Does a teenager really need a car?


macrumors 68040
Original poster
Dec 16, 2011
Now, I'm 16 and I now have my lovely drivers license. I absolutely love driving, and any opportunity I get I drive. I'm constantly being regarded as a safe driver (I've even gotten an award for it).

Despite my love of driving, I don't actually own my own car. I can only drive my mom's, and she's at work all week, leaving me to find rides here and there. She's also made it clear she isn't just going to buy me a car, and since we only have 1 car in the family (it's just us), I'm probably not going to get one soon.

Now, I'm perfectly okay that I'm not just going to get a car. Would I like one? Yes, but I'm not gonna throw fits. One thing that I did question was why. I mean, I know it's not a financial issue, so I was curious if it was a responsibility issue, a grade issue, or something like that. (I should have made a clarification, she also has expressed she doesn't really want me owning a car at my age)

The answer I got from my mom was that she doesn't think 16 year olds should even have cars. I understand her viewpoint too, as sometimes I have to beg her to let me get a ride home from school when I miss the bus (for making up work, etc.) so I don't have to wait till 5 when she gets off work to come and get me.

This made me think, what do others think about the idea. Do you think teens should have cars? Should they not? Should they even be able to drive? If a teen should have a car, what do you think qualifies that teen to have one? Would you just give a car to your teen or what would you require out of them? Personally I think that if a teen is safe enough, responsible enough, and have means of paying the parent back (which sadly I lack that part), I think it's fine.

Just satisfying my curiosity; I just want to hear different responses. :)
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macrumors 68000
Nov 15, 2012
As a teenager, I don't need a car. I can bike, run, or walk anywhere that I would need to be.


macrumors member
Jan 15, 2013
I have a car, but mainly use it to get to work and school. I would say to get a job somewhere and earn some money and find a used one online.


macrumors demi-god
May 5, 2008
The Misty Mountains
In some cases yes, at least access to a car. When I was a senior in High School, they dropped the football program and allowed players to transfer to another school who was keeping football. I transferred, my parents trusted me and did not want to make two, 18 mile round trips per day to take and fetch me.

Apple fanboy

macrumors Nehalem
Feb 21, 2012
Behind the Lens, UK
When I was nearly 17 I got my first car. I bought it and insured it myself. That's when a teenager should get a car. When they (not their parents) can afford it.


macrumors P6
Aug 17, 2007
My daughter didn't have her own car until she was a junior in college. Most of her friends got cars in high school. But I have to say, she didn't complain too much.


macrumors G5
Aug 1, 2004
St. Louis, MO
Now, I'm 16 and I now have my lovely drivers license. I absolutely love driving, and any opportunity I get I drive. I'm constantly being regarded as a safe driver (I've even gotten an award for it).
That's why I wouldn't buy my 16 year old child a car (if I had kids). Although you might like to think you are, no 16 year old is a safe driver. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it's true. You've been driving for less than a year, you still have lots to learn behind the wheel, and yes, odds are good that you'll get into an accident at some point in your young driving career - that's why insurance rates for teens are sky high. Why buy something that's got a pretty good chance of being smashed and totaled?

Yes, the argument can be made that if you're going to total a car, it's better my hypothetical child's car than my car. But I disagree for two reasons:
1) I would not by my teen a brand new car. If I got them a car, it would be something used and older. Perhaps lacking modern safety equipment. My car is 6 months old, has airbags all over the place, ABS, traction control and all sorts of other safety features. If they're going to be in an accident, rather it be in my safe car than some 10 year old junker
2) They might be more careful in their parents' car as opposed to an old junker. They scratch their car, no big deal. They scratch my car, I am not going to be too happy

Jessica Lares

macrumors G3
Oct 31, 2009
Near Dallas, Texas, USA
I've been in too many cars with people who care too much about the music versus actually driving. I totally get her point on not letting you get rides from people for that reason. You are all teenagers, your only "responsibility" in your mind is school and other things that have meaning to you. You don't take the fact that you can easily get hurt in one split second on the freeway seriously.

And maybe YOU personally do. But the moment someone else walks into your car, EVERYTHING changes. When you become the driver, everyone's begging for YOU to take them home/wherever when they don't have a car too.

It's the whole responsibility thing, definitely.


macrumors G3
Feb 22, 2003
New Hampshire, USA
Cars are great until you have to start supporting them (gas, insurance, repairs, maintenance, etc). You may want one now at age 16 but, when you get older and are paying for all life's expenses, your viewpoint on car ownership will change :D.


macrumors 6502a
May 15, 2007
Melbourne, Australia
A teenager doesn't need a car. There's the cost of the car to think about, the maintenance, petrol, insurance that may well keep you broke. There's the pollution you're causing that can be negated by a pushbike.

I'm speaking as somebody who bought their first car at 36 years of age, at which point I had a family to transport. I can't say I missed not having a car all those years.


macrumors 604
Jul 6, 2009
It depends what what you are doing with it, and where you live. You don't need a car everywhere, but some places, you do. If you're staying after school and you live 20 miles away, and there is no transportation during certain times - then I wouldn't say "Teenagers don't need a car. Period".

If you are staying after school, doing various clubs/activities in and outside of school and so on, and your parent's can't really take you everywhere - then sure, I would say you need another driver in the family. Depends though. I managed taking the city bus, asking for rides, and so on - it wasn't bad. Actually didn't mind considering the enormous costs of getting a car. Initial car price + insurance + petrol + repairs/maintenance ... etc

But I've also seen kids who don't do anything but drive in circles, show off that they have cars, and put useless mods on their cars and such. Not saying that they shouldn't have one, but do they need one? I'm not sure. It might seem that teenagers want a car for these reasons, but I believe many have more solid reasons for wanting a car that you might even consider as a "need".

Also just putting it out there for what it's worth, even though I've been driving for nearly 2 years and have taken driving courses, I still feel very inexperienced behind the wheel. Don't let the "I'm a safe driver" thing get to you. Most people can get to A and B without getting into an accident. Doesn't make them "safe" though. And you don't have to make a mistake to get into a serious accident. Could be the other party.


macrumors 65816
Oct 26, 2009
Down the rabbit hole
If you don't strictly need a car to get to work, I would say wait. Your priority should be saving to pay for college. If your folks have that covered, use your wages to fully fund a Roth IRA. With the time this money will have to compound, you need only to invest until you're 30 to easily retire a millionaire at 65.

I wish someone had told me this when I was your age. Most of us don't get serious about saving for retirement until our 40's when so much time has already slipped away.


macrumors 6502a
Jun 14, 2004
Hudson Valley NY
It depends on where you live. I grew up in a very rural area, and nearly my entire class had a vehicle by the senior year. The majority of us lived at least 7 miles away, some up to 20, down gravel roads and a couple very dangerous highways. We all had part-time jobs, and those were almost all in the 20-40 mile range. Public transportation was not even in our vocabulary.

Go to the other end of the spectrum and live somewhere with excellent public transit and you might never even need to own a car.


macrumors 604
Jan 26, 2008
Isla Nublar
When I was 16 my parents surprised me with a car (they told me I wouldn't be getting one).

Where I lived you absolutely needed one. I was 30 minutes driving from anywhere and couldn't get a job without one so thankfully they got me one.

(Saving money from doing chores wasn't an option since I made almost nothing from that.)

In my opinion, I think its good for a teenager to have a car as long as they're responsible. If someone lived in town I wouldn't deem it an absolute necessity but I still would try and provide my kids cars if I could.


macrumors 6502
May 14, 2012
Just out of curiosity, those who say teenager doesn't need a car. How old were you when you got your first car?


macrumors Nehalem
Feb 19, 2005
You are right to know that you shouldn't throw a fit over not getting a car. If you want a car then you should absolutely have to work for it in some way. If you can afford a car on your own, without your parents, and they still restrict you, then maybe you can throw a fit at that point. Sounds like you have a fairly decent head on your shoulders though.

Does a 16 year need a car? No.
Should a 16 year old be handed a car new or used unconditionally? No.
Should a 16 year old be able to get a car with his/her own money? Yes. There is no better time to start teaching personal responsibility and if a car can be purchased outright by a teenager then I say it is fine. I would say that the car should still be used. Financially well off or not, I think parents have failed quite a bit here and it would be nice if parents would humble their kids ever so slightly. I don't care if they give their kids everything under the sun, just teach them to be humble and perhaps understand that humility is a nice trait to have too.

I got my first car when I was just about to turn 17. I bought it from my parents. They were more than willing to let me have it but since a very early age I was very much into working and earning money. I spent much of my time trying to earn money and I didn't want to just "take" a car. Though I am fairly certain that money I gave my parents was far less than what they could have gotten for the car (it was actually a truck), I was proud to say that it was my own purchase. My next truck was new and financed. I worked and could pay for it. Again, the time to get a car is when you can afford it. I think it really helps shape a child when they have worked for something.

If I had a child then this could possibly be all thrown out the window when they give me sad eyes. :)


macrumors 6502a
Jun 14, 2004
Hudson Valley NY
actually, i've lived all over the US. currently i have residences in CA, HI and rural TX. your point?
That in rural areas, and likely the area where your rural TX home is, the necessity of having a car is so great that while in strict definition it is a privilege or convenience item, doing without would be so difficult that it's not really an option.


macrumors 603
Jul 8, 2011
I got my first car & motorcycle at 16. But had a job and paid for myself. Just bought my 17 year old his first car. My reason! My son has planned on going to university. He is responsible and has his own job, so will pay for insurance and gas. Without my purchasing the car for him, he would not have one and university is some 30-35 KM away from home. Public transport not available. He has some large bills coming up for university tuition and books. There is no way I want my son strapped with huge debt by the time he leaves university. So buying my son a car at his age was a no brainer.


macrumors P6
Jul 17, 2005
5045 feet above sea level
no one "needs" a car. it's a privilege and a great convenience.
Except our society is built around car transportation.

Sure one could walk everywhere but when there aren't bakers on every block and whatnot that are built with walking populace in mind, it isn't feasible to live in vast spread out areas and no car.

Even my post doc colleagues from Europe say they now realize how a car is a necessity here in the us than back home in Europe.