My niece stopped by for a quick visit on her way through to Burning Man. She was driving my sister’s 2003 Honda Accord.
“Yup, it’s my car now,” my niece smiled.
I knew she had been having problems with her 1993 Toyota Tercel . But I didn’t know what the problems were.
“So what happened to your car?” I asked.
“I ran out of oil.”
Really? That’s what the problem was? Not an old transmission or faulty spark plugs? But a completely avoidable problem like making sure there’s oil in the car?
My niece is twenty years old. And like most twenty-year olds, worrying about how much oil is in the car, or even knowing that she should be worried about how much oil is in the car, is not a high priority. Hey, I’m in my forties and I still don’t like to think about that sort of thing, either.
But I do because it’s important. For a couple of reasons. One, it’s a safety issue. Two, it’s a financial issue.
And it’s this last one that came in to play when my niece ran dry. She ruined the engine. Ka-put. Fini. A car without a working engine is, well, a large piece of junk metal.
So then my sister, a single mom, had to figure out how to solve the problem of finding another reliable car that my niece could safely drive to and from school 600 miles away. And that’s why my sister’s Honda was now sitting in my driveway…and a used mini-van was now parked at her house thanks to a new car loan.
All I could think about was how expensive that lesson was. I know my niece has learned from it. But, it’s a lesson that could have been avoided. Keeping oil in the car is not fascinating stuff to kids…or adults. Regardless, that information, and a lot more like it, needs to be passed down. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s going to sink in. But we have a better chance if we begin sharing this sort of information when our kids are young, along with the reasons why.
And to get it to sink in a little faster, it helps to let the kiddos know that once they get a car, it becomes their financial responsibility. Then ask them which one they’d prefer to be financially responsible for: a $40 oil change or a $10,000 car loan. Hopefully it won’t take a dry engine to get them to understand the difference.