Economy Affects Parents' Spending for Teen Cars, Driving Expenses

Sixty percent of American parents whose teenage children currently hold a license and nearly half of all parents (46%) say that the economic downturn has led them to cut back on saving for or spending on their child's driving, including the cost of a car and other related expenses, according to a new survey from Allstate. 

Not surprisingly, income is a factor in spending and saving decisions.

  • Nearly three-​quarters (72%) of parents in households earning less than $30,000 per year say they are saving or spending less on their children's driving, while just one-​third (32%) of those in households earning more than $75,000 say the same.

Interestingly, among parents who already have a child with a driver's license, 73% say their child has their own car, while another eight percent say their child shares a car with a sibling.

  • This rate of teenage car ownership is considerably higher than what parents experienced when they were first driving (just 48% had their own car or shared with siblings), and also much higher than what is expected among parents whose children do not yet have a license (just 48% expect their children to have their own car).


While most parents prefer their children make a meaningful contribution to the costs of driving, the survey shows the actions of parents with teenage drivers demonstrates the contrary.

  • As parents get closer to having a teenager with a license to drive, they are more willing to pay for car expenses. While just 27% of all parents say they believe in fully paying for a car for their child, parents with a child licensed to drive are nearly twice as willing (46%). In contrast, only 10 percent of parents whose children are under the age of 14 or whose children don't have licenses say they plan on purchasing a car for their child.
  • Parents who say they paid for their own car when first driving are more likely to believe in higher financial contributions from their children.
  • Among all parents, when asked what they would spend on a car for their child, 57% say they would spend $5,000 or less, and 41% would spend more than $5,000.

Regarding other costs associated with their children driving, parents are most likely to say they'll pay all or most of inspections and registration fees (51%), insurance (45%), and general car maintenance (44%).

  • Parents are least likely to believe in paying for gasoline (17% would pay for all or most of it), and expenses associated with damage caused by their child (17% would pay for all or most).


When thinking about the type of car they'd like their children to drive, 76% of parents say safety is their top priority, followed by reliability (18%), affordability (5%), and fuel efficiency (1%).

  • Not a single parent says that appearance is their top priority for their children's car.

Of those parents whose children have cars, the overwhelming majority, 94%, say their child drives a used car with a mean age of 9.3 years.

  • This is almost the same mean age of the cars that the teens' parents remember driving as teenagers, which was 9.2 years.

One-​third of parents (33%) say they would not allow their children to drive the car that they drove when first driving.

  • Even one-​quarter (24%) of parents who said they personally started out driving a good car would not let their children drive that car today.


Parents believe getting to school (89%) and work (97%) are good reasons why teenagers should be allowed to drive.

  • They also support having their teens drive in order to lessen the need for parents to chauffer (81% cite as a good reason), and so teenagers can help run errands (88%).
  • Parents are less enthusiastic about allowing teenagers to drive so they can meet up with their friends (56% not a good reason), and because almost every other teenager is driving (85% not good).
  • Parents are split on allowing teenagers to drive because there's no other way to get around (55% cite as a good reason, 43% not good).
[Source:  National survey conducted by FTI Consulting, Inc. (FTI) for Allstate.  21 Sept. 2011.  Web.  5 Oct. 2011.]