condition that he/she covers fuel, insurance and/or maintenance costs.

When considering a second-hand car

Buying a second-hand car is pretty common in South Africa. But don’t get conned into buying something that won’t last longer than a few months and end up fighting with the car-agent or seller for your money back. If your child has their heart set on a car and you’ve found something that looks good, the next step is to make sure you’re buying the right car. The best way to have your child’s potential new car checked is to take it for an AA Multipoint-check. But there are some things you can also check yourself.

1.       Check the mileage. According to Wikihow's 'How to Check out a Used Car Before Buying it' a driver will do about 16 000 to 24 000km’s a year, depending on various factors. A car’s mileage will indicate the age of the car. Old cars will generally have larger mileage readings, so if you’re going to buy a car that’s two years old with a very high odometer reading, you’re not getting much value for your money.

2.       Ask to see the car’s service history book. Check for any previous accidents, repair work and how often the car was serviced.

3.       Rust and damage. Have a good look at the car and do an all-round inspection for any cracks, bubbles or rough areas. Rust troubles are a pain and impossible to get rid of. Also keep an eye out for any dents and scratches that could mean that the car has been in a previous accident.

4.       Engine. The car might look ‘clean and neat’, but it’s no use if the engine is poorly. If the oil level is low and dark black, it could mean that the car hasn’t been properly maintained and this could lead to future problems.

Your teen will probably be in a hurry to buy their new car once you give the go-ahead and might get frustrated while you spend time considering all these factors. However it’s worth the trouble to ensure that your child is safe and can happily zip around in their new car without hassle.

What car do you think is best for your child?  

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