Teaching Your Teenager About Car Care
The Rights of Passage: your child’s first words, first steps, first date, first car, and first car repair. One of the valuable lessons you can pass along to your children is how to go through the car repair process without getting ripped off. You don’t need to know a lot about cars to avoid being taken advantage of. The two most important allies your teenager has are time and an inquisitive nature. Encourage them to spend some time in the repair process. They can learn much.
The first step is bringing the car in. If you have a relationship established with a repair facility, it is probably best to bring the car there. Go in and introduce your teenager to the service manager. Establish the ground rules – this is my son/daughter’s car, they are responsible for the repair. Then step back and let your teenager take control.
Your teenager should ask if it will cost anything to learn what the problem is. They should make sure that no further repair will be done until the problem has been explained and a firm repair cost provided.
The opportunity to learn arises once the problem has been identified. Ask the repair facility to explain what’s wrong and what exactly the repair is. Then ask if there is anything that could have been done to prevent the problem. Most first cars are older and have not been properly maintained. In a few years your teenager will be buying a brand new car. Nothing impresses the value of preventative maintenance like paying for a repair that could have been avoided or been less costly.
To reduce the potential of being taken advantage of, your teenager should ask to be shown what will be replaced and what is wrong with the current part. Don’t ask with an attitude, ask with genuine interest. Ask how that part or that repair relates to the problem you described when you brought the car in. Does the bad part look bad? Does what is being explained make sense? There is no guarantee that you are not being taken advantage of, but if it makes sense, you are probably being told the truth.
Remember that the amount of money your teenager can afford, or the value of the car, have no bearing on how much it will cost to repair what is broken. The price of the part, or the amount of labor required, does not depreciate along with the car’s value. It is very reasonable, however, to ask that noted repairs be prioritized. Which repairs are needed immediately for safety or for reliability, and which repairs are preventative.
Taking these extra steps will take your teenager’s time. They may not get their car back as soon. But regardless how busy they are now, they are less busy than when they are graduated and have a full time career. They will also probably take better care of that $20 to $30,000 investment they make in their first new car.