Teen Driver
Posted by: Howard Dvorkin, CPA
Date of post: September 11, 2017

They'll also (literally) drive you into the poor house.

While we all complain about personal debt — credit cards, student loans, auto loans, mortgages — we often forget that it’s not just personal. It affects our children, and our children keep adding to our debts.

You might already know the government has estimated raising a child to the legal age of 18 will cost you $245,000. That’s nearly a quarter of a million dollars for just the basics: a roof over their heads, food in their stomachs, clothes on their backs, health care, child care, even driving them around to soccer practice and haircuts.

Not factored into that: what happens when the kids start driving. Here’s a headline that should scare the parents of any teen…

Teen Car Insurance Rates Now Average up to $5,000 Per Year

That new number comes from the online insurance marketplace QuoteWizard. It’s based  on an average: “A 16-year-old driver buying an standard individual policy without bundling costs an average of $438 a month.”

That’s bad enough. It’s worse when your teen gets in an accident. Before you say, “Not my kid,” consider that the Centers for Disease Control say driving-age teens represent only 7 percent of the population — but cause 11 percent of “the total costs of motor vehicle injuries.” That totals $10 billion a year.

Sadly, it might get more dangerous and costly the older your teen gets. A few days after QuoteWizard announced that $5,000 figure, Liberty Mutual crunched some numbers of its own. The insurance company found that older teen drivers took greater risks on the road than younger ones.

These older teens are “overconfident and perceive themselves as safer drivers despite experiencing more accidents and near misses,” Liberty Mutual concludes after interviewing 2,800 teen drivers.

Specifically, 57 percent of high-school seniors have suffered crashes or near misses, compared to only 34 percent of high-school sophomores.

Essentially, with age comes not wisdom but arrogance: 35 percent of seniors speed, compared to 18 percent of sophomores, while 26 percent drive when drowsy, compared to 13 percent of sophomores.

Why am I writing so much about teenagers and car insurance? Because it’s one of those seemingly minor topics that can end up costing you a lot. Debt.com has previously reported that auto claims are rising in this country, which means insurance companies are raising their rates after a claim even higher than they did in years past.

If you have a teen driver, this could be as painful for your wallet as for your child. With personal debt at record levels, and a possible auto bubble around the corner, one serious accident could break not only bones but also a budget.

In more than two decades of counseling Americans about their debts, I’ve seen four major events cause a collapse of an already precarious financial situation: Illness, divorce, natural disaster, and major accident.

That last category is changing. With some families struggling to juggle huge credit card balances, long-term auto loans, crushing student loan payments, and a mortgage, even a minor accident can send this house of cards crashing down.

You know the best advice you can give your teen about driving: Keep your eyes on the road, don’t rush, and think two steps ahead. Well, that’s also good advice for you, so you’ll have the financial freedom to cover your teen should they not listen (which is all too common).

When it comes to your money, keep your eyes on your budget, don’t rush into emotional purchases, and think about the future — and save for it.