What a liberating freedom for your child. Before sharing my experience and advice on this, I have one heads-up. That is to forget about seeing them near as much after they have their driver’s license and access to a car. There will be a million reasons why they need to be (somewhere else). We had to set a goal of eating together as a complete family 4 times per week, yet were sometimes lucky to make it happen 2-3 nights. Part of this is due to the fact that a driving teen also possibly has a job, club memberships or sporting activities in addition to all the social possibilities that pull them away from home.
We made it clear that homework and other important tasks come before heading out with their car. Beyond that, we tried to let them explore their new-found freedom as much as reasonable.
This brings me to the flip side of the freedom. We made it clear to the girls that they have some real responsibilities regarding the car. We bought their car (a used one with low mileage) but they paid for the gas. We paid for regular maintenance items like oil changes, tires, brakes, etc., because otherwise those things would never happen. But they had to take the car to get those thing done.
They also had to pay for any damage due to an accident (including any insurance deductible that had to be paid). If they had a wreck and didn’t have enough money saved up to cover the costs, they went without a car while it was being repaired and until they could pay the deductible. This helped keep the payback priority high and also helped reinforce another one of our lessons of having emergency money in savings.
If the insurance costs went up due to moving violations or accidents, my daughters were responsible for any such increase. All that financial consequence and responsibility might sound excessive to some, but my wife and I put a priority on general financial responsibility leading up to heading off to college and eventually being totally on their own.
In addition to teaching our girls how to drive their car, we also taught them how to operate and maintain their car. This meant things like the following:
- Changing a flat tire
- Checking the engine oil (if the warning light came on)
- Add windshield wiper fluid
- Jump start the battery
- Listen for strange noises, vibrations, etc. and alert us as soon as possible thereafter
Finally, we made it clear that the car was ours and they were being given the privilege of driving it under the conditions we explained. This means that we could take the car away as a disciplinary measure, and especially if they had one or more moving violations that caused us to feel they might be unsafe.
I hope this article was insightful and gave you some ideas to make your own. If you read my blog post series on teaching your teenagers to drive a car (you can find that one here), you also came across the “driving contract” we used with our new teenage drivers.
See my other blog posts on parenting here.