Cars for Teens: Don’t Spoil Them With Expensive Vehicles

When you were a teenager, what was your first car?

A Luxury Car for Teenagers!

I drove a modest Honda Civic that didn’t have power steering. Yes, it also was missing power locks and windows.  This was a small car, very modest, nothing spectacular.  It even belonged to my parents, so it’s not like it was even my own.  However, it was a nice to have the opportunity to drive, and I still consider my parents to have been generous to let me drive it.Well, that perspective seems to be different from that of a few other folks I’ve encountered.  I previously shared a story on how I saw some teens driving a luxury vehicle, which became a discussion on cars that teenagers should drive.   Clearly, those were kids that didn’t pay for this luxury vehicle on their own. Rather, I’m sure one of the kids’ parents bought it.

Lately, I’ve come to realize that some people that I know, with kids a bit older than me, have given their kids upscale, big brand name cars to drive.  Why? Well, I don’t know.  All I know is that it makes no sense to me that these kids need to be driving an upscale vehicle. Even with affordable vehicle insurance for teens available, the overall cost of these kids having these cars has got to be high.

I simply think that when somebody is flat out given something like that – without paying for it – it’s often hard for the recipient to truly appreciate what it takes to buy such a vehicle.  After all, if it’s as easy as Mom and Dad giving you a super nice car, it won’t be as appreciated as if you got a clunker instead – or something modest (as I did).  Or, if you paid for it yourself.

Now, I realize that teens can be competitive, and really want to fit in. Being cool is important to many kids, and let’s face it – we were in that mindset in some form or another at that age.  Maybe not needing a fancy car, but we were probably wanting to fit in, or not be lame and feel like an outcast.

However, isn’t there a line to be drawn somewhere?  I don’t see how it’s a need for kids to be driving an expensive car – or a new car of any kind.  An old car is perfectly fine, as long as its safe.  It doesn’t need to be cool, it doesn’t need to look good.  All it needs to do is be safe, reliable, and get a kid from Point A to Point B.  And that, by itself, is something that a kid should be thankful to have.  And frankly, it seems that some kids

By getting a luxury car when young, I would worry that a kid would then have high standards forever.  After all, if you start out with a really nice vehicle, won’t it be a bit tougher to trade down a few notches when older?  It will make it harder to be like some of us who take pride in car longevity – I can attest to driving one to past 200,000 miles! If you keep wanting nice new cars, you’ll spend a ton more over your lifetime on wants versus needs.

The Bottom Line: I have no idea what the parents who are buying these kids expensive cars are thinking.  Maybe they’re not thinking?

My Questions for You

What do you think about my notion that kids should drive simple yet reliable used cars – rather than a nice, brand name newer car?

Do you think that giving a kid such a car can be setting a teen up for not understanding the value of money?

What was your first car like?


  1. says

    I couldn’t agree more with your assessment. It’s ridiculous to buy a teenager a brand new car; especially if the parents don’t pay cash for it! My first car was a ’97 Ford Tempo. It was terribly embarrassing to drive as I went to a very wealthy private school and all of my friends drove Escalades, BMWs, and Hummers. However, it worked out just fine and I think it taught me a very valuable lesson.

    • Squirrelers says

      Jason – those kids who go the expensive cars were probably more likely to feel entitled later in life. You got the better end of the deal with the life lesson of driving that car.

  2. says

    I never had a car as a teenager! In fact I never had a car in college. I had access to a car on weekends or vacations only. When I was in college, I double dated or went with friends to parties etc. When I graduated college, my mother gave me a new car ($3K). I think it affected me positively and I have no real regrets.
    I think if you are given too much too early it takes some of your motivation away from you to do well.

    • Squirrelers says

      krantcents – interestingly, there has been talk that less kids are driving today than in past years. Perhaps that thinking is being embraced, or maybe it’s either A) economic realities, or B) texting and social media that is letting people communicate way easier without being face-to-face.

  3. says

    1985 Oldsmobile Cutless Sierra. (Ancient.) It was actually one of the family cars, but one that my parents trusted enough to allow me to ferry my sister to and from her ballet and piano lessons.

  4. says

    1985 Chevy Impala. I bought it myself after working my tail off for a couple of summers and using my graduation money. Before that I had the occasional use of my parents’ (used) car, but I had to pay for all the gas I used. I think that it taught me how much cars cost. I also was taught never to expect handouts or to get anything for free. Giving kids too much makes them soft and unhappy. I think that giving a kid a luxury vehicle so he can be “cool” is asking for trouble. You know what is cool? Self-respect. True independence that is earned rather than given. Responsibility. I couldn’t care less if my kids are considered “cool.”

  5. says

    I absolutely agree with you that teens should first be given a modest car as long as it is safe and can get them from point A to point B. I don’t see any sense in giving your teen a luxury vehicle. By doing this, you only give them a sense of entitlement. Kids need to earn what they get, so that they can learn the importance of responsibility. When I was still a teen, my parents bought me an old Toyota Corolla that doesn’t even have an air conditioner. Although my parents can afford to buy me a much better car, I was thankful that they trusted me enough to give me a car of my own. This taught me a valuable lesson in humility and responsibility.

    • Squirrelers says

      Dominique – looks like you learned a valuable lesson, and that’s great. In terms of being given a car, the reality that you got a modest car that was also SAFE tells me that your parents took a great approach.

  6. says

    My first car was a 240sx. Loved that car and I had to pay for it myself. Made me understand that things in life aren’t free or cheap. When I needed to get it fix it was my problem to get fix so I had to come up with money. I don’t mind if you are making good money to get a child a better car just don’t think the first car should be expensive. They need to learn and understand how to take care of things. I personally think that you child should have a understanding of money way before you think of buying a car. At this point if they haven’t been taught they are behind on learning and as a parent you have a lot of teaching to do.

    • Squirrelers says

      Thomas – I agree that people should get an understanding of money early on, and this is where parents step in. Now, as a parent, I’m realizing that it’s easier for me to say than to do (to the level I’d like). But, so much of our perspective on money when we go through young adulthood is shaped by the lesson our parents taught us, and how they made us either respect/appreciate money, or on the flipslide just handed us things.

  7. says

    I was allowed to drive my dad’s VW Beetle sometimes. Loved that thing. Since we lived in a rural area, the only way for me to see my friends from school was for someone to have access to wheels.
    Allow me to say that I don’t think any teen should be GIVEN a car. That’s setting a pretty dangerous precedent.
    When my daughter was in high school she had a movie-theater job; the summer she graduated, she had TWO jobs. I toyed with the idea of helping her buy my supervisor’s old car so she could get herself to and from work.
    Then I realized that the money spent on the car and insurance would be money that wouldn’t go toward her education — which was the reason she was working two jobs in the first place. So she would walk to her first job (Red Robin, about three-quarters of a mile) and then I would pick her up on my way home from work and drive her to her second job, then go back and pick her up at 11 p.m. or midnight.
    Sometimes I’d just have her drive me home and let her take my car. In fact, during her senior year I’d often let her take my car to work. We managed, even though I sometimes had to wait until 1:30 or 2 a.m. for her to finish help cleaning the snack bar on Saturday night. But it was temporary, and for a specific reason: to allow her to save as much as possible for school.

    • Squirrelers says

      Donna – fair points, I can see where you’re going with that. The costs associated with cars can be higher than people think, and this doesn’t apply only to teens. There is an opportunity cost, and that could come into play in terms of education. I do think that a car is a good thing for a teen to have, IF affordable and as long as it doesn’t involve entitlement on their part. Also, the car would need to be modest and safe, that’s it. Coolness is irrelevant. Anyway, thanks for stopping by!

  8. Bobby says

    When I was 16 I got a new car, but I paid every penny of it up front. I had been running a website that companies paid me for advertisements and I also worked a part time at my uncles store. On top of that I had school, sports, and caring for my younger siblings. Yes, my parents paid for my utilities so I was fortunate that my parents allowed me to use the money made towards a car. I absolutely hated when parents would think lowly of me because they just assumed my parents bought me a car. Rumors spread and it was ridiculous. Sometimes I wish I bought a cheaper car but I was into fixing up cars. I had planned out the car since I was 12 and worked hard to achieve so I’m glad I got what I worked for. I hate that stuff is just handed to some people and people assume that’s the same for all when they’re are some people who actually understand the value of a dollar an the work it takes to get what you want.

  9. Chat says

    My parents gave me a brand new lamborgini aventador as my first car and there was nothing wrong with that. I never damaged the car and everyone payed attention to me. So don’t say its bad.

  10. Bob says

    You don’t understand the need for an exotic car for a teenager. While many think exotic car is just to look cool, it actually brings you friends, money, business, and so much more. The car really represents your social class. Rich person do business with another rich person, and Driving an exotic car is a way to represent your richness. I am 18. I am driving a r8 and I made so many useful friends who are doing business with me and we makes much more than a car… However, for middle class, there is no need for an exotic car.

  11. James Robinson says

    I’m 17 years old and for my 16 birthday my parents got me an Audi A8. My friends also have BMW’s and Mercades. Its completly fine to have a high end car

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