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What kinds of cars are students driving these days?

Original post made by Mom, Palo Alto High School, on Apr 13, 2012

My son will have his driver's license at the end of summer and we only have two cars so will have to buy him a car. Sure, minivans and Prius' are Palo Alto cars, but what are students driving?

Comments (28)

Posted by parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 13, 2012 at 8:13 am

My kids don't have their own cars. They ride their bicycles everywhere around town.

Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 13, 2012 at 8:29 am

Bicycles are much better for school because the traffic is bad.

My Paly kids never had their own cars, but were able to drive my car for evening and weekend use. Even with after school jobs, teen driving is expensive and car insurance for boys is insane, girls are slightly better, even with the good student discount.

Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 13, 2012 at 9:37 am

exÇUSe me!! He's turning sixteen and you HAVE to buy him a car??? How many children do you have?? Only one I hope. Buy him a bike - and a raincoat. I had to walk six blocks to a midwest bus stop through snow and ice- so I have no sympathy for spoiled Palo Alto children. Our brood here never had a car- only bikes and feet - to get to school unless it was truly a dangerous day -then either their father or I arrived late to work. Why do I think this 'post' was written by the student.

Posted by Palo Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 13, 2012 at 10:15 am

Mom: Um, look in the school's parking lot?

Posted by laughing
a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 13, 2012 at 10:21 am

Oh Mom, I agree, you DO need to worry about what cars the other kids are driving. It is absolutely essential LOL

Posted by Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 13, 2012 at 11:09 am

You posters are hostile, judgemental, and off-topic. How did you get through college not answering the professor's questions? You must be the same ones who are upset with the multimillionaires in Palo Alto because you cannot keep up.

This is not an issue of spoiling but and issue of practicality. I have three children. Imagine me being in a neighboring city to drop off one child to practice, then picking up another somewhere else, and the 16-year old has to be at his extracurricular activity in a neighboring city too far to bike. And a husband who is a workaholic who doesn't come home until after dinner. There are times when a car is necessary for my sanity. And I don't want him biking at night time or to Shoreline to go see a movie.

My son rides his bike to school and will continue because it is better for the environment and faster than driving. Looking in the school parking lot is no indication of what students are driving because those will be students who live too far to bike.

At Menlo, many 16-year olds have cars. Perhaps I should ask those parents instead of Palo Altans who disdain the thought of "spoiling their children" and think that "back in my day" stories and making life difficult for their children builds their character (it doesn't; kids just feel unloved and resentful).

My children don't get allowances because it just encourages them to find ways to spend money. They don't frivolously spend our money because they learned their spending habits from us, who consider our purchases carefully and seek out the best deals. They ask themselves, "Do I really need this?" before spending.

I respect and treat my children well and in return they do the same for me. If I get sick, they take care of me. My children earn good grades because they want to please us - no nagging necessary. Their report cards often state they are hard workers with good attitudes. Adults know my children are good kids.

For those of you who have children and once they can wipe their asses, you think they are grown-up enough that you can start badgering, nagging, and telling them "Why should you get that? I never did?" I say, get a life - you should not have had children if you don't want to take care of them and love them for who they are. This is where most Americans fail and is why there is teenage rebellion. Start respecting your children and remember them as babies when you loved hugging them. Children always want to please their parents - they only rebel because they feel disrespected.

Posted by iSez
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 13, 2012 at 11:17 am

iSez is a registered user.

Buying a student a car is encouraging independence, rather than chauffering them around, which is spoiling them. Buy a sports car since he'll probably take it to college too! The guys in nice cars always get the pretty gals.

Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 13, 2012 at 11:50 am


If you really are trying to teach independence to your child, get him to get a job and as I said above, try calling the insurance company and find out how much it is going to cost to get him insured on your car first and then perhaps start looking around for a reliable second hand small car.

It is not about what car he gets to drive. You seem to think he has to fit in with everyone else. He doesn't. If he gets a car, he will be seen as being privileged. If he has to earn money for insurance and gas, he will understand the economics of driving.

Teach him wisdom in this and not about how to appear one of the cool kids and you will help him more than just going out and buying whatever car "everyone" else at school is driving.

And don't worry about the pretty girls, the smart girls are not taken in by nice cars anymore!

Posted by paly parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 13, 2012 at 11:52 am

Mom - for many families, buying an extra car is a great convenience for the whole family. Most kids seem to get the use of the hand-me-down van or wagon their parents have been driving for years and a parent gets the "new" car. A couple of things to think about - is this going to be a "kids car" shared by all your children or something your son will keep, take to college, etc? Is you son planning on going away to school (won't need to take it with him) or staying pretty local? If the car will be his in the long run, you may want to give him a budget and let him do the research and present you with some options. If the car will be a family car, think about the kind of car your whole family needs, for example, do you have all small sedans and would like an SUV (lots of kids seem to end up with things like Honda CRV's). Most of the kids here do not get flashy new cars. And of course, remember a lot of beginning drivers get into fender benders, so safety (and probably not too new) is a good choice.

Posted by another mom
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 13, 2012 at 12:04 pm

To actually answer the question: When my oldest child got her license, we faced this question. I ended up buying the very cheapest Honda Civic out there - manual transmission, no AC, it didn't even have a radio - but it did have every airbag and safety feature standard. It was about $12000 ( a few years ago). I really wanted our family's least experienced driver to be in a car with the latest safety features, and it was actually great that she learned to drive a manual transmission.

She also biked to school, but her having the car made MY life much easier - not having to chauffeur her around to various activities, plus she was able to help out with errands and grocery shopping, etc.

I hope this helps!

Posted by Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 13, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Thank you for the latest level-headed responses. We are considering a used car due to him being a new driver and the modesty of Palo Altans.

@Paly Parent: kids don't get jobs these days - there isn't enough time with college apps looming and the rigor of PAUSD academics. And he will not be seen as being "privileged" if he gets a car.

Interesting article states that students are no longer in a hurry to get their driver's licenses due to social networking. "In California in 1996, roughly 102,300 teens got their licenses as soon as they turned 16. In 2009, only about 69,800 16-year-olds did so, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles' 2010 Age & Gender Report": Web Link

Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 13, 2012 at 2:09 pm


Just to let you know that all of my 3 Paly students have outside school jobs and they are not alone, their workplaces are full of high school students.

Posted by laughing
a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 13, 2012 at 2:45 pm

I second what Paly Parent reported. My kids have part time jobs during high school and paid for their insurance and gas for the hand-me down cars we passed down to them. They still have done very well in school and for the ones already out of high school gone on to very good colleges.

It would do some kids a whole lot of good to be sent to work instead of worrying about what kind of car they ought to get to match their classmates.

Posted by another paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 13, 2012 at 3:36 pm

It's funny. In this image-conscious city, there are BMW driving kids. It's true. I wouldn't have a problem with it if they purchased their OWN car, but mommy and daddy are status-conscious and seek to impress their "superiority" over their neighbors, so they spend 3X what one ought to spend on a first car for a kid and hand it right over. Just sayin.'
Common sense leads some of us to give or purchase more basic, sturdy models for first cars for kids, and yes, some DO get around on bikes just like some high-achieving high-tech professionals who commute to work on their bikes and do just fine. Kudos to them!

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 13, 2012 at 3:52 pm

My Gunn senior doesn't have her own car (or want one). Her friend who has a job has a hand-me-down Corolla (10 years old I'd say). I'm not aware of any of her other friends who have cars of their own, most share with their parents. If I were buying her a car, it would for sure be a Civic - reliable, safe, affordable, easy to buy used, easy to sell.

On the topic of jobs, even the highest lane kids get jobs at Stanford, hospitals, business offices, and regular retail jobs. I disagree that there isn't time - a 10-15 hour a week job is certainly do-able, and worth a lot in terms of teaching responsibility, independence, and dealing with the adult world. And it doesn't hurt on college apps, either.

Posted by spoiled rotten
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 13, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Mom even after all this I still think you should get him a bike. After all you have been shuttling your kids around for many years. A few more won't hurt. Let him buy his own car.

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 13, 2012 at 7:41 pm

"At Menlo, many 16-year olds have cars. Perhaps I should ask those parents instead of Palo Altans"

I wasn't sure what to make of this point. Was the poster saying she thought Menlo School families were a better peer group for comparisons to her family? That might be true - but I have heard there are a lot of really spoiled rich kids there; though I am sure their parents think they are fine. To each their own I suppose.

Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 14, 2012 at 3:01 am

I saw a high-school girl driving a up-level Mercedes into PALY today on my way into Town & Country. It made me wonder whether this whole generation really appreciates what they have, understands it, and what they think about the great power and wealth they have at their disposal. I can't really argue the case logically but something in my gut just thinks this is just not good for people all this status symbol showing off.

Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 14, 2012 at 9:22 am

Just a PS about biking.

I find that with some good bike lights, biking at night is safe for teens, and that because they have done a lot of biking and particularly in the dark, it makes them that bit more aware of bikes when they are drivers.

Also, biking to Shoreline for a movie is very safe when the tunnel is open under 101, and then cycling around Googleland and entering the movie complex from the "back". Otherwise, the best way to get there is to cross 101 at Rengstorff rather than San Antonio.


Posted by Paly Graudate
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 14, 2012 at 3:48 pm

I am a Paly graduate and many of my friends did not get their drivers license until after they graduated from high school. My friends who did have their license cars varied greatly. Some received hand-me-downs and others bought used cars, while few were able to pick out a new car. I believe that it is up to the parents to decide what they are comfortable with their child driving. My parents were very kind and allowed me to help decide which car I would receive. I ended up with a new car that I will keep for many years to come. I am very grateful towards my parents for allowing me to have a car and spending their hard earned money on it.

I did not find that people thought I was spoiled for having the car and if so they kept that to themselves. It is hard deciding whether be more conservative or extravagant when buying your child a car but in the end do what feels right for your family. Don't worry about what others say because there will always be people who are more than willing and eager to voice their negative opinions.

Posted by Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 14, 2012 at 5:06 pm

My son will still use his bike for transportation to school.

Thank you, "Paly graduate", for showing the jealous and resentful posters that you are a grateful, unspoiled son/daughter and it IS possible to have such a child after buying him a new car.

I know my son will be grateful with whatever car we purchase and it will help me out a great deal that I will no longer need to drive him places and he can run errands and transport siblings to help me out, as "another mom from Downtown North" mentioned above.

"Spoiled" by materialism doesn't equal a spoiled, selfish attitude, as several posters seem to equate. Where people are getting confused is when the parents spoil their children with materialism but do not spoil them with attention and love - then the kids end up selfish and uncaring because they have the hole in the heart from lack of feeling important to their parents. Enough of the "No, you can't have that because you'll be spoiled" will cause low self-esteem and resentment.

@Me Too: I was referring to the bad attitudes of many Palo Altans who disdain any sort of materialsm and assume if someone drives a nice car or dresses well, they are self-absorbed. I grew up here and let me tell you, the hippy Palo Alto days are over. This is a new Palo Alto with people who have money. Get over it. I know many Menlo students who have material goods but are the nicest, kindest children. Yes, there are the "world-revolves-around-me" students too, but don't assume.

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 14, 2012 at 7:24 pm

Personally I find that there are fine people with or without nice cars or fancy clothes - and nasty ones. You seem to have a chip on your shoulder toward those "hippy" Palo Altans, just as others have a chip toward those who embrace materialism. Be careful - that chip might be inherited by your otherwise fine kids, which would be a shame.

Posted by Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 14, 2012 at 10:51 pm

@Me Too: I agree with you and hippies don't bother me, nor do nerds. I am, in fact, a nerd at heart. What bothers me is that I often read postings on this forum of people complaining of all the Palo Alto smugness, eliteness and complaining of McMansions, and of those with wealth who have moved here. And when they see people who are dressed mildy nicely (rather than comfort clothing) or driving nice cars, they immediately judge them as snobs or braggarts, when in fact, they might not be. Such as judgemental postings above which show disdain for youths driving luxury cars and assuming the students are brats. I guess it just shows their envy.

I do find that many of the of the Stanford Shopping Center patrons have bad attitudes I assume they are from neighboring towns because I don't run into them here in Palo Alto.

Posted by Lynn
a resident of Southgate
on Apr 17, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Mom, just ignore all teh spitefull comments, we have a couple of trolls on this website.
Re your question, most parents pass on their old cars to their kids and buy themselves new ones, so kids get 5-10 yr old Acuras, BMWs, Volvos, etc.
Some trust fund kids get brand new BMWs or even Porsches, but most kids find it ridiculous. What can truly get your kid coolness points is a vintage car or a creatively painted car, so it does not necessarily have to be expensive.

Posted by 4x mom
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 17, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Before my oldest was a teen, I heard an anecdote that I will never forget: teens who buy their own cars are far less accident-prone than kids who are given cars. For this and other reasons, I did not buy him a car when he got his license.

He grumbled repeatedly about not being given a car when his parents could afford one. Then he got a job and bought a cheap. He was proud of this accomplishment, and I was proud of myself for standing firm. A valuable lesson all around, especially given the stories he's told about classmates who repeatedly wreck the new BMWs their grandparents keep giving them.

I have four kids and there were times, before he got the car, that it would have made my life a whole lot easier for him to be driving. But being a parent isn't about doing what is always easiest for us, is it?

Posted by student
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 10, 2012 at 12:54 am

As someone who drives a "fancy" car (though it is 12 years old), I have to say that driving myself everywhere really does give me a greater sense of independence, which is really fulfilling. Also, it helps socially cause people always ask me to drive them to lunch.

However, I know several students who are really bad drivers, so that's a negative.

Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 10, 2012 at 8:19 am

Gunn Student has just brought up a very good point.

It is illegal for a newly licensed driver to drive other teens around but they do it. At Paly, there is very little need to drive anywhere at lunch time to get food, but at Gunn with no options other than school cafetoria, there must be pressures for those with cars to drive others down to El Cam to buy lunch.

Saying that, I remember a few years back (don't know if it is the same now) that there were a few days where the "Great Race" took place at lunchtime and the "winner" was the first car back to Paly with In and Out Burgers to show as bragging rights for their prize.

Posted by Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 10, 2012 at 11:10 am

Top 10 cars for teens: Web Link

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