By on January 9, 2020

When I was an adolescent, it was made clear to me that the first step toward adulthood was getting my driver’s license. Even without an automobile, it provided unimaginable freedoms and brought me closer to my goal of doing a burnout in the high school parking lot. That dream was ultimately achieved, leaving me to rethink roadway safety as my first car was loaded onto a flatbed while the scent of tire smoke and bleach clung to my clothing.

Fortunately, hitching a ride home was easy, as most of my friends had also acquired licenses and cars of their own. But that’s probably not going to be the case for teens coming of driving age in these modern times.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, the percentage of American teenagers bothering to get their licenses has effectively plateaued at a low point. Nearly 48 percent of 16-year-olds in this country could legally drive in 1984; that number settled to just 25.6 percent in 2018. The reasons are more complicated than just the younger generation’s snubbing of the automobile. 

A Bloomberg report recently examined the data-faulted restrictions imposed in the 1990s. These included raising the number of “practice hours” those under 18 have to endure (with a guardian) before getting the important slip of paper, minimizing the number of passengers they can carry once they have a license, and rules against driving late at night. Despite walking back teenage freedom to some degree, it’s broadly believed these initiatives helped improve roadway safety by not throwing young drivers into the pool without supervision.

But creating more hoops for teens to jump through may also have discouraged them from rushing out to get their license.

While some of this has simply shifted the age brackets for when younger people decide to pick up their driving certification, trending older, Bloomberg believes it had broader implications on society as a whole:

Still, there are ample indications that the acquisition of driver’s licenses isn’t only being delayed. Licensed drivers’ share of the population has continued to rise as the population ages, but according to transportation researcher Michael Sivak — who has done more than anyone to raise awareness of this shift — members of every age cohort under 45 were less likely to have a license in 2018 than in 1983. Among those ages 25 to 29, 85.7 percent had licenses in 2018, down from 95.6 percent in 1983. Also, Americans in their 30s and 40s used to be much more likely to have licenses than those in their 60s. Now they’re less likely to have them.

Pretty much every group under the age of 50 has seen a smaller percentage of drivers since the 1980s. In 1983, 94.9 percent of adults between 35 and 39 held a valid license. That number dropped to 90.9 percent for 2018. For Americans aged 20 to 24, the figures went from 91.8 to 80.1 percent over the same period.

Urbanization undoubtedly plays a role here. More people live in cities than ever before, and a hefty chunk of them rely on public transportation or ride sharing. However, your author has also convinced himself that the defunding of driver’s education programs has to be similarly relevant. Decades ago, you could practically guarantee the local high school offered some form of driver’s ed.

Unfortunately, liability concerns and a growing focus on college admissions requirements have discouraged many schools from bothering. As a result, vehicular training courses suffered the same fate as shop class. Some teens without parents willing to pay for their education elsewhere will certainly scrounge up the cash for themselves, but there will also be a contingent you’ll have to catch young if you’re going to catch them at all.

[Image: RomanR/Shutterstock]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

58 Comments on “Why Are Teens Growing Disinterested in Automobiles?...”

  • avatar

    “Defunding drivers-ed programs”

    If you can afford wheels, insurance, gas, maintenance, you likely can afford drivers ed. I’d wager that’s the least expensive part of the equation.

    SavageGeese did an excellent overview on this – truth is cars are an expensive depreciating asset- even moreso when you’re younger. Facing the prospect of 5-6 figure student loan debt, moving for a job (most of which are in denser cities), and rent, throwing $400.00-$800.00 a month on transportation is a luxury expense that could be spent elsewhere.

    Yes you can buy a beater corolla for a few grand, but you’re still throwing a not-insignificant portion of your income on maintaining it, keeping it gassed, insured, for something that’s not particularly aspirational or desirable.

    Combined with the overarching malaise of cooking the planet, the reality of sitting in traffic for a commute, the younger generations don’t associate the automobile with freedom the same way prior generations did.

  • avatar

    Idiocracy plays a role. What percentage of today’s teenagers were born to financially comfortable families compared to thirty years ago? My graduating class had 19 National Merit Commended Scholars. Today that school is strictly daycare with ESL.

    • 0 avatar

      Even an idiot needs an ID to cash a check or drink in a bar. The driver’s license is the most commonly used form of ID. Kids should get one for that reason alone.

      I walked to school beginning with the first grade. Thanks to indulgent parents and milk cartons featuring kids taken by a parent after a nasty divorce, kids are driven everywhere, and resort to Uber when they’re adults. Add direct deposit and debit cards, and kids rarely need an ID, much less a driver’s license.

      The bottom line is that urban kids are satisfied with their restricted mobility: they don’t know anything else. Suburban/rural kids may be very differently disposed.

  • avatar

    bkojote illustrates another point, which is that many young people today are brainwashed to love their reduced freedoms and subscribe to the doomsday cult that recently convinced 183 young climate change activists to set wild fires in Australia, such is their refusal to accept reality when their coding fails.

  • avatar

    “…more people live in cities than ever before”

    Might want to check that. The total number of Americans in cities is probably the highest ever–but the PERCENT of Americans is not.

    Most cities have lost population in the last 20-30 years. Detroit, Cleveland, etc.

    I think the number of Americans living in suburbs is the highest ever, and the percentage is the highest ever.

    Even this was not true, with the exceptions of NYC, Chicago, Washington, and few other, mass transit is not so great.

    Perhaps Uber and ride services are mitigating this however.

    Anecdotally, I worked with a woman, and she told me her HS son was ‘in no hurry to drive’…. in suburbs. Times have changed.

  • avatar

    1. Cars “ain’t got the same soul.”
    2. So technical that no teenager could ever work on one.
    3 Of course you mean uninterested, not disinterested

  • avatar

    My answer is simple. They all now keep their virginity these days and don’t need a car for good times. My son has bunch of college friends, all but 1 virgins at 25

  • avatar

    “…many young people today are brainwashed to love their reduced freedoms and subscribe to the doomsday cult that recently convinced 183 young climate change activists to set wild fires in Australia, such is their refusal to accept reality when their coding fails.”

    You got a link for that, and I don’t mean Breitbart?

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    My son got his license 6 weeks after turning 16 (he’s almost 17 now). He wanted the freedom and feeling of maturity driving brings, but he doesn’t care about cars per se. Status symbols among his peers are shoes, phones, and clothes. About half of his 16- and 17-y.o. friends haven’t bothered to get their licenses yet.

    I taught my son to drive stick, and he’s basically competent at it, but he didn’t seem to derive any enjoyment from it. And I sent him to the Mid-Ohio Teen Driving School – ostensibly for safety, but secretly hoping he’d have fun tossing cars around the skidpad. When it was over, he said “I learned a lot, thanks Dad,” and I asked him if he had fun, and he shrugged and said “I guess…”

    I’m not sure if this is good or not for the kids. But it’s awful for automotive enthusiasm in general.

  • avatar

    Driver’s ed, while useful in teaching the rudiments of driving, has never been proven to keep immature and inexperienced 16- and 17-year-olds from crashing. By delaying full licenses to 18 helps with the immaturity part.

    All that said, I wanted to drive at 16 and got my license before my 17th birthday. But even in the 60s in PA where I lived at the time, you couldn’t drive between midnight and 5 AM without an adult in the car until you reached age 18.

  • avatar

    In my son’s case (and his friends), all the parents made enough to send these kids to driver’s training. They all went to driver’s training at a “normal” age (15-16). But they simply didn’t care about driving at that time. This group all did well at school, arguably they were busy enough with classwork that a job would have been tough. Jobs for 16 year olds were a little tougher to get anyway. My son has had a car for almost a year and has put maybe a 1000 miles on it. He mainly had a car because it made my life easier by not having to drive him around. Now he’s 18, high school is winding down, he just got a job. Suddenly he cares.

    I think we just have expectations based on how things used to be, but I’m not sure that a survey of 16 year olds is painting the whole picture.

  • avatar

    Don’t bring your asshat garbage here.

  • avatar

    I think the answer is simple. Kids today can connect without being in each other’s presence – they all have smartphones and text as easily as breathing. They don’t need to leave the house to socialize, and there is in many/most cases ZERO parental push to “get a darned job”. So they don’t need licenses.

    Before I got my license in 1986, if I wanted to see my friends I could either walk or ride my bike. That gets old and cold in a Maine winter. And if I wanted money to do anything, I needed a job. Which I also needed a license to get to, because my parents/grandparents were most assuredly NOT in the kid transportation business, and there was no public transportation at all. So I was ALL about getting my license.

    I was actually very late getting my license – many of my friends got one at 15.5 which was the youngest you could be a that point, most in sophomore year. I was a 17yo senior (I was the youngest kid in my class, I was still 17 at graduation). I did have my learner’s permit for 1.5 years though. Took private Driver’s Ed at 15.5. The school offered it too, but it was faster and better to do it privately, it just cost a bit more. So I did drive a lot with my family before I got my license, and passed the test very easily.

    Very different times today. My best friend from college ended up settling in my hometown in Maine to raise his kids (he and his wife are Hungarian, went to college in the US on basketball scholarships, and became US citizens a couple years ago). His oldest is 16 and has ZERO interest in driving. Almost never leaves the house other than for school or activities. Goes to the very same high school I did. 95% of his socialization with friends is via smartphone or computer. They basically never see each other face-to-face outside of school! When he does need to go somewhere, his parents give him rides or pay for the Uber.

    • 0 avatar

      @krhodes1 – I do believe that your comment has a lot of merit. When I was a kid my dad would get mad if we were on the phone chatting with friends since it doubled as his business line. If we wanted to chat with friends we had to walk or ride a bicycle or when older drive over. Kids now socialize via device.

  • avatar

    Some of it is lack of interest, some lack of need. When we lived in an inner suburb of a large city our son got everywhere he wanted with a bicycle and a transit pass so driving was low priority. When we moved to the outskirts of a small rural town just after graduation, suddenly driving was more important and he got a license in short order and a car the following summer.
    Our 16 year old daughter also has higher priorities at the moment, plus we live just a few blocks from school. Some of her friends drive, most don’t. The high school still has a full parking lot since many students do drive.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay


  • avatar

    May have something to do with not being able to lean into the engine bay with friends to diagnose bad breaker points, maladjusted carb, stuck lifter, et al. A bunch of friends years ago could put their minds together and get a junker running with hand tools and a 12v test light, usually a fun and interesting bonding time sharing a common interest and/or passion. Many guys I knew in my youth had cheap cars in various stages of operability and we would lend each other a hand in fixing ’em to stay mobile (and be able to illicitly drink beer while doing it). Today’s junkers are much more difficult to fool with using simple hand tools and a test light – it’s difficult to add an aftermarket sound system to many. This may be a part of the diminishing interest in automobiles.

  • avatar

    Have we not beaten this subject to death before?

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Mine had his laptop plugged into his car the other night diagnosing it. I think kids are plenty comfortable with a bluetooth scanner talking to an app on their phone. Their are “car people” in that generation, but because they seem to value some different things than prior generations, they get dismissed. Not slapping cherry bombs on a 140hp small block doesn’t make them any less interested than those that saw that as high culture were.

  • avatar

    Let’s think.

    Both kids AND parents have no money.
    Beaters cost $2,000 instead of $500.
    Retail gasoline at the end of 2019 was nearly triple that of 1999.
    Overall inflation has doubled if not more in the past two decades yet wages remain at 1990s levels.
    Kids think Game Boy is more important than, well everything else in life.
    Jitney cabs became a commodity.
    Teenage insurance is still through the roof (where was “technology makes it better” on that one?)
    Many cars have awful bloated styling.
    Standards are so low kids think the bus is “OK” and not something to rise against.

    • 0 avatar

      @28-Cars – You hit the nail on the head. Most parents and kids can’t afford a vehicle. They can’t afford insurance or maintenance to meet road requirements.
      One can argue that tougher driving rules are to blame. Where is the evidence? I find that does not register on the minds of my sons.
      My oldest son got his licence after that whole process and got himself a little truck. What hurts him is the insurance costs. When I was his age it was dirt cheep to get a vehicle. Safety standards were almost nonexistent so one could buy a beater and not get into trouble with the police or department of transport.
      My youngest son wants to go to Med School so he does not want to be burdened with the added costs.
      I have an excellent job but don’t want to be saddled with the cost of helping them own a vehicle if they don’t want or need one.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    The first step to adulthood when I was young was smoking. That has also gone out of fashion.
    Then getting a job.
    Finally getting your license and hopefully a car.

    The car as others noted was a related by youths to independence/adulthood because it served as a moveable bedroom/motel for youth. Your chance to be alone with a romantic partner. That is no longer necessary. No longer do hotels/motels require the same type of information when you check in. AirBnB’s are available for anyone. Parents allow sleepovers. So who needs a drive-in and the backseat of a car for sexual encounters?

    The operating costs for cars are also far more expensive. With safety inspections, emissions testing, dramatically increased insurance costs, fuel costs, even if you can afford to acquire a car, as a youth it cost far more to operate a vehicle than it did in the 50’s/60’s/70’s.

    Vehicles are more complicated to work on. You can no longer open the hood, see and reach all the operating equipment. And you no longer get the same practice changing fluids, filters, spark plugs, etc simply because they last far longer than they did in previous decades.

    The number of young adults living in urban environments, in condos in crowded cities also has an impact. With practically non-existent parking, and with neighbourhoods ranked on their ‘walkability’ scores, young adults see owning a vehicle as a luxury expense.

    The post-war North American car culture was an anomaly. One not truly paralleled by any other generation or society.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX


    Adjusted for inflation, gas costs just a bit more now than it did in 1999:

  • avatar

    The cost of cars is not a barrier. You can still find a running and safe vehicle for under $2k. The problem is you won’t likely find a Honduh or Toyoduh there and today’s children are so label oriented that they won’t lower themselves into something that they have been told is inferior.

    I’d venture to say that there are still car nuts and who actually will drive a manual transmission. But those are the exceptions. Today’s children aren’t even as mature as we all were at their age and have a smaller degree of desire to be independent; they want to have their parents take care of things and to give them transportation.

    Also, with teens more interested in digital things than actually “doing the deed” – there is no car back seat. They can do that in the permissive parent basement.

  • avatar

    Saying that teenagers today find Hondas and Toyotas aspirational is like saying that teenagers found Cadillacs and Trans Ams aspirational twenty years ago. You’re not operating on current intel.

  • avatar

    SCE to AUX,

    I started buying my own gas in 1986, and I don’t ever remember paying $0.65/gallon, let alone adjusted for inflation back to 1979 dollars. I made about $150 a week, and $8 to $9 of it went to filling up the ten gallon tank of the ’88 Festiva I got in summer of ’87. I didn’t need Super-Unleaded until years later, which makes me even more puzzled by the price chart. In the past three weeks, I’ve paid between $2.47 and $2.69 for top-tier 93-octane Super-Unleaded at VA Costcos, although with no pattern to the prices paid other than Charlottesville being more expensive than Newport News or Norfolk.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    When I started driving I would put $5 worth of gas into the air cooled VW and be able to drive around all night.

    The first time I put $20 worth of gas into a car it was a Lincoln Town Car and all of my friends (who I was driving around) had to get out and look at the pump before they believed that a car could take that much gas.

  • avatar

    And that’s why you Canadians should have never surrendered your guns.

    • 0 avatar

      “And that’s why you Canadians should have never surrendered your guns.”

      We haven’t. Most don’t feel the need to have an arsenal rivaling that of a special forces unit to go to the corner store to get a beverage.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX


    Scroll down the page. It is showing 1999 gas as about $2.00 – $2.40 today; no need to adjust for 1979 dollars.

    I’ve been buying gas since 1979 and I think the chart is spot-on (CA excluded). Of course, gas tax fluctuations may affect it too – PA (where I am) has the highest in the country.

  • avatar

    SCE to AUX. I see what I was doing wrong now. Forgot that the early ’80s were peak inflation. Thank you.

  • avatar

    I am going with krhodes1 response above with a slight tweak.

    I was discussing this the other day with a good friend who’s son just got his license but didn’t care at all about it, zero excitement. I asked how he gets to school or visit friends… the answer: we take him everywhere. Well there is your problem! Why would I want a car when I have a personal chauffeur? Put down my phone to drive? No thanks I’ll sit in the back and check my Instagram feed instead.

    When I was a soon-to-be driver at 16 I had spent YEARS riding my BIKE to school, to work (needed $ to buy a car) and over to visit friends which was super lame and not cool. Today’s kids have mommy and daddy driving them everywhere in leather trimmed SUVs because its “safer”. Let your kid get wet in the rain walking home from school? Oh no bad parent alert. Going to sound old here but back in my day getting stuck in the rain? Yeah too bad, deal with it, here is a towel to dry off.

    Plus why visit friends when you can game with them on Xbox Live or chat via FaceTime? Ever see a group of teenagers hanging out these days? They are all on their phones taking Selfies to send someone who is literally sitting right in front of them. Madness. Phonesex has a whole new meaning today thanks to SnapChat.

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    It’s more than a little strange that you know the sexual status of your son’s adult friends.

  • avatar

    The comments seem exceptionally broken today, I can’t reply to posts at all…


    My wealthy suburban hometown is every bit as wealthy today as 30-odd years ago – probably more so. And the school system is just as good now as then. It has also more than doubled in population, with the high school student population having tripled since I graduated (some private schools have closed, and the town demographic is much younger now that a *lot* of seniors have died off). Yet the student parking lot is exactly the same size. These are kids who can easily be given cars, but they just have no interest in driving compared to back then. I don’t really see it as a problem, given accident rates among young drivers. Driving and getting pregnant are two things best left to after age 18…


    When I got my license in ’86, gas was ~$.89/gal and I made a whopping $4/hr. Today, gas is $2.40 and minimum wage where I live is $12/hr. Cars cost the same adjusted for inflation, but they are a lot more reliable and last longer too.

    @Arther Daily

    Cars aren’t much different to fix than they every have been, especially cheap cars. They are easier if anything – they tell you what ails them, you don’t have to read goat entrails and tea leaves to figure out why your ancient crock won’t go. You plug in a code reader and at least get a good strong hint as to what is up. You didn’t fix your beaters because you wanted to – you fixed them because you HAD to, all the time. Today, you just drive the things. I actually don’t think the teenage gearhead population is much different than it ever was based on the teens I know. The difference is that the kids who aren’t into cars particularly don’t get their licenses until much later, because they don’t NEED a license the same way we did. The gearheads still get them the minute they can. But they are all on online forums talking to other gearheads on their computers too.

  • avatar


    Who said anything about wealthy areas? My high school was pretty middle class, and most of the other Commended Scholars were children of UVA professors like me. Today, small private schools handle the faculty kids and everyone else who has kids is poor and dumb. Most of my peers married career women who had one sickly kid in early middle age that almost killed them. Meanwhile, the future Democrats were brought in to multiply like rabbits. You strike me as an over-privileged dullard. I’m not surprised the place that could coddle your entitled and empathy-bereft hide is still living in the sort of bubble that creates psychopaths who think they hit a home run when they started life in a home-base slide.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    My nephew turns 16 next month (which boggles my mind by itself) and he intends to get his license and plans to get a car. But it seems more like he will be driving as a means to getting places and not because he wants to. If he lived in the city he would likely not get either.

    That said, the saving grace is that whenever I see him I ask him what kind of car he wants. He never knows, but he always says he likes driving my mom’s IS300 Sportcross versus my sister’s MDX. He says he likes sitting down low because he likes how it feels more connected to the road.
    There may be some hope after all.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Why Are Teens Growing Disinterested in Automobiles?”

    1. General economic prosperity over the last 40-60 years. My father’s first car was 18 years old; my first car was 9 years old; my son’s first car was 2 years old. All of my free time as a 16-year-old was spent fixing a rusty, carbureted 71 Ford (when I wasn’t out with a girl). My son took a cosigned loan to get a car he didn’t have to work on. This was impossible when I got my first car.

    There is a fine line between wanting your kids to “have a better life than you did”, and enabling them to be weaklings. In my son’s case, I cosigned a loan for a decent car so he could spend his time getting a good education (on his dime), without being stuck repairing junkers while starting his career. Incidentally, he was 21 when he bought his first car – not 16 like I was.

    2. Multi-car households – Why get involved with the car scene if they can just drive their parents’ cars? Double parent incomes and greater prosperity means more cars are available for teens today. Take that away, and teens might start taking an interest in cars.

    3. Reliability and leases – Cars are more reliable than ever, and require less maintenance than ever. Accompanying that, easy lease terms help people to view cars as disposable as cell phones. With better cars, roadside assistance, and cell phones, teens don’t need to worry about breaking down, so they don’t need to learn *about* cars, nor do they need to learn how to fix them.

    4. Cultural divide – Car knowledge and wrenching used to be revered. But now, it’s “what other people do”. This is true of all products – we have services for everything under the sun. And many products are considered disposable, including TVs and appliances, so learning how to fix a brand-new car you’ll only have for 36 months is crazy.

    5. School loans – Despite the stronger economy and higher standard of living, teens know they will be stuck with heavy school loans if their parents aren’t paying for college. Therefore, fewer car purchases.

    6. Cell phones – Let’s face it, teens don’t even talk face to face anymore. The virtual world means there is less interest in being together for real. In many cases, a car doesn’t represent freedom; it’s just an old-school pain.

    Of my 5 children (ages 30 to 19), 3 live on their own and only two of them have cars. One of those two wants to get rid of his car altogether and just use public transport or take cross-state buses. This appalls me, but he’s pretty adamant. Once all of my kids are on their own, it’s possible that only 2 of them will own cars.

  • avatar
    Menar Fromarz

    I don’t really care if they want to drive or not. To me it’s all about skill sets and the options made possible by at least holding a drivers license. It’s not like they take it away if you don’t meet some ongoing usage requirements like an aviation license. But having the skill or the apathy to not is telling more about attitudes and aptitudes than passion for driving and vehicles in general.

  • avatar

    Okay, zoomer.

  • avatar

    Kids are more heavily scheduled because they can’t get into college without a mile-long resume, and they’re more connected through technology when they’re not scheduled. They don’t have time to screw around in cars.

    And, on top of that, driving is much less fun than it used to be (thanks to heavy traffic and endless sprawl) and nobody (kids or parents) has any money anymore because it is all going to landlords, mortgage lenders, or health care providers.

  • avatar

    A lot of the comments are giving good reasoning for why people aren’t driving or getting a license, but I don’t necessarily agree with directly linking that to interest.

    I liked cars long before I has a driver’s license or enough money to buy anything. And, I’d still like cars even if the Illuminati took away all my money tomorrow and told me I had to live in a pod in Tokyo the rest of my life.

    I also believe the hypothetical person in this week’s Mirage Junkyard Find “The MAN will fire you from your entry-level job — to which you just barely cling by the most fragile of fingernails — if you’re late to work even once, and you endure a hope-I-die-soon 70-minute suburb-to-suburb freeway commute” probably isn’t really interested in vehicles even though they drive a lot and bought a new car.

    I’d say a more relevant question for TTAC is how many people have a “positive” or “very positive” view of automobiles.

  • avatar

    My 0.02 is that teens have more demands on their time than ever before and enough of them have cars that not all of them need one. Plus social media, Uber, electric bikes, etc.

    Growing up in the 80’s, having a car meant freedom. Today it seems to mean just another money drain with not enough counterbalance of benefit.

    Weird to see car ownership as a net negative, but it’s understandable why it’s seen that way.

  • avatar

    The word you want is “uninterested”. “Disinterested” has a completely different meaning, and is entirely wrong here.

    Look it up.

  • avatar

    Easy snarky ignorant answer :

    #1 because they’re snow flakes and don’t find vehicles to be good “safe spaces” .

    #2 Because unless you’re right new cars pretty much suck .

    Seriously, I don’t know and I find this sad because of all the freedoms and lessons learned by those of us geezers who didn’t die or kill our selves learning to drive….

    Not surprisingly the usual dolts immediately made this a leftist deomoncrat issue……

    I feel sorry for those dullards who don’t grasp that endlessly making a fool of your self in public because you’re afraid isn’t a good thing .


  • avatar

    Uninterested or disinterested, most teens of today will eventually have to rely on a vehicle to provide them with transportation, especially in rural America.

    Big cities maybe not.

    My grandkids at one time were more interested in the latest and the greatest smartphone, but since they got a job and need to be at work on time, having a reliable car has moved up to the top on the list of life’s priorities for them.

    Most recently my granddaughter retired the 2008 Highlander we gave her and bought a brand new 4Runner with her own money/trust/inheritance. She’s a mining-engineer now and has dozens of people that rely on her to be there on time to do the tests they depend on to move mountains.

    Another granddaughter is seriously considering retiring the used 2012 Grand Cherokee we gave her for something new, with a factory warranty. She now works at Luke AFB and has lots of people that expect her to order critical parts and supplies in a prompt fashion. Commuting on AZ freeways is murder and wears out cars prematurely.

    And the list goes on. Eventually life catches up with the free spirits of teenagers and requires they get reliable on-demand transportation.

  • avatar

    I’ll chime….the crew is hitting all the points however dive to common denominator…Internet. Never in the course of adolescence has so much actionable information presented itself to a generation at the least cost. In effect analog to digital world.

    Older than 55 and wanted to impress you bought (via work) multiple devices. Record player, albums (recall the artwork), amplifier, eight track cassettes, the cool guys had CB radio, reel to reel or pager. One stood hours in line to get tickets for a concert and spent week earning enough coin for your smoke. Now our lives are compressed into one device that fits in your hand.

    First time in history a guy can sit in a basement, watch football, listing to music, while getting serviced by a F buddy, then order what ever food imagined delivered. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs satisfied by a tool for 40 bucks a month. I submit life is not getting harder but much easier for young people. Contrast above with our primary communication tool…rotary phone and a car connecting our circle with friends, work, and community.

    One can discuss which method is better but will say the collective experience of the past gave time to absorb our experiences.

  • avatar


    No walking half a mile to the bus stop. No waiting outside in the cold or heat or rain.

    Even if you can find a cheap car for a kid, insurance is a couple hundred a month. Gas. Repairs. Maintenance.

    Couple hundred a month goes a long way towards Ubering wherever you want to go.

  • avatar

    My daughters didn’t care much about driving and didn’t even bother getting their license until they were 18 and 17 respectively. They took transit or walked where they needed until then.

    When they finally acquired their license, we refused to let them take our vehicles whenever they wanted, knowing that if they had an accident we would be paying far more for insurance. Being teenagers, they wanted to drive a vehicle solely for recreational purposes, being bored at home, “needing to get out”, etc., reasons I was usually unsympathetic to, often denying their requests (especially when the roads were icy).

    My attitude towards lending my vehicles to my daughters contrasted with my parents’, who were more than happy to entrust me and my siblings with their vehicles; trust that we didn’t always honor. I mistreated their vehicles, which is something I regret to this day.

    When my youngest inherited a vehicle from her grandmother, I refused to insure it under my name. She agreed to register and insure it herself. After enjoying the vehicle and the freedom it brought for a short time, she crashed it into a 4×4 (not the vehicular type, but the pressure-treated lumber type; a speed limit sign). I took it off the road, and we made no insurance claim. In a way, this situation is fortunate, as the fuel and insurance costs were too high for her, even with me performing the basic maintenance. She’s back to taking transit, and I drive her when I’m able, enjoying the time we’re able to spend as I take her to her school in the mornings.

    All in all, cars are not a necessity to my girls, and they do not aspire to own a new one.

  • avatar

    There has been a lot of talk about kids and technology. What about parents and technology? Most people I know work at home at least a few days a week. Most places let you work shifted hours – 7-3 etc. Or you can work 8-2:30. Then head out to take the kids to soccer practice and dial into a conference call from the car. Get home at 4:30 fire up the laptop and finish some work before you start dinner.

    Obviously you can‘t do that in many jobs. But if we’re just talking about a 25% change – that could maybe explain a bit of it.

  • avatar

    Yea some of it definitely is the internet. My son is a good example, he interacts with a lot of his friends from HS playing on line games. When they were in HS they would often come to my house, bring their desktop gaming computers as well as their game boxes and play all night. When they went off to college and beyond they went to playing on line games and still do despite the fact that they are now scattered across the US and world.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    What I was a youth 40-50 years ago many of us were involved with hobby kits. Heathkit and Radio shack radios, amplifiers and treasure finders. Today it’s video games.
    Automobiles were the occasional fixer upper where you did the basic tune up. Points, plugs, condenser and normal maintenance. Now even the lowest rated vehicles are fairly reliable. Even flat tires are far less frequent,

  • avatar

    I know a lot of kids that want to drive, but it comes down to a choice of driving or having money do basically live on. Between the endless costs of keeping a beater going, insurance, gas, rent, etc, the car can be a “later on” thing. Most of them have driver’s licenses, but the only reason they drive is that grandma/grandpa gave them the car, and they have liability only insurance, and even that is a lot of money for them. They practically drool when they look at my car, which only well off young people and gramps like me can afford.

    A friend of mine and his wife have 3 kids, an older son who was as hot to drive as any of us were 30-50 years ago, and two younger daughters who weren’t too excited about driving. All it took to get them wanting to do it was my friend and his wife telling them if they didn’t get their license when they were 16, there would be no more taking them anywhere, except where they were already going. They have at least 8 cars available (he has a pretty good collection of older trucks and SUVs from the SW, so they don’t have much rust on them, yet), and so they would always have something to drive. They live 15 miles away from any job, so they don’t even want them to think about getting one until HS is done. The older one is 19 now, and has a definite preference for the more powerful vehicles in the fleet. The younger one just got her license and drives so timidly, she’s probably a safety hazard. She always picks the slowest of them all, the 1987 Toyota Celica, which is just gutless. They are going with her and hope that she at least drives at the speed of traffic as she gets more time behind the wheel. She’s so timid in general, I doubt it will work.

  • avatar

    My in-laws live in the suburbs, the kind of area where you need a car to get anywhere exciting. My nephew, who just turned 18, has zero interest in cars. Took driver’s training but still hasn’t got the hours in (?) to get his license.

    My 16yo niece, on the other hand, is all excited about driving. She wants to learn how to drive a manual too.

    And yes, both get driven around by their parents.

    Honestly I don’t know where the difference comes from. I just know when I was 15 I couldn’t wait to get my license. It was FREEDOM away from my parents and being able to go where I wanted to go. And more time with my friends.

    I suppose the internet age has changed all that – you can text your friends now, or use Instagram/FB/etc to send messages, pics, etc. Add in Playstation, PC, and Xbox gaming with headsights… so less F2F time is needed when “hanging out”.

  • avatar

    This has most certainly been said, but I’ll add my voice to the fray. Yes, paid driver’s ed as opposed to free driver’s ed. has got to be a factor. That said, my younger son chose not to get his license until he was out of high school by a couple of years. This choice was made even though his grandmother offered to pay the several hundred dollars ($300/400) for driver’s ed for him. (We could not afford to pay for it at the time.) His situation was friends who had cars were available if he needed that kind of help. Not having a vehicle also allowed him to avoid getting a job so he could do as he liked. I was a weenie on this aspect as I had had a “bad” experience (in my mind) with my folks. My take was they wanted me to get a job regardless of whether I was interested in the line of work of which the job was a part. I was in a band at the time and we were getting enough jobs playing that it covered whatever needs I had. For reference, a weekend high school dance paid $150 to $200 for a four piece band – bar work was similar with a 2 night run maybe paying as much as $300. Bottom line: cost of driver’s ed along with owners cost for a vehicle are 2 factors in the why.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    @KrHodes1: While admitting that new vehicles run longer and more reliably than cars of the 50’s/60’s/early 70’s and require maintenance at longer intervals.

    However do you truly believe that a modern vehicle, reliant on electronics and computers and with its possibly turbo engine and CVT transmission is easier to work on than a slant six Dart, a 6 cylinder Chev or an air cooled VW?

    Even licensed mechanics have had fairly recent problems with manufacturers not releasing codes or with the cost/availabilty of some parts.

    On the ‘cars of my youth’, changing the spark plugs and their wires, light bulbs, various filters and even working on non-ABS drum brakes was relatively simple. And often all that was needed to keep the vehicle running.

    When you opened the hood on pre 1972 vehicles, most of what you needed to work on was right in front of you and easy to reach.

    Showing one of my children how to change the air filter on one of our ‘modern’ vehicles amounted to a 15 minute job. And with my diminishing eyesight and fingers that have been broken multiple times, I had to give up trying to change a headlight bulb. On older vehicles, either task could be completed in a few minutes.

  • avatar
    formula m

    Young people have grown up using their phone and internet for everything to the point its almost an addiction. With the new distracted driving fines and penalties why would they open themselves up to being punished for using the thing they love… Their phone

    Automobile license use to be the first step in becoming an adult, now the phones have cut in front

  • avatar

    I can’t imagine not having gotten my license on my 16th birthday. Parents both worked and couldn’t cart me around to the few activities I could think to amuse myself, and I needed at least a license. I worked summers at Tree Trust, an organization specializing in providing employment to young people for 20 hours per week over the summer, making $5.25 an hour.

    Over 2 summers, when I was 14 and 15, I earned enough to put myself through driver’s ed, and buy a cheap car. I took driver’s training 6 months shy of my 15th birthday, got my permit a week after my birthday. Then I was off to the races.

    I wish I could have had more reliable access to a car in high school so I could have done PSEO courses at the local community college, but I couldn’t. Overall, having a license and car has always been a part of my life goal. Then again, I came of driving age 17 years ago.

  • avatar

    Granted, I’m a Millennial, as opposed to the generation that comes after us who seem not to be in a rush to drive (many seem to forget or choose to ignore that the oldest of us are looking down the barrel of the big 40 for birthdays, though I’m not there quite yet!). There were (are) many in my generation who never had an interest in driving, either. Some didn’t until later when relying on others or on public transport didn’t fit the demands of their job or where they live.

    To me, there are a few reasons that putting off or avoiding driving has become a thing: For one, it’s actually more difficult to get a license and to drive within the restrictions of being underage. When I was starting to drive, you could get a permit at 14, drive with licensed adult riding shotgun. You did this for a year if you didn’t opt to take driver’s ed. Then you could go in, show your permit, take your practical test, and if you passed, you left with freedom in your pocket. Curfew? Midnight. Nothing else. Just park it by 12:00am so you can wake up for school.

    Another thing is that cars are expensive to insure, expensive to fix, and they frankly have the personality of a receptionist in a drably lit office who never smiles and wears clothes someone triple her age would enjoy. Even cheap used cars up until the past decade or so had some personality. You could get an older car and learn to work on it. Today? If you want something under a decade old, or 15 years, it’s all the same crap. Anything cool from the 90’s is either used up and dying, or if it’s worth a damn, is being sold for a higher price (nicely preserved American mid-size, mid-market cars from the 90’s seem to be selling for at least a few thousand, which some see as too much. Hell, 10 years ago, I already paid that price for them!). What’s that leave for cheap first cars? Gee, can’t wait to get behind the wheel of that…2010 CR-V/Rav4/Prius/must-bleed-to-feel-alive-when-you-drive-it-borebox…woo. hoo.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Lou_BC: @JMII – I’ve had dealerships point out how inconvenience it was to travel to get a vehicle. I...
  • Lou_BC: @JMII – if the vehicle is on the lot your only option is to buy elsewhere. During my search for a new...
  • RHD: All motor vehicles are going up in price, due to increases in raw materials, shortages all over the place, and...
  • ToolGuy: Dude, this is 2022. Who cares about Russians and nukes?
  • ToolGuy: Prediction (28% confidence): I) Gasoline prices in the U.S. are headed for CRA-ZY. II) EV’s will...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber