Going from being a child who relies on parents and friends for rides to being an independent teen who can hope in their car and go has always been a rite of passage. However, as the economy changes, the age at which many people engage in life’s major milestones, such as buying a car or having children, is being pushed back.
Should adolescents take the plunge and become car owners, or should they wait until they are more financially stable? These questions and more have led an increasing number of people to ask, what is the best age to get a car?
Although most parents and teens agree that between 18 and 21 is the best age to buy a car, individuals should purchase a vehicle only when they are able to keep up with the vehicle’s financial demands.
Parents who are thinking about helping their children with the financial aspect of owning a car should consider their teens’ maturity level and the local laws. To learn more about the best age to get a car, continue reading.
How Old Do You Have to Be to Own a Car?
How old an individual needs to be to own a car varies depending on the location where the individual lives. For example, in Texas, it is legal for a minor to buy and title a vehicle in their name. However, in many states, minors cannot own a car.
While it may be legal for youngsters to own a vehicle, they might find it difficult to purchase a car before their 18th birthday. Financial institutions will often not provide auto loans to anyone under 18 unless they have a parent on the loan with them and many private sellers will not sell cars to people who are not yet 18. Although it is worth noting that emancipated minors may be able to bypass many of the age restrictions.
Still, many minors find ways around this by having their parents buy a car for them but owning a car and being able to drive it legally are two hugely different things.
The average age a minor can get their driver’s permit in the United States is around 15 to 16 years old. All states require a vehicle to be registered, which means the person registering the vehicle must have both a title for the vehicle and proof of insurance. However, most insurance companies will not insure drivers under the age of 18 independently, prompting many minors to hop on their parent’s insurance.
What Do Parents Think?
Although surveys show that parents are concerned about their teens’ driving habits and overall safety, other surveys have shown that parents are continuing to buy cars for their teens. According to one study done by Autotrader, up to 41% of parents had outright bought a car for their teen driver, even though only 14% said their parents had done the same for them.
Financial analysts have guessed that there may be several reasons for this, including the safety and price of public transportation, reducing the amount of driving for themselves, and being able to have more of a say in what type of car their teen drivers buy.
One study conducted asked both young drivers and their parents what components were the most important when buying a first car. While parents said that things like airbags and fuel economy were important, young drivers focused on a sporty look and a rear wing.
This leads some to believe that parents are becoming more willing to help buy their child’s first car so that they can ensure their teens are driving a vehicle that is both safe and fuel-efficient. After all, if they are buying it, they have the final say on which car is purchased.
What Do Adolescents Think?
Although you might expect parents and teens to disagree about the topic, several studies have shown that they are closer in opinion than one might think. For example, a study conducted by Bankrate in 2018 found that most young adults thought that 21 was a good age to buy their first car.
However, 14% of millennials thought that the best age to get a car was before the age of 18, which was double the 7% of parents who said the same. Overall, most groups collectively said that between 18 and 21 was the optimal age for buying a car.
People may be surprised to hear that while most teens dream of the day they get the keys to freedom, many of them also know they should wait. However, this follows the trend that has risen in recent years, with the younger population waiting longer to reach most major milestones. For example, people are having children at a later age and opting to rent instead of buying their own homes.
What Do We Think?
Owning a vehicle is a big responsibility and one that may be hard for most young adults to keep up with. For example, financing a vehicle means paying hefty car payments each month while keeping full coverage on the vehicle. Since insurance companies charge young adults more, these insurance payments will also be high.
If the young driver has a decent job, this might be doable, but what happens if they lose their job? Vehicle repossession reflects on one’s credit and will hinder the individual from getting any line of credit in the future. Furthermore, most places will require that you continue to pay the vehicle off even after they have repossessed it. Since the adolescent years are so uncertain, it might not be a suitable time to get into a car payment.
There are many other ways for young drivers to purchase a vehicle. This content is owned by moc.sotuaytsur. They may buy a car outright, or have their parents purchase it for them. While this reduces the risk of defaulting on a car payment, they will still be responsible for registration fees, gas, and insurance.
Ultimately, the best time to get a car is when you can afford it. A young teen with a steady job may be able to keep up with the financial demands of a vehicle. Others may want to wait until they are more financially stable. It may be a clever idea for teens to create a budget and stick to that budget for a few months before buying a car to get a better sense of whether they will be able to afford the vehicle.
A young kid who needs to get back and forth to work but does not have a reliable ride may need to get a vehicle, while a teen who does not have any responsibilities might not be able to afford it. Ultimately, the decision of when to buy a car is a personal one that depends on factors such as the need for a vehicle, the cost of a vehicle, their financial stability, and local laws.
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John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and has worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Land Rover, and Jaguar dealerships.
John uses his know-how and experience to write fluff-free articles that help fellow gearheads with all aspects of vehicle ownership, including maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting.