(I tried to email Tom & Ray but for some reason I kept setting off the Spam filter. So I’ll try here.)
Dear Tom & Ray
This past week’s show (“The Giving Trunk”) had yet another example of a problem that has become EPIDEMIC on Car Talk in the last year or so. We had another parent fretting—to the point of obsession!—that her teenage child would not approve of the car they were getting.
This is not the first incident. I can’t tell you the number of times in the past year I have heard a caller say, “Well, we have to get rid of this car because my child is turning 16 and refuses to drive it.”
THIS. IS. MADNESS.
And YOU—dutiful, benevolent hosts that you are—you have been trying to help these people!
But I’m begging you to call a wacko a wacko and nip this in the bud.
NO teenager lucky enough to get a car from their parents should have a say in what kind of car they get. And any parent who makes a car purchasing or selling decision based on what their teenage son or daughter wants to drive is a WACKO.
The teenager gets what the teenager gets. Or gets no car at all.
I am not a curmudgeon. (I am 34. The kids do not have to get off my lawn.) So I’m not going to be one of those geezers who insists every kid has to pay for their first car all by themselves or even pay all their insurance. Every family’s situation is different, and with AP homework and after-school activities and unpaid summer internships, a lot of today’s kids just don’t have time to make that kind of money.
But the only appropriate parental response to a kid complaining about driving the family jalopy is: “Tough.”
If they put their foot down…you put a FOR SALE sign in the window. Sell it and buy them something even uglier. If they don’t get the point after that, then they’re too dumb to drive anyway and we’re all better having them off the roads.
Remember parents: You are NOT there to make your kid popular. Your kid will NEVER think you are cool. You are there to help them build character. And NOTHING builds character like spending your teen years driving a truly crappy car.
Thanks, Tom & Ray.
PS: And teenagers: Relax. A crappy car is one you can scratch, ding, dent, stuff full of your friends, go road-tripping, and even take off-road. If you’re really smart, ask for the minivan—the seats come out. You’re welcome.