There are fewer teens driving due to high cost of car ownership – this according to a study of teen drivers by Driving-Tests.org. While cost is definitely a factor, I would argue that convenience is another. It’s definitely more difficult for a teenager to get his/her drivers license today than when I was in drivers training.
Why are fewer teens driving? In addition to the many new and restrictive teen driving laws, cost would have to be the largest factor for the decline in numbers through the years of teens driving. Not only was it easier to get your license when I was growing up, it was a lot cheaper to put gas in the tank. With fewer teen jobs (and far more expensive cars to insure and maintain), it’s no wonder that todays teens simply drive less than they used to.
In a separate study on teens driving done earlier this year, statistics show teen drivers are more apprehensive than ever to even attain their drivers license.
In an effort to understand the steady decline in licensed teenage drivers (currently, fewer than than 70% of American 19-year-olds hold a valid driver’s license, down from 87% for the same age category in 1983), the online driving education experts at Driving-Tests.org launched a special investigation into the real costs of car ownership for teenage drivers.
The Real Costs of Car Ownership for Teenage Drivers
Many first-time car buyers look at the purchase price of a vehicle and assume that it is the only expense they need to take into consideration. Unfortunately, the real cost of purchasing and operating a vehicle includes many other often underestimated expenses including insurance, gasoline, repairs, regularly-scheduled maintenance, parking, tickets, tolls, taxes, tags and title fees that can have a significant impact the monthly household budget.
How much does it really cost for a teenager to own and maintain a car? Many teens appear to agree that the cost is “too much.” In fact, at least 32% of all teens surveyed in a 2013 study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) indicated they did not have a driver’s license because “owning and maintaining a vehicle is too expensive.”
According to the analysis conducted by Driving-Tests.org, owning and maintaining a used vehicle can cost the average teenager as much as $6,968 per year. Even teens who share the family car face operating and maintenance costs of at least $2,741 per year. That’s a lot of money for teenagers who are juggling school-work and the many extra-curricular activities that play an increasingly important role in college admissions.
How do these costs add up? Driving-Tests.org calculated the average cost to own and operate a used 2009 vehicle selected by MSN Money Magazine in June 2013 as being one of the 14 “Best Cars for Teen Drivers.” The average purchase price for a top-rated used car (from 2009) is $11,849 and boasts a fuel economy of 25 MPG with taxes, tags and title weighing in at $1,269.
Monthly operating costs are as follows:
- $261 in Monthly Financing Costs
- $202 in Monthly Insurance Premiums
- $86 in Monthly Gasoline Expense
- $32 in Monthly Maintenance Costs
- Total Monthly Costs
The total estimated cost for a teenager to own and maintain a car can be as high as $581 per month.
There are some additional factors that might also influence the cost of maintaining a vehicle for a teenage driver:
- While the average US teen drives 7,624 mile per year; teenage boys drive 1,333 more miles each year than their female counterparts, according to recent USDOT data, which increases gas and maintenance costs.
- Because they are more likely to speed, crash and drive while intoxicated or high on drugs, teenage boys also have higher insurance premiums – as much as 25 percent – than female of the same age.
- Newly licensed females are twice as likely as males to use an electronic device while driving – according to a study by the AAA foundation – which could lead to more accidents for female teens.
Driving-Tests.org did determine that there are several ways to offset of the car ownership and maintenance costs. The following options can benefit teens by helping to reduce the cost of gasoline and insurance premiums:
- Buying hybrid vehicles can reduce the annual fuel cost by as much as 45%.
- Getting good grades can lower insurance premiums.
- Taking a defensive driving class can lower insurance premiums, although, these classes do cost additional.
Although the thought of waiting to get a driver’s license seems odd to most adults, it is a sign of our changing times. The digital age has made it possible for teens to keep in touch virtually, from the safety and comfort of their home. Other young adults are using public transportation with greater frequency, and, as they enter the workforce are also choosing to live closer to work thereby eliminating the need for a vehicle for daily use.
Lastly, and, perhaps most importantly, the expense of car ownership and maintenance may be prohibitive for some teens while other millennials – considering the ease of virtual communications – may simply decide to forgo the additional expense altogether. The contenting decline in teenagers who hold valid drivers licenses is a trend that doesn’t show any signs of shifting anytime soon. Changing attitudes about car ownership and driving as well as the potential economic impact merit further exploration before drawing conclusions on the consequences for the future.
Download a PDF copy of the full report by visiting Driving-Test.org.
Driving-Tests.org is a leading online educational learning site that offers free permit practice test services to US learner drivers. Since 2010, Driving-Tests.org has issued 4.5 million practice permit tests. Over 350,000 Americans use the site every month to prepare for upcoming tests. Written by a team of automotive and online education experts, the tests are designed for use by those studying for a motor vehicle and/or motorcycle license. Driving-Tests.org also offers a mobile app, perfect for practice on the go. Featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Examiner, Daily News and NY Metro Parents, Driving-Tests.org understands the needs of today’s beginning drivers and offers free review practice tests, helpful tips and information about safe driving and owning a car.
To learn more about fewer teens driving and teen driving statistics, visit www.driving-test.org.