Learn to Drive on a Budget
CEE Standard: Saving
Some of your students are at the DMV the day they turn 16 to get their driver’s license, but other students may significantly delay getting their license for a variety of reasons. This story will help them understand why it might be better to learn to drive while they are still in high school if at all possible.
These days I am learning how to drive. No, I am not a teenager. I am way past that stage. But I am sharing my story so that you can avoid learning to drive as an adult. Why am I learning so late? Because I didn’t have access to a car and my mom didn’t have enough time to teach me.
Let me be clear — my mom owned a car during my high school years, but she needed the car so that she could drive to one of her three jobs. Yes, she worked three jobs. Fortunately, I was pretty self-sufficient, so I was able to get around town by taking public transit or the yellow school bus.
I didn’t feel weird or ashamed about not knowing how to drive because I’m a bit of a hippie and I was still getting where I needed to go. Instead of saving for a car, I used my money toward cheerleading, and I was really happy making that choice.
That is, until the day I realized that it was a bit unusual that I couldn’t drive, and that it was not only messing with my ability to get around town, but potentially hitting me where it hurts most: my wallet.
If you’re in high school or just started college, I would like to strongly encourage you to learn to drive as soon as you can. But, there are some things that you need to take into account.
Why You Should Learn to Drive in High School
Learning to drive without regular access to a car is expensive! Currently I pay around $70 on average for an hour of driving instruction. If you have a friend who feels comfortable with you driving his or her car (and potentially bumping into things with it), see if you can pay them half that amount to let you practice driving.
The younger you are, the more road practice you will need before getting your license. While this is great, it is certainly not cheap.
I ended up purchasing a very inexpensive used car that I could practice in with friends who were willing to drive around with me. I just had to get a willing victim — I mean, friend — to help for a couple of hours. It was easier to do this after I took actual lessons.
So how can you do this? Side hustle your way to driving success! Costs for these lessons can vary widely. Pick a couple of fun side hustles that you can do to earn the money you need to go toward driving instruction.
The older I got, the more I noticed job listings that required applicants to have a valid driver’s license and a clean driving record. Well, my driving record was so clean it was nonexistent.
My Used Car
A friend of mine was moving out of state and had a great used car that she didn’t want to keep. I bought my first car for $1,500 — the same amount that I paid for my Mac laptop. Even though I had to pay for insurance on the car and other small expenses, it has been a great ride when my friends are willing to sit with me.
They don’t have to worry about me damaging their car, I get to practice as much as I would like, and I can bribe them with coffee or a meal instead of paying $30 an hour to use their cars.
Once I receive my license, I will immediately have a car available that I can take anywhere solo, which is awesome.
What If You Don’t Want to Own a Car?
I totally understand! That was part of why I delayed learning for so long. I just didn’t want to deal with the cost of owning a car. You have to pay for the insurance, title, emissions testing, gas, and tune-ups. Fortunately, I was able to work a job that paid for my transportation.
The entire time I worked my previous job, I didn’t pay for transport, and it was wonderful, as I saved thousands in upkeep, gas expenses — the list goes on.
Knowing how to drive is important as you get older. It’s not always just about freedom and mobility. I realize now that driving is about being able to grab opportunities — at least, until the time we turn the entire thing over to autonomous vehicles.