Baby you can't drive my car... yet.
March 6, 2009 3:15 PM   Subscribe

NJ 16 year old wants his permit, has met household requirements for driving (grades, behavior). Now it's time for me to hold up my end of the bargain. Driving schools I've contacted cost $300+ for the mandatory 6 hours of training. Does anyone have experience with a less expensive alternative?

Here in NJ they have graduated drivers licenses for teenagers. When you're 16 you can get your permit after passing a written test and taking 6 hours of behind the wheel training with a driving school registered with the state. After that, you drive with a licensed driver for at least 6 months, then can test for your Cinderella license (in by midnight, etc)

I have called all of the driving schools in my local area and have serious sticker-shock. Do they really mean a 16 year old can't drive unless he or his parents plunk down $300+???
posted by Breav to Travel & Transportation (21 answers total)
I have been out of the loop on this for 20 years but in high school we used to have a drivers ed class with behind the wheel training. I don't know whether they do that anymore, but you may want to check with your school district, and if the answer is yes but not at this high school, see if it can be done at the other high school.
posted by crapmatic at 3:21 PM on March 6, 2009

Local community college, perhaps?
posted by pazazygeek at 3:26 PM on March 6, 2009

Both of my sons' classes (now ages 19 and 25) cost more than that when they were 16.

Did you tell him he could initiate the process to get his license and that you'd pay, or did you tell him he could do so providing he bankrolls the process?

I didn't make my kids earn the fees, but many, many people do. If I'd have been tight on moneyat the time I'd have had no qualms in doing so.

...and there's nothing wrong with that.
posted by imjustsaying at 4:09 PM on March 6, 2009

$300 is about the going rate, when I took the class it was probably ~$200-$250 12 years ago. The only place to get your 16-year-old-permit is with the drivers course. None of the high schools in NJ had on the road training.

There's a good reason for this -- there are certain habits that you probably have as a driver that are dangerous to a new driver. A good drivers ed teacher knows this, and will not exhibit nor allow them during driving.

You are, however, incorrect in your last statement. The other way for a 16 year old to drive is where the 16 year old pays his own way. Tell your kid to get a job!
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 4:10 PM on March 6, 2009

Owning a car isn't exactly cheap. It's a fairly reasonable expectation that you'll have 300 bucks sitting around if you intend to drive, because you'll have to pay insurance, gas, repairs, parking, etc when actually driving a car.

Could you match fees with him? He pays 150, you pay 150? That would defray the cost for you, and let him realize this stuff actually costs, you know, real money.
posted by spatula at 4:15 PM on March 6, 2009

I'm 18, I split the fees with my parents. However, they weren't the same fees. In Arizona, we don't have to take courses, but I paid the equivalent in gas, insurance, and such.

I'm even renting my car from them while I save for my own. That's life, jobs help.
posted by Precision at 4:30 PM on March 6, 2009

Consider the driving school an investment. Ask your insurance company — they most likely provide a lower rate for young drivers who have gone to driving school. My guess is that this investment will pay back, and swiftly.
posted by adipocere at 4:35 PM on March 6, 2009

Response by poster: He will be responsible for his own gas, maintenance and insurance, which alone will be in the neighborhood of $2k. There is already a car available, though it is not "his". I told him I'd pay for driving lessons, but he couldn't take them until he pulled his grades up, which the little bugger did. While he has the insurance money banked, a job is not an option until this summer for a variety of reasons. Believe me, we don't shower this kid with $20s, but a deal is a deal. $300 is a lot for me, and I can't believe it isn't a lot for folks who are less employed than I am (I am currently underemployed, but employed nonetheless.)

The driving schools seem to get customers like shooting fish in a barrel, because the kids have no alternative except to not drive. It is not so long ago that I don't remember what a big deal it was to drive at that age, especially here in the land of shoddy mass transit.
posted by Breav at 4:44 PM on March 6, 2009

$250 was the going rate for driving lessons when I was a New Jersey teenager eight years ago. My mother bargain hunted, but everything she found was around that price.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:48 PM on March 6, 2009

I got my learner's permit last year and I had to pay $310 for behind the wheel driving. My parents didn't pay a cent for it, I had to pay it all myself. It cleaned out my life savings since I don't have a job. [and still don't have a job!]
posted by QueenHawkeye at 4:50 PM on March 6, 2009

In Texas they allow parents to do "Home Instruction" for drivers' ed. Costs 25 bucks for the material. I taught both of my kids. The paperwork is a bit tedious but it was definitely better than paying the $300-$500 that private places charge.
posted by Zebtron at 4:54 PM on March 6, 2009

$300 is what we paid for both our kids to go through driver school.

We live in a bedroom community and we sent them to a school in the large city about 50 miles away. As a result, they aren't afraid of traffic congestion or highways or busy parking lots, and have had tons more experience with heavy traffic than kids who learned here in town. If I had it to do over, I would definitely do it this way again.

AAA and a couple other places offer parent instruction kits, with both written and performance tests. We tried this - but be aware that it's difficult to teach your own children unless you've got a certain kind of relationship, one that won't turn into a "I am, Dad!" and "Stop it, now!" kind of back-and-forth. I have a great bond with both my kids, but not the kind that would have become a good instructor/student relationship.
posted by lambchop1 at 5:12 PM on March 6, 2009

I don't really have any advice for you, but I do have to say that that is a good price. In MD, we also have a graduated licensing system. Most places charge around $400. One place (the best place that has the best schedule) in my area charges $600. It is, however, done by law enforcement...
posted by majikstreet at 5:22 PM on March 6, 2009

$300 sounds like a great price to me. I vividly remember how much my 6 lessons cost in 1995 - $280. My parents griped about that too.
posted by meerkatty at 6:23 PM on March 6, 2009

well, it won't help you at all as he's paying for his own insurance, but once he completes the driving course, the rate should be lower than it would be if he didn't take the course.

and it makes sense that everyone would have about the same base price. much like value meal hamburgers cost a dollar and wal-mart and target have about equitable pricing, you price yourself against your competition.
posted by nadawi at 6:35 PM on March 6, 2009

what? this is ridiculous. our high schools (michigan, 1990s) offered driver's ed for free during the summers. you could do it at sears for about $300, but very few people of high school age did that, since you could do it for free at school.

this was before all this "cinderella" sliding scale licenses though. maybe things have changed more than i thought.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 7:06 PM on March 6, 2009

Does your state require 'certified' driving lessons?

My dad taught me (after reading the driver's ed rulebooks together - haha, we both laughed at a few of the 'letter of the law' things, but I learned to drive by them) and I managed to get a driver's license.

However, this was 14 years ago in BC.
posted by porpoise at 8:31 PM on March 6, 2009

Yeah, I think $50/hour is pretty reasonable. Has he ever taken any sort of private lesson? Sports, music, whatever? Those easily hit 30-40, consider this as such with some extra overhead for the company. I think it's quite a reasonable price.
posted by Precision at 8:53 PM on March 6, 2009

$300 is a pretty low price. As far as I know, no NJ high schools offer driver training classes. I went through driver's ed in Michigan (I live in NJ now) in the late 1980s for free and was such a bad driver the instructor made me spend twice as many hours behind the wheel as normal. But, it was worth it. I'm a much better driver today because he drilled into me the rules that I need to know.

Now, drivers in NJ are *very* different than drivers in Michigan. In NJ almost everyone drives in an aggressive, fast state, which means that your defensive driving skills must be top-notch or you're going to get into an accident. Almost guaranteed. In Michigan, drivers take more time and don't drive as fast but I would admit they do drive just as stupid.

I would argue very hard with your son about spending *a lot* more time behind the wheel with you even after he gets his license. The more practice he has in different types of driving scenarios, the better. Make sure you take him to both large and small towns and hit up some of the more congested parts of NJ (I-280, I-95, the GSP) and when you think he's ready take him out during rush hour or during a morning commute time. That's where you will see some of the most aggressive driving you'll ever see in your life.

When driving around be sure to point out all of the bad things that other drivers are doing and explain why. When a driver makes Jersey Left (stomping the gas to get left before the first oncoming car can get through a new green light); when a driver does the Jersey Slide (hauling ass in the left-most fast lane and then sliding across 4 lanes of traffic to make their exit); when a driver is tooling around town at dusk without their lights on (just because you can see the road does not mean other drivers can see you).

I would also be very strict with him and make sure he understands that driving is a privilege, not a right. Driving a car means you are driving a 2000-pound death machine. He needs to learn to respect that and respect the vehicle's ability to take life (and not just his own). If he screws up, make sure he gets penalized. Don't just shake it off and get him another car.

Good luck.
posted by camworld at 5:38 AM on March 7, 2009

The only place to get your 16-year-old-permit is with the drivers course. None of the high schools in NJ had on the road training.

Not true at all. My HS had a Driver's Ed course (used interchangeably with "Health" class) as well as behind-the-wheel driving after school that you would sign up for. We had a small fleet of Ford Tauruses (probably retired taxi cabs); we'd usually share 3 people in the car, with the instructor in the front passenger seat while we'd trade off driving. This was a fairly wealthy neighborhood, however.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:51 AM on March 7, 2009

My NJ high school also offered driver's ed as part of school (both "simulator" and actual behind-the-wheel). Like Civil_Disobedient they'd pull you out of health or gym class for a week or two and you'd drive each day for one class period's worth of time (about 40 minutes), switching off with the other student in the car. They'd give you the paperwork you needed to go to DMV to have the permit issued.
posted by Godbert at 8:50 AM on March 7, 2009

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