Do I give my grandchild a car?
December 26, 2006 10:01 AM   Subscribe

Do I give my second car to a grandchild?

I have two grandkids. Both are 17. Neither has a car. One is a grandson and one is a grandduaghter. I am certainly not able or willing to buy them a car. I have a 8 year old Mercury Sable in top-notch condition. My granddaughter has hinted that since I don't need a second car that I should give it to her. I usually ignore hints of any kind. My concern is that if I give this car to her then the grandson will feel left-out. Actually he is more deserving but that is another story. I can only conclude that I do not give either of them that car since I can't give them both a car. What are your opinions about this little problem? I suppose I could sell it and split the small proceeds but it would not amount to a lot of money for either.
posted by JayRwv to Human Relations (34 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Give neither the car. You are spot on. If you are feeling generous, sell the car and give them each half or better yet, put each half in a CD for them or something.

I am all for kids working for their cars.
posted by stormygrey at 10:03 AM on December 26, 2006

I think you are spot on- you should not give one grandchild a car and leave the other out. You could sell the car and provide each grandchild with a gift toward the purchase of a car, but you certainly don't have to. Make sure you have enough money for you before you start giving generous gifts to your grandchildren.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:06 AM on December 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

Are they able to occasionally borrow a vehicle from their parents? Not being able to drive anywhere, ever, sucks. But being handed a vehicle with no effort on their own part is a sure recipe for irresponsibility and recklessness.
posted by cosmicbandito at 10:07 AM on December 26, 2006

Offer to sell it to either grandchild for a bargain basement price. Let them know that the money they pay you will be handed to the other grandchild to help them buy a car.
posted by vacapinta at 10:11 AM on December 26, 2006

Give me the car.

Seriously, I think you already have your answer.
posted by Doohickie at 10:32 AM on December 26, 2006

I"m also in the "never GIVE a kid a car" camp, I've never seen it come to any good end in terms of teaching a young person responsibility.

Sell the car, and put the money into a college fund for them.
posted by HuronBob at 10:39 AM on December 26, 2006

Make one of the grandkids pay you for it, but don't just give it to them.
posted by camworld at 10:41 AM on December 26, 2006

If you really want to give them a monetary gift, perhaps you can sell the car and divide the proceeds between the two for a gift for graduating high school. Then they can put it towards a car if they wish. But I don't think there's any obligation for you to give them ANYTHING just because you have a spare car. After all, you earned that car and they didn't.

Besides, I'm a firm believer in the idea that all teenagers should drive Geo Metros, Dodge Omnis, or golf carts padded with Nerf. A Sable might be too much car for someone that age.
posted by christinetheslp at 10:41 AM on December 26, 2006

Is there a reason you can't gift the car to both of them? Have them learn about managing and maintaining it together, and have them deal with compromising on its usage? Seems a good idea.
posted by xmutex at 10:43 AM on December 26, 2006

Absolutely do not give either of them the car. If you really want to, sell it off and use the money to start up investment accounts for both of them.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:45 AM on December 26, 2006

Do both grandchildren live in the same household? If so, why not make them share it? It would be a challenge to them to demonstrate responsibility and maturity. They could work out a schedule or an agreement deciding who gets to use it when, and knowing someone else would be using it would provide an incentive to keep it clean and in good repair.

Sort it out with their parents ahead of time. You can let the kids know that they have a set time (a month or two) to try it out, and if it's not working out by then, you'll simply sell it.

Access to a shared car might prove to be better than none at all. Then again, half a car may be worse than none.
posted by hermitosis at 10:47 AM on December 26, 2006

Let them buy it for "trade in" cost according to KBB in fair condition. That way they are getting a good deal on a quality used car, you are being fair about it, and they "earned" the car.

I am not sure what year Sable you have, but a 2000 Sable in "fair" shape is worth $2480 trade in ( Let them buy it for $2,000, or $1,500 depending on how generous you feel. You may quickly find one of them not so interested when the price reflects an investment, and not a free car.
posted by SirStan at 10:56 AM on December 26, 2006

Do they have driving experience? At the age of 22, I wouldn't give a car in good condition to any 17 year old, not even my younger self. An unwise ego boost, and they'll probably damage it through inexperience even if they aren't reckless.

If you do sell it and give them the proceeds, it might be a good learning experience for them to go out and find cars of their own. With some searching, a little bit of money can go a long way in finding a car. There are plenty of people out there selling their beloved old cars for very low prices in the hopes that someone will get good use out of the car and take care of it. In the past two years, I've bought my first car (as opposed to driving one of my parents' on loan) and helped arrange the purchase of my fiance's. My car is a $5000 blue book value Volvo 940 that I got from a friend for $350, and my fiance's $2500 blue book Volvo 240 came from a couple we didn't know for $500. My family has had a lot of luck with 80s and early 90s Volvo's and BMW's. The Volvos especially never break break down, are super comfortable/roomy, and mine just survived being t-boned and pushed 5 feet sideways with only a big dent on the rear wheel well to show for it - all steel construction is pretty great. Parts are more expensive if there is a problem, but old Bricks and Beamers are super easy to work on if you have any inclination, and a fair mechanic won't overcharge on labor for such easy cars. There are plenty of doctors, engineers, lawyers, and the progeny of the previous three selling great old luxury cars for next to nothing. Old Toyotas and Hondas are also great (unless you are tall like me) and inexpensive.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 10:57 AM on December 26, 2006

I am with Vacapinta. Offer to sell it to both of them to the highest bidder. Start the bidding at zero. You will reach a fair price and both will learn a lesson in economics. If they don't want to pay, you will have learned a lot about them.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:11 AM on December 26, 2006

Free stuff never works out for anyone.
posted by ewkpates at 11:37 AM on December 26, 2006

If my experiences with Sables (I've owned three, all hand me downs) are typical, giving the car to anyone will give them plenty of experience with calling the tow truck company and seeing the inside of the mechanic's place. (granted my current sable is from 94 and is on its second engine).

Giving it to one of the kids instead of the other is the tyoe of thing that can lead to years of infighting in the family, passive aggressively brought up at every holiday. I do like the auction idea though.
posted by drezdn at 11:43 AM on December 26, 2006

I'm also in the "never GIVE a kid a car" camp, I've never seen it come to any good end in terms of teaching a young person responsibility.

There was a time when my parents gave me a car. I wrecked two. The next car I got was much newer, and although I paid for it myself, since that time I have been much much more careful how I drive.
posted by j-urb at 11:48 AM on December 26, 2006

I don't think you should simply offer it up for sale to the highest bidder if your grandkids are in two different families. Then it would just be a matter of which family has more money to spare, which isn't necessarily a fair indicator of where it bleongs and could sow more of the seeds that drezdn described.
posted by hermitosis at 12:06 PM on December 26, 2006

Also, JayRwv doesn't say where the grandkids are, but in some places you literally cannot get a job and raise any money WITHOUT a car. Where I grew up in rural AZ, being given a (crappy) car was a means toward getting a job and earning money, not vice versa-- unless my parents wanted to have to drive ten miles to pick me up or drop me off.
posted by hermitosis at 12:09 PM on December 26, 2006

17 year olds don't deserve anything like a car (ie: independence, an object requiring care, something that can kill another human being) for free. Make them work for it. The one that deserves it the most will earn enough money independently to pay you for it.

I say this because I work with an 18 year old who recently took out a £3000 loan to buy a secondhand car. The loan messed up, she ended up with a £3000 overdraft and many phone calls later... begging her elderly grandparents to stump up the cash so she wasn't in unmanageable debt. She actually earns more than me, and the car costs the same amount as I'm paying out (from my own savings) to spend a month in the US in March. Were she a few years older with better guidance, she wouldn't have got into that awkward mess.
posted by saturnine at 12:29 PM on December 26, 2006

Hermitosis, the auction may be about which family has more $ to spare, but if either family had more to spare and was willing to spend it to buy grandma's car, they could simply go to a used car dealer and buy one too.

Also, the auction winner could bid something other than dollars. Maybe the winner could offer to cut grandma's lawn for 2 years, or shovel sidewalks. If the bidder is from out of town, s/he could offer to volunteer x hours a week doing local community charity work. The point is to have the one who is willing to exchange the most value (measured any way grandma sees fit) get the vehicle. It may be worth more to grandma to have the winner commit to a year of delivering meals on wheels once a week rather than $2,000. The process could get creative and the two children will demonstrate a lot about who they are through the process.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:31 PM on December 26, 2006

Whatever you do, don't give the granddaughter the car. Based on the little you said, it seems like she is manipulating you or otherwise being demanding in a wholly inappropriate way. If she were appropriate, she wouldn't be nagging her grandma to just give her a car.

If this is the case, bad behavior/attitudes should not be rewarded. She may be 17 but it sounds like she's acting like a 12 year old.
posted by jk252b at 12:40 PM on December 26, 2006

Also, JayRwv doesn't say where the grandkids are, but in some places you literally cannot get a job and raise any money WITHOUT a car.

Yeah, I was given a car (most certainly not a new or fancy one) at 17 for largely this reason -- there wasn't a convenient, safe way for me to get to work without being able to drive myself (I'd had a job since I was 15), since my parents weren't always available to take me and there wasn't reliable public transportation. The deal was that I paid for gas and contributed to insurance, and used the rest of my money for my own expenses (records, concerts, etc.) and to save some cash for college. I never wrecked it, never did anything too stupid in it, and my parents sold it after I went to college for about what they paid for it. So not every kid automatically turns out to be a monster by virtue of being given a car, but whether or not it will likely turn out well depends on the broader context. [/derail]

posted by scody at 1:00 PM on December 26, 2006

I also disagree about auctioning or giving or even selling it to just one of them. There's no reason one of them should get a (presumably great deal) on a car, while the other is left to fend, perhaps with the same amount of seed money, for a crappier used car in a dealership.

Especially if the boy is more deserving. I've paid for every car I've owned, and I felt good about it. I always cringed when I heard of a kid whose parent bought them a car, and I never really considered it "their" car. "Oh, look, Tommy's got a mustang." "Yeah, well, Tommy hasn't worked a day in his life. He drives his parent's mustang."

Of course they'll brag about it to their friends, but wouldn't you rather them brag about having earned the money to actually go out and buy a car? Even if there weren't another child who would be severely disappointed by the favoritism or by otherwise losing out, I'd suggest you not give it away.

Instead, tell them you'll match their contribution (using the profits of the sale of your car) towards a car. Tell them that yes, this will involve earning money. That's the point.
posted by disillusioned at 1:01 PM on December 26, 2006

Response by poster: The grandson lives in a high-rent area of northern Virginia, near Washington DC. The granddaughter lives 75 miles west of there in a thriving town of 25,000.
I am leaning toward selling the car and just splitting the net bucks I get for it. I will do that on their birthdays this year. I can make it easier on myself that way.
posted by JayRwv at 1:06 PM on December 26, 2006

My parents gave one of their grandkids a free car. It has been quite the source of contention, but admittedly, there were favoritism issues from the start.

Save the family some grief & split it among the grandkids if you're feeling generous.
posted by Space Kitty at 1:22 PM on December 26, 2006

I don't think that it's a good idea to make one of the kids buy the car. If you do that, then probably one of the parents will wind up paying for it anyway. (Where else will a 17-year-old get the money?)

I don't think there's anything wrong with giving a car to a teenager. If it's in good condition, it will probably be a better car then what they could afford on their own. I had a terrible car when I was a teenager, and I was always going broke having to fix the damn thing. Kids should definitely have to pay for their own gas and insurance, but making them buy the car when you could afford to buy them one strikes me as a little cruel.

Still, it is a bad idea to give the car to one grandchild and not the other. That would be just asking for trouble. So I would say sell the car, and split the proceeds between the two kids.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:26 PM on December 26, 2006

Best answer: JayRwv, before you give your grandchildren any sort of large monetary gift, read the relevant chapters from The Millionaire Next Door (which should be available at your local library). Put succinctly: giving money (and large gifts) to young adults hinders their ability to provide for themselves.

Obviously, this isn't always true, but it's demonstrably true with a large enough statistical sample. That is: it's most likely to be true with any particular person.

If these kids have already demonstrated self-reliance, if they have demonstrated the ability to provide for themselves, then maybe it would be a good idea to give them the car (or the money from the sale of the car). However, if the kids are not yet providing for themselves, you're likely to do more harm than good by giving them money.

These chapters are a short, interesting read, and might help you understand the long-term implications to any such gifts.

On the other hand, if my nephews were to ask for help, it'd be hard for me to say no, even though I understand the statistics behind things. Money decisions are rarely rational!
posted by jdroth at 2:18 PM on December 26, 2006

I guess this depends on where you live, but: how do you make money for a car without a car? Unless you live in one of a handful of cities in the US, or you really can afford to buy them both cars and are just gonna make a game out of making them clean the house, I really don't see that happening.

Also, maybe there was a day where teenagers could get a job where they're not subjected to gross labor violations, or maybe it just requires them to have nice tits, or something, but the whole "teenagers should work" thing is really overrated unless you really want your kids to have a taste of what it's like to be a parolee or illegal immigrant and make that shape his or her view of the workforce for the rest of his/her life.
posted by dagnyscott at 3:04 PM on December 26, 2006

One other thing to think of if you give these kids a monetary gift - do you have other grandchildren? If this is the case, you may be setting yourself a precedent in which the younger kids may come to expect that you will give them a gift of similar monetary value when they reach the same age.
posted by cholly at 4:34 PM on December 26, 2006

It sounds from the description that your daughter is just hoping to take advantage of your kindness: don't give your granddaughter the car, unless either it isn't like it sounds or there are some kind extenuating circumstances.

The auction sounds silly to me: the direct lesson will still be that grandpa can be talked into giving up his stuff for what will inevitably be much less than its worth; I'm also skeptical that the indirect lessons of "financial responsibility" that this approach may induce (because one or the other of your grandchildren will have to take up a job to win the auction) are teachable in this seems that if "working a job to raise funds to purchase necessities" was at all effective at teaching "financial responsibility" there would be far less "financial irresponsibility" to go around.

What most surprises me is that your children haven't weighed in on their plans (or if they have, you haven't mentioned it) -- en-automobiling your grandchildren should certainly be something they've given thought to, and if you're considering assisting the grandkids it seems like something you might want to coordinate with their parents.
posted by little miss manners at 4:53 PM on December 26, 2006

Ignore this hint. If you give the granddaughter the car (or even $$ for half the car), you've also given her positive reinforcement that hints work. In the future, from her POV, you may not "need" your other TV/nice jewelry that you don't wear/the snowblower. After all, if it worked once, it might work again. So, unless you look forward to hearing this trope forever ("Granma/pa, isn't this house too big for you? Boy, I wish I had this much space for my family!"), don't set the precedent.
posted by sfkiddo at 4:58 PM on December 26, 2006

Speaking as a 17 year old with a father who traded, sold, and bought used cars, I recieved a car the day after I got my permit- but I APPRECIATED it.

I did end up wrecking it (though I was not at fault for the accident- someone who was supposed to be at a stop sign pulled out in front of me as I was going down a main road before I could even see them) and the insurance company replaced it.

I'm in the school of thought of either not giving them the car at all, or making them share it. I know that when I started working, my parents didn't always have the time to take me to and from work, and I needed the car- but let them make the payments on it, and the insurance, and any repairs, jointly.
posted by Glitter Ninja at 5:17 PM on December 26, 2006

There was a time when my parents gave me a car. I wrecked two. The next car I got was much newer, and although I paid for it myself, since that time I have been much much more careful how I drive.

My dad gave me a car at 17, in 1997, I still have it, and it's in great condition.

I think you should force them to share it, but I'm not sure how well that would work out when they leave for college.
posted by delmoi at 8:07 AM on December 27, 2006

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