When I was a teenager, I couldn’t wait to drive. It seemed like most people I knew were like that. Driving meant freedom, independence, and taking a step closer to adulthood. Also, it meant more opportunities for meeting up with friends, having fun, and socializing.
A recent article I saw on Moneyland discussed how this level of excitement might not be at the same level these days. More specifically, the article referenced a study that indicated that fewer teenagers have driver’s licenses presently versus 25 years ago. Actually, the comparison was 2008 vs. 1983, but close enough, right? In 25 years, the percentage of 17 year olds with a driver’s license dropped from 69% to 50%.
What’s behind this? A hypothesis noted in the article revolves around the idea of teens having more opportunities to interact with one another, though online methods as well as texting. Additionally, the high cost of gas might play a role as well.
I think there’s something to that. As I mentioned earlier, a big part of getting a driver’s license as a teenager had been the opportunity to socialize. Sure, getting to school and part-time jobs was helped by having a license. But the social aspect of it was there too. Now, at least some socializing is able to done without driving. Plus, gas is currently expensive relative to historical prices and inflation, as we have discussed here before.
Thinking of implications in terms of spending money, it seems as though it might lessen the so-called need for teenagers to have a decent ride. The topic of cars for teenagers has been one that has elicited some strong opinions from those who think that many teens have oversized appetites for expensive cars. Count me in that group!
Of course, in light of this data on decreased percentages of teenage drivers, maybe we’re seeing the beginning of a trend in terms of the types of cars they drive. I mean, if they aren’t clamoring for a car as much, why would it matter as much what car it is that they ultimately get?
Taking it a step further, I wonder if we’re looking at the beginning of a trend where the next generation of buyers might not be as interested in overspending on new cars? After all, today’s teenagers are tomorrow’s new car buyers. If they’re not as socialized into making a part of their self-identity shaped by the vehicle they drive, perhaps this will be less likely to happen as they get older.
That would be a good thing, provided there isn’t a corresponding shift toward overspending in other areas (technology, anyone?). As far as car purchases go, I personally think that cars are necessities for many adults, but are also usually financial liabilities. Instead of spending on a luxury car brand that’s expensive, why not take on a very modest car loan to buy a less expensive yet highly rated and reliable brand? You can save the difference, and put it toward retirement. Additionally, driving a car for many years is a good way to avoid additional expenses, provided you take care of it. I drove a car well past 200,000 miles and avoided big expenses in the process, so I know it can be done!
We’ll see where this trend takes us, and whether it’s a leading indicator to some type of change in overall perceptions of wants vs. needs with types of car purchases.
My Questions for You:
What do you think of this data on teenagers driving less?
Do you think teenagers only need functional and safe cars, if they have one at all?
Do you think this might be a harbinger of things to come, with less interest in expensive car purchases in the future?