Can an Au Pair be happy without driving privileges?

by cv harquail on February 11, 2010

[[This question popped up in a different comment thread, and I’ve pulled it out for its own page & conversation, seeing as how this is an issue for many of us. I’ll eventually re-post the comments already made, but here is a start:]]

My husband and I are expecting our first au pair in May. We have a one year old. While we asked all candidates about their driving experience, we never emphasized it as a requirement. I never planned to have an AP drive our one year old, and because I work part time we don’t anticipate situations where we would need her to drive our son.

olivier bataille beadsI have been reading the AP mom blog and think it is a wonderful resource. From my reading, it seems like almost all host families have provided their APs with driving privileges. It also seems like not having driving privileges is a ‘deal breaker’ for some APs.

We don’t have a third car, meaning that if AP were to drive she would be using one of our relatively new vehicles. We are also responsible for all but $250 of the deductible if the AP has an accident. I was shocked by the extra expense of insurance to cover our AP, and since we don’t need her to drive as part of her work responsibilities, my husband and I have decided that we are not going to add her to our insurance and will take responsibility for getting her where she needs to go.

My question is, whether other families on this website have opted not to have their APs drive, or whether it is highly unusual not to allow an AP to have driving privileges for her personal time. While we have told our matched AP that we won’t need her to drive, I am concerned that once she gets here, this might be a source of conflict if ‘all the other APs’ are driving. We are very curious as to how others have handled this situation and kept their AP happy when you could not afford all the extras…

I want this to be a happy and productive year for all of us, but the expenses I never anticipated keep adding up and I feel that not having her drive is one way to save money and avoid the stress of having to replace a vehicle and face higher insurance premiums in the future!

Any and all advice would be appreciated! Charlotte


NoVA Host Mom February 11, 2010 at 9:54 pm

We do not allow our APs to drive and specifically request non-drivers in our application process. We got our first AP when our first daughter was 2 months old (our second daughter is due next month). Since there was no way I was letting an inexperienced driver (certainly inexperienced for our DC Metro area) take my infant first born anywhere in a car, there was no need. We provide her with a Metro access card and provide money for the card for her travel expenses to and from school. For anywhere else she wishes to go, she may put her own money on the card and use it for the bus (and/or train system) to get around. We are on our 2nd AP and it has not been a problem yet.

There is no way I wanted to pick up the added expense of use (and potential loss) of the car, which while it is a third car for us, it is still a very useful one (my husband has a 2-door “guy car” from before we were married and it is not car seat friendly).

Is every AP okay with this? Probably not, but then again I am not looking for the entitled princess, but someone who recognizes that we do other things to make things easier for her instead. Please do not try to keep up with the “Joneses” in this AP race for privileges — it’s not worth the headache or financial drain.

My 2 cents February 11, 2010 at 9:55 pm

I think it so very much depends on where you are and what kind of public transit is within walking distance. If you are in a more urban setting where she can truly get out and about without a car, great. If not, it’s more of an issue. Personally, it would be a deal breaker for me to not have some kind of access to a vehicle on my off time. Mind you, not my own car, or even a car every day, but some kind of access.

Also, keep in mind it is not fair to other host parents if your au pair is constantly shuttled around by other au pairs in those families’ vehicles. Your au pair will likely want — and you will want her — to go out with friends on a regular basis. If you decide to foregoe the car, then you really should offer to drive her and the others to places to even it out, and that can be its own source of pain.

Ann from NE February 11, 2010 at 9:56 pm

We’re same as NoVA Host Mom – we’ve had 2 APs (both pre-matched), and specifically told them in our communications and to the agencies that we would waive the driving requirement.

We’ve avoided drivers for multiple reasons: cost/safety, space (our condo comes with only one parking spot, so it’s difficult enough for us to find overnight winter parking in the neighborhood for my spouse’s care, buying/parking a 3rd AP car would be ridiculous), and necessity. Also, in the E. European country from where I wanted both APs (bilingual reasons), few young people have driver’s licenses, so imposing that requirement would have narrowed my pre-matched candidate pool too much (the high cost for girls to applying to the AP program, and the English language requirement, already does so enough).

We live in suburb of large metropolis, on two bus lines, within 10 minutes of subway ride downtown. Our APs were always able to take our daughter to her playgroups by bus/metro or walking, and there are several parks/playgrounds within walking distance. On their personal time, they could usually get out and meet their friends on public transport or occasionally get a ride. When needed, we drove them to AP meetings and classes and to airport/train station for weekend trips.

Now that my daughter started elementary school, I don’t have an AP anymore, but it wouldn’t make sense in our housing situation because the afternoon enrichment classes she now needs to get to aren’t within easy public transportation access so I drive her myself and have arranged flex-time from work. With the 2nd AP, I specifically switched agencies because the first agency’s cluster mostly had girls who lived in the far suburbs where a car was necessary so our AP was left out of the social network. The 2nd agency had a more urban, closer to us cluster network so that helped a lot.

There are a couple of other APs around us whose families don’t require them to drive. I think there were several benefits. For my APs – the need to push my daughter around in a stroller and walk a lot kept them in shape; no need for a gym membership. They also became very confident at navigating and urban geography. And my daughter is a very seasoned rider of buses, urban and commuter trains. By the end my APs and my daughter had many great field trips by public transportation: to the beach; to the zoo; to an art museum a 60 minute ride away; to a suburb to visit an AP who picked them up in a car. I was actually jealous of their daily “adventures”.

In terms of cost, the AP had a metro system card that you add value to. We would reimburse her for trips with our daughter and to classes; she would pay for personal travel on her own. Children ride for free anyway.

PA au pair mom February 11, 2010 at 9:58 pm

We live in a rural area and there is no public transport. Not having access to some kind of transport, be it car, bus, metro, etc, would be very difficult. As long as there is mass transit nearby, it shouldn’t be a problem. Just be honest and discuss it with your AP.

good luck.

Chev February 11, 2010 at 10:00 pm

I agree with the other posters, if you live near a lot of easy to use public transport or other au pairs who drive, then you don’t need to let your AP drive.

I have 2 AP friends over here who don’t drive. One knew this ahead of time and her host parents said they’d drive her where ever she needed to go. So far she’s had to cancel a few times because they’ve made plans or haven’t gotten home in time. Another was told she would have access to a car on her off time. Which is technically true, but she has to book the car 2 weeks in advance and cannot have it Friday through Sunday. So she’s looking at buying her own car because she’s not comfortable always relying on our friends to pick her up and drive her everywhere.

I get spoiled by my HF and have access to a car all the time, but i think if we lived in a city with great public transport then i’d be ok without having one to use.

AnnaAuPair February 11, 2010 at 10:00 pm

I know, that there are AuPairs who think, that they NEED a car – but if you live in an area, that has some kind of public transportation, they don’t!!!
In both my HFs I didn’t have a car. And I got around well. Sure, it would have been nice somtimes, to not have to wait for the bus. But I also didn’t have to worry about having an accident and having trouble with the insurance.

When I was out with the kids (and sometimes, when I was out alone), my HM would pay the bus-ticket.

So, tell her, before she arrives, about ways to get around without a car.
Often, there are other AuPairs in the area, who can pick those up who don’t. It’s not as hard as it sounds =)

Anonymous February 11, 2010 at 10:26 pm

We live in the suburbs of Washington DC, with easy access to buses which take you anywhere you need to go. We covered ahead of time with all Au Pairs we even talked to that they wouldn’t have access to a car, but that we’d provide them with transport to classes and drive them if necessary to classes or their required au pair meetings. We then confirmed when we offered them the position that they would not have access to a car. So far, it works great. I think the most important thing is to cover it up front and be realistic……if you live in an area w/o public transport, prob not a good idea.

Calif Mom February 12, 2010 at 12:16 pm

exactly! I would go so far as to tell her that “some of your new friends will probably have cars; you will not, so think about whether that will be a problem for you.”

As for the problem of friends not always wanting to give rides, the AP who is *getting* rides should offer up some cash for gas once in awhile. That’s how I got through my carless years…

Our AP no longer needs to drive kids around during the week (hooray!) so she is a bit ‘landlocked’. There is a bus to take her into town, but her church is not easily accessible, so we do make our second car available on weekends, but it has to be ‘cleared’ a couple days ahead…certainly not reserved weeks before!

Another factor to think about is that we restrict driving in bad weather. So that means occasionally HD or I will give rides to train station/college/church/give friends a ride to airport or whatever the AP has committed to, and may give her extra cab fare for a ride home to our door if we don’t want to be out late for the pick-up run. But we’ve had too much body damage (in good weather!) to let them drive in bad weather anymore.

All that said, not having access to a car should not be a deal-killer. If it is, you need a different au pair. Many don’t even like to drive; it’s too much stress and too risky.

HM in WI February 11, 2010 at 10:46 pm

We live in a suburban area with no public transit close by. Having driving privileges is a must for us. When our first AP was here, though, our children were 3, 2, and newborn, and we did not have a car available to her during her working day. She went for walks in the neighborhood, but there was not a need for her to shuttle the kids to and from activities. She never had a problem with this. We allowed her use of one of our cars in her off time, but again, in the suburbs, it seemed a must.

Sara Duke February 11, 2010 at 11:24 pm

We always provide a car for APs who pass DH’s driving test to use in their free time. If they don’t pass the test, they don’t get keys to the car. In my experience, my APs end up ferrying their friends around a lot. Several have complained that when it was time to go clubbing, they were always the designated driver. I remember one other HM told her AP that my AP could pick her up and drive her to college! I told my AP that she should not feel obliged to drive several miles out of her way (not to mention that the other HM never offered to reimburse ME for wear and tear on my vehicle).

I agree with others. If you have easy access to public transportation or live in a city, then you should have no problem telling an AP “we do not offer a car.” However, if you live several miles from public transportation and do not have time or energy to provide transportation, there might be hard feelings. If you expect other APs in the cluster to pick up the slack for college class and AP meeting attendance, then you need to help your AP provide gas money.

Our current AP is not much of a driver, and so while we permit her to drive the children in the minivan during the week, she is not yet certified by DH to drive herself in the “au pair car.” We do not provide transportation to her, because we live in an area that has good public transportation. (She did try to ask once, but it happened to be at a moment when I was scurrying around to drop my children off at a friend’s house so I could attend a funeral – not a good time to ask. She hasn’t asked again.)

We have always required our APs to be drivers. I’ve never thought it was a bad thing. It makes getting the kids to the hospital or doctor’s in an emergency much easier.

Au Pair in CO February 12, 2010 at 12:25 am

I know a couple of girls back home who are thinking about being au pairs, but don’t want the cost of getting a drivers license first (it costs over $3000 to get your license where I come from).

As long as you live in an area with good public transportation, or are willing to drive your au pair around, not just to school, but to shopping and other activities too, I think both you and your au pair can be happy about it:)

former au pair February 12, 2010 at 1:39 am

I agree with what most of the others have said. If you live in an urban area with public transport available close by, it shouldn’t be a problem. If you are in a more rural area, it might be a problem.

About the insurance…I know that my parent’s insurance (which I am still covered under) has always had some sort of clause in it that covered people if they borrowed the car with permission. So while I was in college, if a friend needed to borrow my car for some reason, they were covered for that time period. Could you not just do something like that for your au pair if she was only an occasional driver?

Anonymous February 12, 2010 at 9:01 am

The agency requires that we put the Au Pair on the insurance if she is going to be using the car. In reality, if we let the AP drive with any regularity and she gets in an accident, then the insurance company could refuse to cover it on the basis that we didn’t pay to insure her even though she lives in our house and we knew she’d be using the car.

Anonymous February 12, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Well,your car is insured. We have hosted 7 au pairs and all have used a 3rd car, none were on our insurance. Otherwise we could never afford to allow the au pair to drive. If your neighbor borrows your car and gets into an accident, your insurance covers it. Likewise with an au pair. The only thing is that they were borriwing our car. Many other host families do this as well, otherwise insurance is prohibitive. The key is you don’t call your insurance agency and ask them how much it will be!! ANy guest that visits us can use our car.

Anonymous February 12, 2010 at 12:21 pm

And just to Add- the agency says it is required- wink wink. All you do is say yes, we are aware. end of story. None of the LCC’s cared- since they all know how costly insurance is in our state for adults, let alone under 25.

Anonymous February 13, 2010 at 10:23 am

It is very dangerous to have an au pair driving regularly without being on your insurance. That is why your agency requires it. The LCCs should care – they could lose their LCC positions for telling/advising you otherwise.

Calif Mom February 12, 2010 at 12:27 pm

This is a really variable situation, depending on the policies of both your insurance company and your agency. Our insurance company does consider someone who has permission to drive as covered, without additional premiums/fees etc. I have it in writing. Our agency does not require us to pay for insurance in her name.

NannyKelly February 12, 2010 at 8:00 am

The first family I au paired for I was not offered a car, but we lived maybe a block from the bus stop which ran often. The only problem was that it is expensive (nearly 3chf- 3sh dollars for one way!). They didn’t offer to buy me a bus card but I think it is swiss law that the HF must buy the au pair or at least pay half of a public transport card. The second family , I did have access to a car. But it was more trouble than it was worth. I was never paid for the money I spent hauling their kids around 30 mile radius every week. I only used the car to drive the kids because I couldn’t afford the gas to go anywhere for myself. My boyfriend usually picked me up. A car with that family was a necessity, we were far in the country away from the public transport.

I say, if you live in a town with a reasonable bus/train/metro schedule then no, just show her how to use it and maybe offer to pay a bit for a pass? Is that acceptable in the US?

Former au pair 2 February 12, 2010 at 8:51 am

Are you serious?? You were driving the host kids in 30 mile radius and they never reimbursed you for the gas money? You should’ve told them, it’s not au pair’s responsibility to pay for gas while on duty.

NannyKelly February 13, 2010 at 10:47 am

I wish I would have had the courage to say anything, but seriously with this family, I was “in trouble” every day. If I had said anything, I’m sure they would have somehow figured out a reason as to why I should be paying.

au pair February 12, 2010 at 8:41 am

honestly, it depends how much freedom they will have. If they cannot drive but cannot get anywhere without a taxi/host parents, they will feel trapped. I am in the US and have been for just over 2 weeks. I am in the NE and it has snowed since I have been here, and I feel trapped. I at least know, that it will improve once the kids go back to school and the snow melts, so I can drive. But it is really hard to have to depend on host parents for things you need all the time, and have them waiting there as you buy groceries, toiletries, presents for home and try to go to post offices etc in limited time.

Calif Mom February 13, 2010 at 11:04 am

new au pair, it will get better! The first two weeks are tough; that’s when our new au pairs who DO drive usually end up frantically lost. You’re also going thru the very hardest adjustment time. Spring will come!

I bet most people dealing with the snow are feeling trapped! It’s called ‘cabin fever’.

mom23 February 13, 2010 at 4:54 pm

New au pair,
I think everyone in the NE is feeling trapped and going a bit stir crazy. I certainly do. My office has been closed for a week and while I got in one day for a couple of hours, for the most part we have all been at home. My car came out of its place today for the first time in 8 days and only to go to the grocery store. As Calif Mom says, it will get better!

Anonymous February 12, 2010 at 9:04 am

If your incoming AP has a drivers license, and you have not EXPLICITLY told her that she won’t be allowed to use the car, she is going to assume that she will have access in her free time. I know several HFs that ran into this (especially with Thai APs who are all required to get a license to apply, but no offense, are horrible drivers!) where they got an AP with no intention of letting them drive, but AP had a license and demanded to be allowed to occasionally use the car. Tell her now, if it’s a deal-breaker for her, better to find out now than after she’s in your home.

Anonymous February 12, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Thai au pairs are notoriously bad drivers when they get to the US, this is one reason I would never host a Thai au pair.

Hula Gal February 12, 2010 at 1:29 pm

My au pair is Thai and she is a good driver. But she does admit that many Thai au pairs are not. So generally this may be true but skills can be acquired through practice. Depends on the individual. As far as the topic at hand, I understand the host mom’s reluctance to allow the au pair to drive a newer car. We just happened to be replacing my 8+ year old VW golf with a new minivan when we decided to start hosting au pairs. So it was not a problem for us to just keep the car as a third car for the au pair. But there are expenses associated with a third car.

GingerMom February 12, 2010 at 9:18 am

We give our AP a car, and specifically screened for someone who had driving skills. We don’t live that close to public transport. Our AP has an AP friend in our same town who has no driving privileges and it’s really limiting. She cares for twin infants and is basically trapped in the house with them during the day. Plus this poor girl is having to beg her friends for rides everywhere – including to her classes. Or her HM / HD has to shuttle her around, which has proven to be unreliable. Our AP has told me that not being able to drive has really impacted her happiness here, which is too bad. I see it as a quality of life thing, for our AP to be able to drive places on her own. And it has helped us to set this up as a “privilege” which she needs to earn and which can be taken away at our discretion.

Calif Mom February 12, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Hosts are responsible for getting the girls to/from their classes. AP should complain to LCC–at least for reimbursement! shame on them!

Janet February 12, 2010 at 9:24 am

We live in a rural area – the closest bus stop is about a 15 minute car ride! We have a third car (@ 11 years old) for the au pair, and we don’t let the au pair drive until we feel comfortable with her skills. We needed to do intensive driving lessons for two au pair’s out of 5, and our AP’s have had three accidents. Our insurance is higher b/c of the au pair’s plus we really have to keep an eye on car maintenance since the the AP’s are not so vigilant, but I am glad I don’t have to drive the au pair all over the place. One must for us is that the AP has to do the 3,000 mile oil changes at the garage, but we reimburse her for the cost. I am thinking about offering a bonus to our AP’s who get a driver’s license since my agent said this would lower the rate a little.

Sara Duke February 12, 2010 at 9:39 am

We tell our APs up front that we will reimburse them for the cost of getting the driver’s license, including the Drug and Alcohol Course that Maryland requires. So far only 3 out of 5 APs have bothered – the ones that are extending with us. We are also up front that if they fail the driving test the first time, then they must pay any fees to take it again. So far everyone has passed the test on the first try. APIA requires APs in their extension year to have a valid US driver’s license.

Calif Mom February 12, 2010 at 12:30 pm

YES! if your AP drives, you must explain to them about engine lights, and what a low tire looks like at minimum.

Private driving lessons for an “okay” driver are well worth the investment. (Never believe the assessment of the agency reps in country.)

Sara Duke February 12, 2010 at 1:35 pm

I agree. Our current AP managed to damage another vehicle (ours looks like a dented tin can thanks to DH) while doing an assessment drive with DH. Her error in calculation was so egregious that we split the costs with her for 6-hours of driving with an off-duty police officer in an official driving school. After 6 hours the officer told DH that she could probably pass the road portion but not the rest of the test. DH husband tried to log in hours with her on his own, and was overwhelmed, so we required her to spend another 10 hours on the road with a driving school and made her find it. It worked well enough – she can drive the minivan so that we don’t feel the kids are in danger.

However, I’m going to be a lot more cautious about driving skills in the future. Having to wait several months for an AP to get up to speed is not acceptable.

Do count on a few weeks as your AP learns to navigate in a new country where none of the place names is familiar, learns both the offical rules of the road and how the locals obey or do not obey them (make sure she knows the difference). We learned with our first AP to ask, “Tell me how you’re going to get home,” after she spent 3 hours driving in circles until she recognized a familiar street name.

None of it is impossible, and just think, you have X years until you need to worry about your own kids learning to drive!

Former Au pair February 12, 2010 at 9:30 am

I had the minivan during the day, to drive to activities, playgrounds, children’s museum etc. with the kids or bring them/pick them up from/to activities or school. Where I lived, it was just necessary. No public transportation, a suburban city, only 2 playgrounds in walking distance.

And just imagine how it is to be trapped in the house all day with kids. Yes, you can do nice things inside or in the garden with them, but not all the time!

As others said before, if you have good public transportation, riding the bus/metro/sub should not be a problem. And with the kids- they probably might like it and find it exciting anyhow =)

AP in MA February 12, 2010 at 9:49 am

I agree that if you live in the urban area, where you can easily get a bus or the subway, it wouldn’t be a problem–just remember to let your prospective AP before you match with her. Don’t create expectations about something that won’t happen, the HM/HD should make it very clear and let the AP decided if she’s okay with that or not. Some will say ‘thank you but I don’t think we’re a good match’, some will say ‘I’m okay with that’.
When my host parents were interviewing the APs, they told me I wouldn’t drive, because they live near from subway. I take care of a baby, so I don’t need to drive the baby to any activities. And I was totally okay with that, actually, because in my home country I didn’t have a car just for me, so I’m pretty used going out by public transportation.

Amelie ex au pair February 12, 2010 at 10:14 am

I wasn’t alowed to drive, but it didn’t bother me, since I lived in Washington DC.

But I know that not having a car was a BIG problem for some of my friends who lived in the suburbs…

StephinBoston February 12, 2010 at 10:20 am

We like in the suburbs of Boston, no public transport in our town so we do provide a car (we have 3), it does come at the great expense of $1000 extra a year of car insurance and wear and tear, etc. Our au pairs have been very respectful of that and don’t abuse the privilege. That being said, our first AP was a lovely girl who had very little driving experience, our kids were small so I didn’t need her to drive them around. She was a terrible driver but I wanted her to be able to get around so when she finally passed her MA license (after 5 attempts), we let her go by herself. The first day she went our on her own, she totaled our car, thank goodness she was not hurt in the accident! The accident happened in her 6th month here, she extended with us and stayed 21 months, so she was able to survive without driving the rest of her time here but it was more difficult for everyone including us who had to be flexible to drive her around sometimes.

Soccer Mom February 12, 2010 at 12:27 pm

We had the almost identical thing happen to us too. She was our first AP (and this site didn’t exist 5 years ago) so I thought 21 years old with driver’s license meant she could drive. She was in her 3rd month when we started letting her drive, because she really couldn’t, (off duty only, in town only, good weather only, daylight only etc) and she still managed to total our car. We did not replace the car, and it seemed to impact her happiness, although it was hard to tell since she was generally gloomy anyway. It was a major pain to tote her around, but we always went out of our way to make sure she got where she wanted to go. I think her friends did get annoyed that she always wanted rides to avoid asking us, but as inexperienced host parents our agency simply called her a “driver” and did not explain that it doesn’t mean she can actually drive, and we had no intention of giving her another car to drive (crash) and had no idea about the transition process or whether to consider it. If she was mooching rides all the time for personal trips, she should have been kicking in for gas. If other HPs are worried about wear & tear I can understand that – maybe put a mileage limit on the car and let their AP decide if her friend is worth the mileage, or limit the # of rides for the friend. She wanted to extend with us and “rehabilitate” her driving on our remaining car. We said no for scores of reasons, including the fact that we wanted someone who could at least drive herself around. We are on our 6th AP, and we did replace the car and have given lots of driving priveledges to the subsequent 5 with (knock on wood) no accidents since. I really dislike when host moms get haughty about what “perks” people should or should not be able to afford. I agree that potential APs should be told up front about what to expect, but I don’t think anyone else should decide what you can or can not afford or what your comfort level should be about letting an AP drive. Go ahead and restrict your AP from giving rides to other APs – let her know that carpooling is so Anti-American anyway.

massaupairmom February 12, 2010 at 11:06 am

To be frank, I always find it a little hard to swallow when someone who works part time and has only one child can afford an au pair, but cannot afford “perks” such as driving for that person. I sincerely hope that 1) you have told your au pair that she will not be driving, 2) you live in an area where there is public transportation, and 3) you are truly prepared to provide transportation yourselves as it is unfair to other host families to expect their au pairs to be driving your au pair around.

TX Mom February 12, 2010 at 11:41 am

Great Point! The AP’s are pretty quick to optimize their car and gas privileges as a pool. I resent if my AP does excessive driving for a non-driving AP and the other HF doesn’t return the favor in other ways.

Anonymous February 12, 2010 at 12:20 pm

I agree with you! My AP was one of a few that drove, in an area where driving is a necessity. She learned early on how other AP’s abuse her simply to get her to drive! Many other families won’t allow them to drive, and it makes for a terribly isolating year for the AP. That will make an unhappy AP- which you do not want.

CaliHostMom February 12, 2010 at 12:59 pm

I’m with you, massaupairmom. We live in a suburban area with one useless bus line that goes to/from the train to the city and the mall and that’s about it. The ride to the mall take 3x as long as in a car. The APs around here don’t go to the city all that much. They do stuff around here. I always – 10 years – insured my APs on my car insurance and yes it added about $1,600 to my policy per year, but I just factored it in as a cost up front. It’s $130 a month. For that price you get: 1) a happier au pair who can truly “live” in our community 2) an emergency driver 3) a kid chauffeur 4) someone who feels like ‘part of the family’ 5) someone who can run to the market for diapers and prescriptions….etc., etc.

I also learned how to help the girls protect themselves from the freeloading HFs in the area who wouldn’t let their APs use a car. Over the years, we came up with several ways: a) bluff — when they say on Saturday night “my HM won’t let me drive, so you need to be the designated driver”, say: “sorry, MY hm won’t let ME drive tonight, so let’s stay home and rent a DVD” b) ask for up front gas $ *and* a pledge that if there is an accident, that all passengers in the car will equally split the AP’s deductible c) designate in advance that you will only be the DD 1x per month d) for road trips: the passengers agree up front to share the cost of a car wash, etc. e) get new AP friends.

By the way, it’s also not always TRUE that the HF won’t let their AP use the car. Beware that an AP saying her HF won’t let her use the car is also a deliberate lie designed to shirk being a DD so that the AP can drink alcohol for the evening (or simply responsibility for driving). (Yes, young women age 21 and up like to go dancing and drink and some of them can do so responsibly and still be good APs. They’re not all drunks and party-maniacs just because they like to go to the big city once in a while and go to a club.)

HFs who don’t let their APs use a car in our area have always bothered me. They justify their personal choice not to let the APs have a car with all the ‘good’ reasons others have listed here in this discussion (safety, cost, etc.). Sure, sure. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. But for the families around here, there’s another reason they don’t admit: they know that other families will provide other APs with cars and they know that they can push the liability risk and the car depreciation cost and the insurance cost onto those other families. That’s my opinion. Deny it. Berate me if you want. But there it is. Personally, for me, unless you live in a major metro area with REAL public transportation, access to a car is a necessity. I have always looked for APs that were good drivers and I have always felt “if I can entrust my children to this adult woman, I can entrust my car to her.” Granted, I don’t drive a fancy BMW. It’s a minivan. And, yes, it’s got some dents from various APs. That’s life. But we never had a serious accident in 10 years. For these moms who expect their APs to use the bus…maybe that works in DC ‘burbs, but in most suburbs of California, it’s baloney. I challenge any of these hosts moms on their day off to use the bus to run their personal errands, go shopping, to a movie, and to get ice cream. I apply the “niece rule”. I my niece were my AP, how would I feel about her doing “x”? With the car, the answer is “let her use it.”

StephinBoston February 12, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Totally agree with you, I now look for drivers exactly for th0se reasons, I WANT them to drive. I really got lucky with our Brazilian who totaled the car and never drove again because there’s a HUGE Brazilian population in MA and she had made friends with non aupairs who were happy to pick her up and drive her . It worked very well for her but probably wouldn’t for most. I am VERY sensitive to the issue of APs using other APs for rides which is partly why I offer a car too, and even why I didn’t take the driving privilege away from my au pair who I caught texting while driving the kids. I didn’t want to make her a burden for the other HFs.
In the end, if you live somewhere where you need a car to get around, you need to get an au pair who can drive and who you will let drive whether it means you have 2 cars that you share or 3 with one dedicated to the au pair.

TX Mom February 12, 2010 at 11:22 am

If driving was optional for our AP, I would probably have them take public transport. I believe there are threads on this blog about car insurance and deductibles that outlines how expensive it is for an AP to drive. We have an inexpensive but safe AP car and just accept that it will get wrecked. The additional costs – out of our pocket – for insurance and replacing a wrecked car has been $1500-$4000 per year in our experience, plus the concern and inconveniance. Maintenance costs and gas are on top of what I mentioned. (We pay for gas to haul the kids, go to classes and cluster events.)

Darthastewart February 12, 2010 at 11:59 am

We have 4 cars. The AP drives the kids during the day in one of the “big” cars, and we pay for gas in those cars. At night/weekends, she/he has pretty much unlimited access to an older 2 seater. It can go anywhere in town, and some limited road trips (within a 6 hour radius of our home (stretching from Washington, DC to Atlanta, to the mountains, and to the coast). Road trips are limited to 1 per month, and if she is takingn road trips, she pays for an oil change. The AP pays for gas use for personal use (i.e. in her car). We provide a credit card to pay for gas in the other cars- and the rule is that we never, ever want to get into the car and find it on empty.

OhioHostMOM February 12, 2010 at 11:59 am

I agree with the other sentiments about it depending on your location and access to public transport. I also believe it is a quality of life thing, for you and for your au pair. For us, we have had 2 good drivers and 1 not so good driver. We live on a bus line, but it is not the safest or most reliable form of transportation. We have a third car and provide it to our AP for her use for work and personal. She has exclusive use of the car as long as she is responsible (which she has been). It is one of the perks we can offer our AP (we don’t live near the beach or a great metropolis and she works the full 45 hrs a week with 2 little ones). I also like her having access because she DOES things with my kids. Weekly they go to the museum, playdates, library, zoo etc., something she could not do without access to a car. My kids have an awesome time on the adventures she takes them on (they are 1 and 4). I know our current AP has been asked by many other AP’s to take on the DD when they go out or always drive because their HF’s don’t provide a car, but my AP has refused to fall into that trap. She drives her share and helps out when she can, but has often refused even if that means they all stay home. It is not fair for HF’s to assume or think that other AP’s will always pick up the slack and can breed bitterness.

I will say that I think it is a little unrealistic for HF’s to think well I will just drive them wherever they need to go. That is such a PAIN! When we had our 1 bad driver, it was so hard to take them where they wanted to go. After working a FT job and managing kids, the last thing I wanted to do was be on standby (even occasionally) to pick my AP up from downtown after a night of clubbing…or drive her to and from school when I could be relaxing at home with my husband. It gets OLD really quick. Sounds easy enough, but in reality it is a lot of extra work on the HF’s to transport their AP’s where they need (and sometimes want) to go.

Darthastewart February 12, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Oh. I thought I’d add another piece of semi amusing trivia…
The insurance on the au-pair car (a 1995 honda civic del sol), is equal to the insurance on the Corvette plus the Barge…

StephinBoston February 12, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Yep, ridiculous isn’t it? But then again, since I’ve had a car totaled, I know what it can cost the insurance provider ($12,000 for that one) so I guess they need to do it. Same here, luxury sedan and newer minivan together cost less than the 7 year old mini-suv the au pair drives, crazy!

Anonymous February 12, 2010 at 12:34 pm

For all our au pairs, driving was a necessity. Both for their own recreation, and for driving our children. For that reason we only chose au pairs from very specific countries where the driving requirements are very difficult, much more so than in the US. We also only chose au pairs from countries where they are used to driving in snow and ice, since that, too is important for us. As for the ‘dealbreaker’- in my opinion, if you live in the burbs or rural areas, if is a adealbreaker for many au pairs. While they will tell you that it doesn’t bother them, trust me- once they arrive here and reality sets in about the lack of public transit- then they become unhappy over time. I know a few who re-matched over that reason alone (the host family promised them they would have access to a car, and once they arrived, the family would not allow it.) To think that you will be able to transport her everywhere is naive. You have an infant- the times when your au pair will need transportation will not fit neatly into your child’s or your schedule. What about cluster meetings? education? Thankfully, my au pairs drove- 2 of them took classes that met 2-3x a week at community college. However- that commute was 30 minute drive at night, each way. Both of them HAD to take ‘real’ college classes to ensure that their parents continued receving their student subsidies, otherwise they would lose the money for all the children in their family. But, I digress! You are not going to realize how valuable it is to have an au pair drive. Even if it is to help run errands for you- like getting diapers or milk from the store, or returning library books. Especially after you return from work and don’t feel like going out! More importantly, they need a social life, too. Do not think they will be content spending all their free time with you and the family- remember how you were at their age. If you live near public transit that is frequent and accessible, than it obviates the need for driving. As to the expense- I know many host families that do not cover the au pair separate on their insurance. I am one of them. And, yes 2 au pairs had minor fender benders- one of which we did not use insurance and the other was the fault of the other driver. Your car is insured. If your mom borrows your car and is in an accident- she is insured. Likewise, the au pair- heaven forbid- if she is in an accident, all that she needs to know is that she is borrowing your car. Same with the insurance company. Now, others may disagree with this, but frankly all the LCC’s here know that the families do this- our state is prohibitive for insurance even for good drivers. The key to having an au pair you will allow to drive is to get one whose skills and training are excellent. I forget which site had it, but there is one that sets forth the driving requirements for each country. For example- in Denmark, aside from having over 200 hours of driving experience with an instructor, they have to go on both a wet course and come out of a 360 spin, then the course is iced over and they have to recover the car from a spin on the ice, too. In Germany, the drivers also need over 200 hours driving with an instructor in the car, they also have to take First Aid to get their license and cpr training. Good luck with your decision. Just keep in mind, that reality will be much different than what you expect~

ArwenAuPair February 12, 2010 at 1:06 pm

I agree with the other au pairs: If you are not going to provide access to a car, let the girl know before matching!!! It wouldn’t have worked for me if I had not had access to a car, but for other au pairs this might be totally fine. And yes, it also depends on were you live! I lived in a small town in Florida – public transportation?! Not existent! I also had to drive the kids to and from school and to activities (so I definitely needed a car for work), but, honestly, I would also have been upset if my host family had not let me use a car during my free time. As much as I loved my host family, sometimes I just needed “to get out”, just go off on my own. Finally, I agree that driving is a privilege: Make sure that your au pair is a responsible and experienced driver. Some countries have stricter regulations for driver’s licenses than others – of course, one cannot say “Au pairs from country XY are all going to be excellent drivers.” but I am from Germany, and we need to go through many driving lessons (including at night and on highways) before we get our license. It is also good to ask the au pair if she has experience in driving in snow. Even if it does not snow where you live (I lived in Florida!), it rains everywhere, especially in Florida during hurricane season. I was so glad that I was experienced in driving in unpleasant weather when rainstorms went over Florida…
Good luck!

ArwenAuPair February 12, 2010 at 1:17 pm

I would like to add one last thing: Girls who have never been to the United States before might easily underestimate the distances in this country! I mean I have not had a car when I lived in Germany, and I did not really need one. I could reach everything in town by bike, basically. And we have an excellent train system all over the country. But here?! I cannot live in a middle-sized city in SC without a car! How should I buy my groceries, how should I go to campus?! Impossible. So even if the candiates say “It’s ok if I do not have access to a car!” specifically explain to her what the U.S. is like! (I was a high-school exchange student in rural, rural Indiana before I was an au pair so I knew what it meant to live in the middle of nowhere.)

TristateMom February 12, 2010 at 1:23 pm

I wanted to add my own experience and comment on previous posters’ opinions…

We really need the AP to drive our kids from and to school. Well, we had to rematch the AP that was a good driver but not a good AP for us. We love our rematch AP but she is a TERRIBLE driver. My husband practiced with her for 2 months daily before giving up and we found alternative ways to get the kids to school (that itself is a major pain sometimes). Now, because our AP is really not a good driver, we also don’t let he use the case in her spare time. It is just an accident waiting to happen and we don’t have an extra AP car. But we are on pretty good public transportation (bus). She is a really good AP and we would extend with her but for the driving skills. So I may still look into getting her professional lessons to see if there is hope. I also see that APIA requires a US license for the 2nd year?? If true, than I need to talk to her so she doesn’t foreclose her chances even if she is not with us.

Now to my comment, it is based on some HMs here that state it is unfair that their APs are always driving the non-driving APs and the hostfamily should reciprocrate in some manner. I don’t agree with that. Our AP does catch rides with her AP friends but I don’t always know when or where because it is only in her spare time. Its up to the APs to figure out what is fair and what not. But I am only speaking from my perspective (having a non-driving AP that uses the bus daily to go to her class).

Janet February 12, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Have you considered a vision problem? One of our AP’s was a really really bad driver but it turned out she just needed glasses. DH figured it out when he noticed she couldn’t read a road sign that he saw perfectly fine. After getting contacts/glasses, she was okay, but she seemded to use the side of the road to guide her car.

Jennifer February 12, 2010 at 1:42 pm

We were in an awkward situation with our 3 APs. We realized quickly we’d have to suck it up and pay the extra $1000/ yr in insurance. Our child was not quite 1, so APs were not driving while on duty.However, we lived deep in suburbia and knew public transit was insufficient. We told each AP that driving would be mandatory for going to social events, touring and doing fun stuff off duty. By car, it would take 45 minutes 1 way, and by transit, if navigable, would take 2 hours plus each way. Consequently we made it clear that if she wanted to go out and have fun, driving would be a must.

Long story short, all 3 APs were licensed ( 1 internationally, and 2 with European licenses), but all 3 were intimidated by the freeways and refused to drive. One was German and had driven on the Autobahn!

Although each AP was different, the isolation from not driving and exploring the area had a very big negative impact on each. All 3 ultimately left. We decided to not host anymore until we moved to a more accessible area.

Luckily we are moving very soon to an area with good public transit and less treacherous roads. Hopefully soon we can try again.

Moral of the story for us is that APs who can not/ will not try to get socially active are the kiss of death. Providing the means for an AP do to so is crucial. If there are elements to the AP experience that are perceived as daunting, the AP/ HF relationship will invariably suffer.

Consider your situation carefully before proceeding. It may be cheaper in the long run to invest in your AP’ s happiness than to risk the alienation that can come in feeling trapped.

ArwenAuPair February 12, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Oh my! I absolutely cannot understand when au pairs are afraid to drive?! I mean a driver’s license is required for application so I should consider myself experienced and confident enough to drive in the U.S.! And, really, highways are hardly different to drive on than Autobahnen! I am sorry you had to make these experiences!

aussiegirlaupair February 13, 2010 at 8:20 pm

I admit to being a little afraid when first driving in the US, although I consider myself a confident and experienced driver, however I arrived during the middle of winter and as an Australian had never driven in snow, I also had to drive on the other side road in a town that I was unfamilar with!! It only took me awhile to get my confidence up but I was afraid in the beginning. I don’t think you get make comments unless you know the situation.

au pair February 13, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Omgosh, I arrived 2 and a bit weeks ago from Australia too, hardest time of year to arrive, very isolating! Did you come last year?
I always indicate instead of wipers and vice versa because the cars are opposite

LVMom February 12, 2010 at 2:00 pm

I have had 2 au pairs and neither have driven and it hasn’t caused too much of an issue. After hearing how another family who’s au pair got into an accident (totally her fault) and the party sued the family and won we opted NOT to have anyone drive. We have decent bus system and they have friends and other than that I drive them where they have needed to go. It hasn’t hurt us and keeps me with a peace of mind.

Darthastewart February 12, 2010 at 2:35 pm

This is one of the biggest risks of having an au-pair. People will perceive that you are “wealthy”. You could become a target because of it.

I totally recommend anyone considering getting an au-pair should get an umbrella policy to help shield themselves. I have talked plenty of families into getting au-pairs. I’ve talked just as many out of it. but I always mention that you have to get good insurance, and an umbrella policy is a MUST.

Anonymous February 12, 2010 at 5:01 pm

I will clarify this a bit with more detail. The ap was driving on her own time, and no alcohol was involved. The host family DID have a umbrella policy, and they got sued for 3 MILLION dollars and lost. They are fighting it, but . . . Does this make anyone rethink the AP can drive my car deal? It sure did in my case.

Darthastewart February 12, 2010 at 11:46 pm

Wow. It certainly does make one think. :( Talk about going after the money- the ap is at fault, but they don’t go after her- just the HF.. where they think they smell money!

MommyMia February 12, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Luckily, our APs have gotten up to acceptable driving skill levels after “lessons” with my husband (I’m not patient enough to endure that until absolutely necessary when my kids are old enough to learn to drive!). Our LCC has told us when we’ve gotten some APs with marginal, at best, driving skills, that APIA will reimburse for a certain number of hours of basic, professional driving lessons. You might look into this option if you end up with someone who has overestimated her driving experience and you need a driver; of course, your child care schedule will probably require some flexibility in order to fit the lessons in.

Anonymous February 12, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Lately, more people I know are cautious about giving blanch carte access to a car for recreational use. This is strictly because of the economy – it is harder to suck it up and pay for it – and because of the truly exploitative practices of insurance companies in the Northeast. They don’t really ” insure ” you against damage. They loan you the money to pay for damage to someone else’s car and then force you to pay for it over the long term. This is a cultural aspect of life in the U S or at least this part of the US. Unfortunately, the aupairs , too, are victimized by this practice insofar as otherwise generous people are less able to provide a car for recreational use.
An aupair of mine has a friend whose host father says that if another aupair has no access to her family car, his aupair cannot drive that other aupair anywhere. I’ve been hearing stories about him ( and his wife ) for a long time but at this point, I am a little
more sympathetic to his point of view. I also heard a woman at my kids’ school say, ” most aupairs do get a car, so I see no reason to give out my car to my aupair “. This whole issue of cars and public transportation is part of the cultural experience.

Francielle Silva - AU PAIR looking for a new host family February 12, 2010 at 5:42 pm

It depends on everything… There are many places that public transportation is better…

I am happy with my new host family, but I am in rematch because of some silly problems… I love them and they love me. If someone is interested in me you can send me e-mail, and can call to my host family so that they can talk about my person!

Francielle Silva February 12, 2010 at 5:43 pm
JJ February 12, 2010 at 9:57 pm

We have an older car for our au pair to drive off duty and she can drive my car on duty. However, we required her to get a CA driver’s license before she could drive either car, even though she has a European and International license. I wanted her to be familiar with local laws. I also wanted to make sure she was a good driver before entrusting her with driving my kids around. (Frankly, the car is important, but the kids..? That’s what I’m really worried about.)

That said, it’s taking this au pair months to get a CA DL, mainly because of glitches with the DMV. Our last au pair was never able to do it. If we truly needed an au pair to drive for work, this would be a deal-breaker.

But we don’t need the au pair to drive for work, public transportation around here is pretty good, and lots of local au pairs do drive.

I take it most host families do not require the au pair to get a local license, but my LCC implied that it was a must. I’m kind of confused about the requirements/best practices.

Our insurance does indeed require us to insure the au pair, since she lives with us. Yes, my mom or friend or neighbor would be insured for driving the car occasionally, but they don’t live with us. That’s the difference. And yes, it costs about $1000 a year for the insurance alone, and that’s before any au pair has had an accident. I shudder to think what might happen to our insurance rates if an au pair did have an accident.

Even though we’re restrictive about driving, I never offer to take the au pair anywhere. Not the mall, not classes, not au pair gatherings. I will pay for the bus, or, worst case scenario, a taxi, if I must. But there’s no way I have time to be a chauffer. She’s responsible for herself. I make that clear upfront. I am responsible for providing transportation, yes, but that doesn’t mean I have to drive her. I also agree with the host mom who said that if au pairs need to reimburse each other for rides, they should work that out amongst themselves. I’m not my au pair’s mother. I have no idea where she goes on weekends and would never ask the details of her ride sharing. It’s none of my business.

PA au pair mom February 12, 2010 at 11:13 pm

That’s fine if she has the option to use public transportation or even a taxi, but if those things are not available, like in my town, then I have to either provide a car or be her chauffeur. Also, there are no other APs in my town with whom our AP can catch a ride to cluster meetings and other activities.

We have a third car so she can get to classes, meetings and for personal use. We have her on our insurance as required by our agency and our insurance company. She can drive on her international license for one year in PA without being required to get a PA license.

Sara Duke February 13, 2010 at 12:32 am

APIA does not require that an AP have a US driver’s license, although our LCC did say that it is nearly impossible to extend with a HF in the 2nd year without one (any international license is invalid by then). If you don’t require driving, it is not an issue. It is not easy, especially with post- 9/11 laws, for anyone from another country to get a US driver’s license, but each state varies. Your LCC should be aware of changes in policy and be able to tell APs how to stand up for their rights. Every state is different. I know some states do not require German APs to take the road test, while others do. Some states require that the license in the originating country be valid for 12 months prior to arrival in the US, otherwise the AP has to start wtih the learner’s permit. Most states put their regulations online.

My guess is that it generally takes 3-6 months to get a US driver’s license, but this is based on experience with local regulations in suburban Maryland, which always requires the completion of a Drug & Alcohol Class, often requires an official translation of the license, production of the envelope in which the social security card was sent (throw it away in MD, and your AP can forget it), and a letter on APIA letterhead certifying that the AP is an eligible foreign national – all before booking the actual driving test, which can take up to 3 months to schedule. Your state may vary.

We generally want to know that the AP COULD pass the driver’s test before we let her drive our kids, and my guess is that my husband is tougher than most examiners (since they don’t have my kids’ lives on the line).

APIA does make it clear that HF must assist in paying for carpooling expenses when the AP attends a cluster meeting or classes. If the AP is a driver, we generally top the take in the AP once a month. If the AP is a non-driver, then we throw in a couple of extra dollars, if needed. Any carpooling done for entertainment is at the AP’s expense, of course, just as gassing up the AP car would be.

PA HOST mom of TWO Au-Pairs February 12, 2010 at 11:34 pm

Ok Host Parents: My previous Thai au-pair was not a good driver at all, in fact she stated she could drive and drove daily in her country! I found out that her family has to row a BOAT daily to get the to family car that they drive. ( She however is a dear au-pair and we love her to death, SHE WAS A GREAT AU-PAIR she stayed with our family for almost 2 years)
Needless to say, she was the worst driver! In fact she did a hit in run on 5 vehicles in our local town. When she arrived back home after 15 min. I ask her what happened, I then phone the state police to report the accident. I had to pay for the damages to the other vehicles. She had several other minor fender benders.

This is what I do, As soon as my au-pairs arrive they go out with a family friends that is willing to do some driving time with them to actually see if they can DRIVE. If they can drive we allow them to take the children. If they are not a good driver at all they spend additional time practicing driving. If I find that they are not a good driver they must study to get their Pa license, if they are a good driver we do not require them study at all. Some insurance companies require them to have a state license to be added to the policy, mine does not! I am sure it is because I have had the same insurance for 13 years with a good record. If the au-pair is not skilled to drive herself she would not be driving my young children around town! She can drive herself like our Thai girl did to go out with friends, meetings etc. In fact, I allowed her one time to drive with the older children and she ran the stop sign…. GO Figure…

TIPS: Most German au-pairs are excellent drivers! They have to go through 10 -15 different driving elements in all conditions, plus pass a writing test, a final driving test ( If they make ONE mistake on the final driving exam they FAIL and must go for additonal training for I think it’s 3 months. Plus they have to pay 1,500 to even get a license.

I agree with many of the posting, that if you do not permit your au -pair to drive and she is not within local transportation. Other AP host families feel like a TAXI service! Many times my Au-pairs are driving 85-95 % of the time picking up other Host Families Au-pairs for meetings, get togethers and so on and it is additional wear and tear on our vehicles.

Au Pair in CO February 13, 2010 at 2:58 am

That’s not just German au pairs, Norwegians have to take 20 hours of lessons to be allowed to start getting their license, pass at least 20 different driving elements, driving in the dark, on snow, ice, in big cities etc, as well as both a written and driving exam. The minimum cost for getting a Norwegian license is over $3000. (:-O)

I generally think that most western Europeans are good drivers, so don’t just search for Germans;)

German Au Pair February 13, 2010 at 4:06 am

It’s interesting. Somewhere up there I read that Germans need 200 hours with an instructor, now the failure with just one mistake. Required in Germany are 20 hours with instructors for normal lessons, 12 hours for special lessons (Autobahn, Nightdrive…) and if you are good enough after those 32 lessons you are allowed to take the test. Yes the driving licence in Germany costs about 1500 Euro to get. But you are allowed to have 10 mistake points on the written test. (each question has 2-5 points) so you can definitely give more than one wrong answer!
And yes there are bad drivers in Germany and plenty who would be scared of the Autobahn, so please do not rely on this too much!

Theresa February 13, 2010 at 5:24 am

I think PA host mom was talking about the final driving exam, when she said you failed if you only make one mistake, and that is true.

Long Island Host mom February 13, 2010 at 2:23 am

We told our au pair from the beginning there would not be a car to use. We only have one car and I use it to drive to work. I dont want to risk not having a car if there is an accident. She had an accident in NJ and was in rematch – and we thought she would be a great au pair and because of her problem with driving – she was fine to not drive this time…She has turned out to be a great au pair too ! We live around the corner from school and walking distance from town. OK – its a 10-20 min walk depending on what part of town. There is a railroad which is 40 min to Manhattan and lots of bus service. If you dont need an au pair to drive then they shouldnt expect to come here and have a car – if you are not living rurally…Having a car is a privilege – I just cant afford to provide one (not financially but on other levels.) If they insisted on a car – thats not the au pair for me. Our au pair likes walking – even after a big snow storm…she is used to it where she is from and we have provided a bicycle and she has alots of au pair friends that have cars available if they want to go to the mall or dinner out of this town. It has worked out and when its time to look for another au pair it will be the same. This is our 1st year hosting and I was worried about this issue – but now I am more confident that if you are up front at the beginning – about this and EVERYTHING – there are less problems later on !

Long Island Host mom February 13, 2010 at 2:28 am

I want to add that we drive her places as well – such as the railroad (even though we have taxi service and its only $5…we also drove her back and forth to school for her classes and also often to other au pair houses in other towns…so she isnt doing all her personal commuting on her own.

Au Pair in CO February 13, 2010 at 2:53 am

I think that to prepare your au pairs for driving, even before they leave their home countries, you could email them the pdf-version of your states drivers handbook, tell them a little bit about the area they’ll be driving in, and make a map on GoogleMaps where you insert your house, the kids’ school and other key destinations. That really helped me, since I recognized street names and places I had seen on the map the first time I drove here.

Also, if you’re afraid of your au pair getting lost, and want to make her feel more confident when driving, there are so many good, cheap, portable gps’s, that you can take from car to car.

Charlotte1--original poster for can au pair be happy without driving privileges? February 13, 2010 at 5:10 pm

First, let me say that I am blown away by all of the wonderful, thoughtful feedback and opinions received from HM and APs. As a new HM, I am so grateful to have found this website in advance.

Yes, AP does know that she will not be driving. However, as many have pointed out, it is difficult to really appreciate the possible limitations of this until she is in the situation.
We are not in an area with the transportation options that one would find in NY or DC; however, we do have a bus system and a bus stop that is walking distance. We are in the suburbs, but unlike the suburbs where I grew up, we are lucky to have many entertainment options within 5 minutes or our home, including great shopping, many places to eat, coffee shops, etc.
Many have pointed out that it is unfair for AP to not have driving privileges and rely on other APs for rides. I agree with this, but our decision that we cannot financially justify this extra expense does not mean that we are not sensitive to the AP’s needs and what is fair to other host families. My DH thinks I am giving this too much thought, since we are not expecting our AP until May, but on the contrary I am trying to make sure that everyone has a happy and productive experience.. My DH and I have had several conversations about the fact that we will need to provide her with rides and encourage her to spend her free time with friends. I realize that this might serve as an additional stressor for us, but it is a tradeoff because we don’t have the budget to replace a vehicle but we also don’t want an unhappy AP.
I am glad to hear that this arrangement has worked for a few other host families–I would imagine with the economy, that others would find themselves making these tough decisions.
That being said, I don’t see myself or DH picking AP up from a club at 2am, BUT if she were driving my vehicle, I would have a reasonable curfew for the car and would expect that it would be parked in my driveway well before 2am..
I do accept that we will have to pick her up at say, 11pm if she is going out and we are providing a ride… I hope this works-and honestly I would probably try to budget something differently if she were absolutely miserable without a car…

Charlotte1--original poster for can au pair be happy without driving privileges? February 13, 2010 at 5:14 pm

PS- For the poster who questioned how we could afford an AP with me working part time and only having one child, but not afford to pay for driving.. unfortunately I have a chronic illness which has prevented me from returning to a full time schedule (hence the need to stick to a careful budget). My child comes first though, which is why we have made many sacrifices that will allow us to have an AP..

Anonymous February 14, 2010 at 12:26 pm

I thought that point was out of line when it was made but did not get a chance to respond on your behalf.

Fellow Hosts, please remember that there’s no way we have all the background on anyone’s situation, so tread gently and don’t let your assumptions or biases rear their green-eyed heads!

Calif Mom February 14, 2010 at 12:40 pm

My husband is right now driving our AP to church because the roads are icy and while she would be fine driving the 4wd car we let her use, HE doesn’t feel comfortable driving his rear-wheel car today.

So yes, there are times you will have to add things to your schedule that you didn’t plan on because you are hosting an AP, but if you are a flexible and empathic person, the advantages and conveniences (no late fee or countdown clock if your boss chats with you an extra 20 minutes in the hallway on your way home for work, etc) far outweigh the inconveniences like making sure someone has a ride home if the weather turns crappy, or making sure they have an extra 20 bucks for emergency cab money.

Another host family we know are much more keen on setting limits, restrictions, boundaries (on their APs, but sadly, not their kids!). They had an AP total a car and have never gotten over it. These hosts don’t understand why their APs are always so uptight and nervous. They are jealous of our APs who seem more “fun loving” and relaxed with the kids.

I take this as evidence that the energy you put out there to the world is reflected back to you–from your kids as well as your au pair. It’s the golden rule.

And I think it’s great that you are doing all this reading now, before you AP arrives. Boy would we have benefited from this blog if it had been here 4 years ago!

Anna February 13, 2010 at 11:32 pm

About car insurance – we have added au pairs as drivers to our policy. But they were all older (25 or so), and got our local state license, and I didn’t see our insurance go up one bit!

GG March 1, 2010 at 3:43 pm

I really think it’s important for you to tell her before. The first several weeks are a big adjustment for them and most get homesick and long for their own culture, even if they are having a great time with the child and get along with you! If she always has to rely on asking you to be dropped off somewhere or can’t just take a drive to get away for a while, it can add to the stress.
On the flipside, I have had four au pairs (and three American nannies) and only ONE has not had some sort of accident in our cars! Two were quite significant (sending the au pair home for recovery after a brief hospital stay.) Fortunately, only one was while the kids were in the car and was fairly minor.
Although you might care to avoid the situation now, it will be an ENORMOUS problem if she wants to transfer to a different family and your child has become attached to her. Even if she says it’s fine now, make sure she’s aware of how public transportation is different here than overseas and may require a ride to get to the nearest form of it (ie. a bus stop!)
Good luck from another Charlotte mom!!!

AuPair Brazil February 14, 2011 at 3:27 pm

I’m in the process to be an Au Pair, my application is done I’m just waiting the APC (Au Pair Care) call me to get all the things ready to start to do my interviews with the families.
I think the car is not an issue. The family just need to be clear about it before the AP arrives. In my case, for example, I have a driver licenses, I drive on the weekends, but I have no problems with public transportations, because I take it since I was 11. I don’t have a car on my own, so I need to do my things by myself, I can’t depend on other, so I go by foot, by buses, subway etc. Car is very helpfull, but is not everything.

Steff February 14, 2011 at 5:06 pm

I agree with you, I do drive, yet on day-to-day basis rely on public transportation in my home-country, BUT! here’s where it get’s tricky, in the States, depending in the part you are, a car is imperative. If you are in a major city I don’t think finding buses, subways…etc, will be a problem, I know using them would not be a problem for me either, but given the case you are in a rural area, perhaps even a suburb, public transportation is not an actual alternative :)

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