While teenagers may desire a car so much that they consider it a necessity, most of the time it is a personal expense, so rarely does anyone want to offer a grant for a teen to buy a car. However, as a teenager, you might be able to obtain money from your family, and some foundations might even offer you a car for free.
Use Financial Aid
Although the government won't give a teenager a grant specifically for the purchase of a car, you might be able to use federal education grants to pay for a car. You can withdraw state and federal educational grants from your school account to pay for items, such as a car, even if the money is intended only for educational costs. The risk you have with this is running out of financial aid before the end of the semester and not being able to pay for school.
The "Family" Grant
You could set up a matching grant program with your family, as suggested by Chris Pummer of Market Watch. In this setup, the parents double whatever a child saves toward a car. For instance, if you earn $1,000 from a part-time job, your parents would put up another $1,000. Parents might go along with this plan because it makes you obtain equity in the vehicle, which might make you take better care of it.
A few charities exist to help low-income families obtain cars for free or at a reduced cost. The National Consumer Law Center has programs all over the country to help needy families obtain a car. Programs that help families obtain a car vary in what services they offer. The program might distribute free cars, help a family qualify for a loan at special rates or match whatever savings a family puts toward a car.
It may make sense for your parents to buy a car for you before you head off to college. Colleges may require the student's family to pay up to 20 percent of their assets toward tuition. If you have a custodial account, withdrawing money for a car is a legitimate expense, and it might mean you receive more financial aid that you would not receive if you had to report that asset on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, according to "Smart Money."
- Market Watch; A Sweet First Ride; Chris Pummer; February 2008
- U.S. News and World Report; Students Make Costly Mistakes With Financial Aid; Kim Clark; July 2008
- National Consumer Law Center: Find a Program Frequently Asked Questions
- Smart Money; 10 Things Financial Aid Offices Won't Say; David Weliver and Annamaria Andriotis; January 2010