How to Help Your Au Pair Appreciate the “Au Pair Car”

by cv harquail on January 20, 2017

We all want to be generous, and we all want to be appreciated.

And, there’s nothing like having a third car for your au pair to use to make you aware of the tension that can exist when you want to be generous and want to be appreciated.

When we bought our first Volvo wagon to give our precious new baby a fancier, safer “ride” than my 8 yr. old Nissan, we decided to hold onto the Nissan and use it as an “Au Pair Car”. Like the archetypal “station car” in a John Cheever story, the Nissan was intended only to get you there and back safely. Nothing fancy, nothing expensive, but it ran well, was safe enough, and was in great shape.

Our first au pair drove respectfully and safely, as did our second, third, and fourth au pair. It wasn’t until our fifth au pair made a right turn from the left lane and smashed the front fender into someone else’s that the car started to look kind of junky. And it wasn’t until our sixth au pair that the third car was taken for granted.carkeys.jpeg

Up until that sixth au pair (who was in every other respect a FABulous au pair), I really loved having that third car. It seemed like a nice ‘carrot’ to tempt a desirable au pair. It relieved me of having to coordinate my driving plans with my husband’s or the au pair’s, and I was never blasted out of my seat at ignition by a radio set at high volume and tuned to a heavy metal station.

Quite an assortment of benefits!

But, when I discovered that our sixth au pair was driving to another state to follow her boyfriend’s band, explicitly and implicitly ignoring the rules about car use, I realized I had let it go too far. I had traded that sense of “one less hassle for mom” into “just another thing I’m supposed to have. And I can use it as I darn well please, thank-you-very-much.”

So, we had to set up few new practices and rules. Here are some of the things we did, and that you can try, to reduce the sense that the “third car” is something your au pair is entitled to.

We changed the way we talked about the “Au Pair” car.

1. We stopped calling the third car “the au pair car” or “your car”. We started referring to the car as “the silver car”. [Also, my husband and I trade off who drives which of the other two cars when we are home, so we don’t have a situation where one car is “Mom’s” and one car is “Dad’s”, leaving the third car implicitly to be the “Au Pair’s”.]

We began to vary who drove the car, so that it wasn’t always and only our au pair who drove it.

2. I started driving “the silver car” occasionally when it was last in the driveway or just more convenient (as long as I wasn’t putting out our au pair. It was and is still critical for her to feel that she is more or less free to come and go when she’s not on duty.)

3. I put a car seat in the back seat, and another spare car seat in the trunk. This was in part to make it possible for the au pair to take the kids somewhere in the silver car in an emergency, in case my husband and I both had taken the other cars with their car seats. Although our au pairs almost never took the girls anywhere in the third car, the car seat was another kind of reminder that this car was for the extended family, not just for the cute single girl and her friends.

4. When Grandma & Grandpa came to visit, they got dibs on the silver car too (never when our au pair was off duty). I paid for their gas. This way, the car was used as an ‘extra car’ for whoever needed it, and the need was negotiated. This helped make it less hers alone, and more like the 3rd car.

We asked our au pair to take a little more responsibility for car.

5. Also, we made it a practice to have our au pair take her car (oops, I meant) the third car out of the driveway in the morning to park it on the street, to continue to re-park it on the street when she went back and forth during the day, and then to pull it into the driveway last thing at night.

This helped me and my husband not have to be car jockeys when we needed to get out of the driveway in a station wagon, and it also made the station wagons easy for the au pair to use for the kids when she was on duty.

6. We asked our au pair to take the car to get its oil changed and to check the tire pressure… in her on-duty time.

While this tactic might seem like a way to have the au pair take ownership for the car (and it may have done that) this was intended to encourage her to think of the car as something that cost money. We didn’t ask her to pay for the oil changes (we paid for that and other maintenance) but we did ask her to pay to have the car professionally washed and vacuumed. (Of course, when my parents in law came, I took the car to the carwash myself.)

We treated the car like an expensive and valuable family possession, not like some hand-me-down.

7. We reinforced the rules for using the car. We had always had the car curfew, a weekly mileage guideline and limited travel radius (7 miles around our house… including the nearest two malls but not including New York City). We began to be more consistent about applying these guidelines.

8. Also, we set up some guidelines around car-pooling with other au pairs so that other au pairs didn’t take advantage of either our au pair OR the third car. We didn’t want our third car to into the au pair clusters’ taxi, with our sweet au pair expected to drive everyone else. More on that in a forthcoming post.

9. We made it clear how much the car cost, and discussed it as an ‘on the job benefit’.

Grunge car

We told our incoming au pair how much the silver car was worth and how much extra it cost us to have a third car insured with an under-25 as the main driver. That really helped establish the car as an “extra”, that we paid for it, and that it wasn’t something to be taken for granted. (Check the post on the cost of having an au pair to see how much this nets out to.)

Being Generous & Being Appreciated

Despite the fact that having a third car for our au pair is pretty generous, I’m sure that any au pair can find someone else with a nicer material situation. (Be sure to read the post on avoiding the “Amenities Arms Race” and the competition with other host families.)

We live in a town where there are many au pair families wealthier than ours, whose au pairs drive expensive SUVs and never pay for their own gas.  But there are also au pairs driving clunkers, sharing a mini-van, and riding the bus, the train, and the bike. For every au pair with a fancier ride, there’s another au pair who’s glad for a lift to Target and who is happy to chip in for gas.

There is often a tension between wanting to be generous and wanting to be appreciated… for both host parents and au pairs.

This tension doesn’t have to be resolved just by managing the use of the spare car(s)— we can be generous in other ways (comfy room, occasional latte, a flowering plant on a rainy day) and ask that the privilege of a car be appreciated.

Ultimately, there are au pairs who will feel entitled and au pairs who will feel privileged. Happily in our family, we’ve had 9 au pairs who appreciated and enjoyed what we have been able to provide for them, and only two that behaved in ways that would have embarrassed their moms if their moms had only known.

It’s important to remind your au pair and yourselves that while there will be host families for whom the cost of a third car is nothing, for some of us that third car is an extra expense that is hard to justify.  We are now in the process of selling that third car, and so things will be changing in our family. With my husband commuting by train and my desire to reduce expenses, having a third car just so that I can avoid the hassle of negotiating who gets a car on Saturday afternoon (with two kids at soccer and an au pair off duty) seems like too much. But I’m ready to work on that.

For starters, I’m trying to make sure that I offer the material things that we can afford, and be even more generous in ways where money is irrelevant.

Are there other ideas that you have for helping your au pair appreciate the privilege of a third car? Do share…

Here is the original query from CT Mom:

How do you deal with use of the car when there is a 3rd car? We have a 3rd car, so obviously there is no need to “share” the car. Our current au pair is new (our last one just ended her year with us) so we’d like some ideas so this doesn’t become an issue this year.  For those with 3rd cars, please share your car rules! Thanks.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

NYMom January 21, 2017 at 11:36 am

We had an au pair that lasted only 3 months with us. She asked for rematchp 3 weeks ago and even when she didn’t say it, I think it has to do wpith issues with the car. She was taking it to NYC, staying there overnight and the toll for her last month with us was $50. That is more that what I pay traveling to NYC every day (I have commuter plan for the Tappan Zee only). The day I changed the rules, she asked for rematch.
Our second au pair just arrived, we obviously put a curfew for the car, and only allow her to drive in town. She will be responsible for gas and toll for personal use. No bridge or major highway withouth our previous authorization, let see how it goes.

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Chicago Host Mom January 21, 2017 at 12:33 pm

I echo all the suggestions in this post. After ten years of au pairs, including two early in that procession who took advantage of our generosity, we did a total reset and imposed a car curfew, similar expectations of helping with maintenance, and also set express limits on where the car could be driven (i.e. Within our cluster towns and not on highways, into the city or across state lines). Since then, we also treat it more as “the silver car” and not “the au pair car” and DH and I also drive it occasionally to highlight that our AP doesn’t have unlimited access and zero responsibility. One other tip is that they keys always go back on the hook by the door. They are not the AP’s keys – they are the silver car keys. We explain these rules very rationally and the reasons we have them, and the AP can read all the rules in our handbook before she decides to match with us. We have only had one (young 18-year old) au pair run afoul of these rules and she was not a good match in other ways. When she drove 20 miles away from home on two tollways to a town not even close to our cluster and then texted she would be back the next day, it was very easy to see that match would not work. It was also inconvenient for her friends to spend an hour driving back here so she could drop off the car and get a ride back to stay the night. Otherwise, we have had great girls who have understood the very clear rules and we feel having the third car works well for us.

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NoVA Twin Mom January 21, 2017 at 9:26 pm

We have three cars, but one is really the “kids car.” So whoever has the kids has the minivan. My husband has a pickup truck that none of our au pairs has liked driving because it’s “too big.” The remaining cars are the minivan and an older suburu forester (the older, more “station wagon” model than the current SUV model).

What probably helps is that I drive the suburu to the park and ride every day, while our au pair drives the kids in the minivan during the day. In the evenings and weekends, when we have the kids, we take the minivan and the au pair takes the suburu. So there isn’t a car “dedicated” to the au pair – there’s a car dedicated to the kids!

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DMMom January 23, 2017 at 12:13 pm

We have the same arrangement, the kid’ car (van), the Suburu and the new car; and all keys on a hook by the back door. Whoever has the kids needs the van and then we divide out the other cars. I don’t have a curfew or milage limit on the cars. Mostly the au pair and I trade cars for the evening. The deal is that the Suburu gets 1 tank of gas per week (I use about 1/2 for commuting) and if it goes empty she fills it. With one Au Pair we did have to track milage, but I would say we should have rematched for other reasons.

We also make the Au Pairs get the oil changed in the cars while on duty during the day and the car must be clean inside at all times. One, it saves us time, but it also does show them that they have some duty to make sure that the car is well maintained (air in tires, oil changes, enough gas, alerting us if dash lights come on…)

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HMof2 January 21, 2017 at 11:13 pm

We also have a 3rd car and explicitly describe the benefit as “AP will be provided with access to a car” and that the car is not exclusively for the AP. We have a car curfew and in our handbook, clearly states that the AP does not have a curfew but the car does and if AP wants to use the car, she must return it by X time and go out again. Car must be returned home each night, which mean no overnights or extended road trip. We also have a driving radius.

We tend to have novice drivers and have a rule that the car is for the AP use but passengers (beside HF or HK) are not permitted, which eliminates giving anyone a ride and reduces the distracted driving that could come from having other people in the car.

We keep all car keys on hooks by the door but AP knows she is not to drive the other 2 cars. In the beginning, the AP tends to forget to put the key back and just keeps it in her jacket as if it was her car and her key. We remind her right away that it is a shared car so it is important that the key goes back on the hook in the event someone else needs the car and cannot use it because AP has the key in her pocket. We put our keys on the hook, too, to lead by example, that this is what we do with car keys in this home.

We also drive the 3rd car on occasion, further reinforcing that this is not an exclusive car for the AP.

We states clearly in our handbook that a car is a privilege and it can be reduced or taken away, and list a few examples of situations where this privilege may be affected. We also include information about all the expense of owning a car and what portion is hers, by comparison. We have her refuel and get reimbursement back from us for work-related or HP use of gas (AP pays gas for personal use), hoping the act of paying will communicate the magnitude of how much things can cost, which can be abstract and not easy to comprehend, especially for a newcomer to the US. It always takes me a while, when I travel, to get used to the local currency and truly understand the value of that local currency.

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Taking a Computer Lunch January 22, 2017 at 8:50 pm

We only have two cars, the minivan (the only car in which The Camel – our child with special needs – can legally ride) and a subcompact with a manual transmission. Believe it or not – the manual transmission has been a deal breaker for Mexican and Canadian candidates! All, all, all (with the notable exception of one) of our 12 APs have realized that having access to a vehicle without a curfew is a privilege (because none, none, none of their friends in our urban setting had nearly unfettered access to a car). For example, AP #2, when she wanted to drink, made her friends ask for permission to drive their family’s cars (meaning that person would be the designated driver drinking free sodas all evening).

There are occasions – usually morning – when we need to go in opposite directions with The Camel and Child #2 and those go on the paper calendar on the wall, so the AP is aware and is able to make other plans to get around (we live in an area with excellent public transportation – on which both DH and I rely 100% to get to and from work).

As I have written elsewhere, we have only instituted curfews on one AP, who in addition to two major distracted driver incidents, one of which led to a car accident requiring a rebuild of the engine and front end of the car, and who made quippy comments, including “I didn’t come here to be a handmaid.” I wanted to go into rematch after the accident, but DH didn’t want to wait for the arrival of an out-of-country AP, so we tolerated a young AP with absolutely no common sense, but a decent amount of love for The Camel by giving the car a curfew (to which we firmly held for the remaining 10 months of her year).

The only other AP on which we placed restrictions was a Chinese AP who really couldn’t drive – and who had to be retaught basic driving skills after 3 months of an exceptionally snowy winter. She had to meet DH’s basic requirements to take the car anywhere – and after gaining them in early December, took weeks from March into April to regain them. She never bothered to try for a US license in her first 8 months, and we used that as a reason not to extend. (She was wonderful with The Camel, exemplary even, but lousy in communicating with us, her HP.)

Bottom line – we don’t call it “the AP car” to the AP – we call it “the little car,” but really – it’s the AP car. It helps that we live in a reason with wonderful public transportation – and that I, as the HM, walk 30-35 miles a week – including a stop to a little grocery store between the subway station and our home to pick up mid-week items. (It’s not that I dislike driving, it’s just that I’d have to go through hoops to use a car as part of my commute and I’d rather exercise.)

Child #2 is learning to drive – and so far DH has not taught him how to drive “the little car,” with its manual transmission – but our thought is that he will share it with the AP. Right now he has no social life and has not earned good enough grades to get an after-school job, but the day may be coming when there will be more competition for “the little car.”

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txmom January 22, 2017 at 10:44 pm

We are a three car family. We live in the burbs of a major city that has crappy public transit – a car is really the only way to get anywhere. It’s too hot, and too spread out to walk or ride a bike, and the nearest bust stop is miles away. We bought a third car this summer prior to the arrival of our first AP.

Like NoVa Twin Mom, we have a minivan that is the “kids'” car. DH and I work odd/inconsistent schedules, so whoever has the kids, him, me, or the AP, has the van for the day. DH travels 3-4 days a week, and when he does, he takes the 17 year old Honda Civic that I bought brand new in college (I worked HARD to pay for that car, we’re going to drive it into the ground!), because it’s just getting left at the airport for days. If he and I are both working, he takes the civic, I have the new car, and the AP has the van. If I’m not working and he is, AP gets the new car and I get the van. If he’s not working, AP gets the old Civic.

We don’t have a car curfew, and we don’t have a distance limit, although it’s understood that anytime she drives any of our cars anywhere, we want to know where she is. We let her do a road trip to a city 3 hours away with a friend in the Civic, she paid for gas, no problems. She will sometimes stay at her BF’s house and takes the car. I don’t want her to feel trapped in the burbs, and honestly, since she only works 25-30 hours a week, she has a lot of time on her hands to explore. That said, she’s a very safe driver, she always asks permission, lets us know if she has a change in plans, frequently fills up the tank on whichever car she’s driving, and knows how much it cost to add her to our insurance. She did nick the paint on the bumper of the new car when she was reversing out of a parking garage. She let me know immediately and offered to pay to repair it – which reinforced to me how responsible and mature she is ( I couldn’t very well be upset since I did the same thing in the van a couple of months ago!).

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2 kids and a cat January 23, 2017 at 12:07 pm

We have three cars and require driving for our position. Only two have car seats and one the AP is not allowed to drive. So, she does have to let us know when she wants to drive outside of work hours so we can coordinate in case we we’re doing 2 different things with the kids. If she doesn’t let us know we may both be out for the day when she wakes up at noon on Saturday. (It only takes once before they start to plan ahead.) We keep all keys by the back door.
We have a car curfew, no limit on miles, and no driving further than the closest city (so no weekend road trips). The AP pays us per 100 miles she drives (not enough even to cover the gas, but it makes her pay attention to how much she drives and have to report it to us.)
Our last AP totaled our car. We forgave two instances of minor damage that happened on her free time, then she didn’t have to even pay the deductible when she had an accident. Now, it’s in the rules that they’re responsible for any amount of damage, even cosmetic, up to the deductible if it happens when they’re not working. To be honest, I’d give it back to a stellar AP at the end of the year but I need someone who is willing to own up to mistakes.
As I’ve said before, the first page of our handbook looks like a standard contract with a job description, major responsibilities, and a list of benefits. This includes the car use, the cost of insurance and basic maintenance, as well as the government rate for reimbursement (53 cents this year) for comparison to what we ask her to contribute to personal gas.

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ChicagoAttyHM January 23, 2017 at 12:49 pm

This is a timely topic for me because my au pair just asked whether she can take one of our two cars (not an “au pair car” but one shared with the family–and the nicer and newer of our cars) on a one-week road trip during her vacation time. While I feel bad putting a damper on what she wants to do with her vacation time, the thought of her taking the car just doesn’t sit well with me. For one thing, it’s a ton of mileage to put on our car. For another, I recently was in a minor accident with our other car, caused completely by the other person, and it has taken months to get it repaired. Just thinking about the possibility of that happening on a road trip makes me want to say no. Any thoughts on other points I can bring up in explaining why the answer will be no?

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HMof2 January 23, 2017 at 1:00 pm

Since you are a 2 car family, imagine if AP took your car on the road trip (and nothing happens to that car) BUT your OTHER car has another accident like what just happened to you recently, your family could be stranded without the use of any other car and might need to rent a car until the AP returns. That is putting the HF at risk and anyone with maturity should be able to understand that. The AP should rent herself a car for her road trip.

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GitHM January 23, 2017 at 1:06 pm

@ChicagoAttyHM If you’re uncomfortable with lending out your car then that should be enough of a reason. But I’ve also found I need more of a reason why. On this site, someone had included in their car rules, “Car Rules Explained” and I use this now in my handbook:

Car Rules Explained:
To you, using the car may seem harmless and possibly $250 for an insurance deductible. But for us there are many other risks and expenses:
– The wear and tear on a car
– Every mile driven uses up the tires, oil, transmission, engine, clutch, etc. and depreciates the value
– If there is an accident there are many factors that we have to deal with:
– The hassle of going through the insurance claim processes
– Inconvenience of being without a car while car is repaired (or having to buy a new one)
– Dealing with the police, repair shop, and insurance company is tiresome and frustrating
– Our car insurance rates will increase substantially and for many years
– An accident uses up benefits like accident forgiveness and safe driving bonuses
– We can also be sued personally for accidents and injuries that may occur which can cost us time, money, worry and trauma.
– What if there is a mechanical problem with the car?
– Who will be responsible for paying for the repair or getting the car checked out?For example, if the “check engine” light turns on and there is a repair bill and/or bill to tow the car to a repair shop (or home)? What if there is a flat tire? Who will change it and purchase a new tire?
– Inconvenience of being without a car while repairs are made

There are costs that come back to the owner of the vehicle regardless of the driver:
– Parking tickets
– Tolls
– The police will hold the owner of the car responsible for accidents and tickets even if you did not know about it
– We can be personally sued in court for injuries and damages you cause while driving our car
– Additionally, it is more likely that an accident will occur if you are not familiar with the area in which you are driving.

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ChicagoAttyHM January 23, 2017 at 5:16 pm

Thanks for these suggestions — much appreciated!

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Amy January 23, 2017 at 2:45 pm

I feel like ‘no’ is a complete sentence. Perhaps paired with ‘gee, that does sound like fun! unfortunately its not possible for our family to give up the flexibility of 2 cars for a week – would you like some help looking into rental options?’

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Taking a Computer Lunch January 23, 2017 at 9:31 pm

In my experience (especially for shared family cars), the AP who asks to take a vehicle on a road trip is on a fishing expedition – in general an AP and her friends will start with the HF whom they think will be easiest to ask. Half the time the group plans are so insane that saying no is the best thing you can do! (My favorite was the time my newly arrived AP wanted to drive to NYC from my city – never mind there are several buses that will get there cheaply without having to pay for tolls, sit in traffic, or pay for NYC parking! I didn’t bat an eye when I told her no – it was clear there was no plan until a HP said yes.)

Your answer may always be “No.” No guilt. No twinges of regret. It’s your car and you don’t need an excuse – “No” will do.

You have a so-so AP who seems to think her life should be full of perks, but won’t budge when you have an emergency? Your answer is always no.

You have a stellar AP, who will juggle a last-minute request without making you feel guilty, kids clearly love her, and for whom you’d love to honor her request. Your answer might be yes.

If your answer might be yes, then remember – It’s your car – so you want to know the plans. Where are they going? Where are they staying? Do they know if the neighborhood (I always assume they are coach surfing) where they will be staying? Do they know to remove everything from the car at night so if a lock gets popped, nothing gets stolen? Where are they staying? (If the answer is, they intend to find a place when they get there, then your answer is “No” because not enough planning has gone into this trip.)

Now, keep in mind (because this has happened to my APs more than once) if you offer a car without a curfew, without mileage limitations, then your APs friends may pressure her into driving them to hard-to-reach cities because she can. Ascertain if your AP really wants to make the trip – tell her you’re willing to be the mean HP who says “No” if she doesn’t (this will come in handy when your kids are teenagers – sometimes they will want you to say no for them). If she feels like she has to make the trip, then remind her to do her homework and pick some places she will visit without her friends – they can stay in the city center and hang out, while she drives to a remote beach, visits a museum, or whatever she wants to do alone – because it’s “her” car.

When she heads out on the trip do warn her of traffic trends (like don’t stay on the beach 200 miles away until 8 pm “because traffic is heavy” causing her to need to stop at a motel along with way because at 2 am she’s too exhausted to continue. She needs to be home and ready to start her Monday morning shift if she wants to think about borrowing the car for a long trip again!

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ChicagoAttyHM January 25, 2017 at 3:20 pm

My AP’s road trip request isn’t even for a trip with other APs! It’s for her and her boyfriend–and they want our car because, after she pays for him to fly here from Europe, she won’t have money left to rent a car.

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Taking a Computer Lunch January 25, 2017 at 9:20 pm

Other HMs aside, nothing in your comments having given a clue whether she is a stellar AP deserving of an award (she is certainly able to save if she is bringing BF over – wondering what he’s bringing to the table – monetarily) or meh. Unless she’s a rockstar, then just say no. If she’s a rockstar, then insist she purchase a AAA membership, give her a deadline to return the vehicle (need not be the end of her vacation – it attaches to her, not the vehicle), and make her understand that you’re doing this because you expect her to give the same rockstar performance after her road trip.

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Something Clever January 27, 2017 at 1:06 am

Oh, h— no!

Our family has a rather generous limit on the car – it can be driven anywhere in Southern California on a weekend trip. But she needs to find alternate transportation anywhere else.

We instituted this rule after AP3 (mediocre at best) asked us, after we drove halfway up the coast from Southern California to a beach rental, if she could take our second car (which we normally don’t let our APs use) another 3 hours north to visit a friend in San Francisco. I reluctantly agreed. It was Labor Day weekend and the automatic electronic deposit we had for her stipend was delayed until after the holiday, and she only had $30 in her account in the meantime. She had been going out every night since her arrival and was also sending money to her mother, so she was living in a narrow margin. She called us on the holiday to tell us she didn’t have money for gas to get home. I was FURIOUS. I didn’t care about her at that point, I just wanted my car back. Subsequent APs have never chafed at the SoCA limit, and I always explain why.

So your AP spent all her money on BF’s airfare? That is a problem that they need to solve on their own. There are buses, trains, über, etc at reasonable prices.

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TexasHM January 23, 2017 at 10:23 pm

Totally agreed with the last points by TACL. We have in our handbook no roadtrips and yet invariably, we still get the occasional ask and 99.9% of the time its actually coming from the APs friends moreso than our AP. When I say no they almost look relieved! LOL

Also agreed that they will go after what they think is the weak link – other APs tend to think because we are younger and seem friendly and chill that we are more likely to throw caution to the wind and they tend to not believe our APs when she tells them how crazy detailed/structured we are so years ago I printed out our host family handbook (its a binder with tabs – yes, a BINDER!) and a couple of them have actually pulled it out, flipped to car usage and showed their friends the rules and no roadtrips sections. They told me later they didn’t want to be responsible for driving that far/that group/that time anyway. And yes, more often than not if you start asking questions you will find that GET A CAR is item #1 on their list and then take car to whatever limits it has. I listened to APs in my kitchen the other day discussing that the AP with free reign on car’s HM is now complaining about the 10K in mileage she’s put on the car in just a few months so now HM has told her she only gets two more roadtrips the rest of her AP year and no more than 500 miles away roundtrip so they were literally looking at a map and googling directions to see which cities were closest to 250 miles away regardless of if those places would be fun/interesting for them or not. Sigh.

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2 kids and a cat January 24, 2017 at 4:13 pm

We live at the very edge of our cluster limit, 50 miles from a city. Our last AP had driving privileges suspended and she had other APs pick her up and bring her home – 2 x 100-mile round trips in a day. We are generous in other ways, but not like that with our cars.

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Mimi January 24, 2017 at 5:49 pm

I have repeatedly told multiple APs to feel free to use me as an excuse for why they can’t drive somewhere if they have friends who can’t take no for an answer, even though we’ve always been very flexible about car use.

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Anonymous in CA January 24, 2017 at 12:16 am

I’ll just add to the “do they have a plan” question and say that the last two APs we’ve hosted have done road trips intending to sleep IN the car. No intention of getting a hotel (too expensive); no thought to whether it’s legal to park in a residential neighborhood and sleep in the car; no understanding of cultural cues as to what areas might be safe or not…

So, yeah, if they’re taking YOUR car, ask the questions; and even if they’re not taking your car, the AP you host is going and no one wants an AP to get ticketed or arrested for sleeping illegally in a car or, worse, harmed because the APs picked an unsafe neighborhood to do it.

I tend to be hands off when AP and friends are going on a road trip (I don’t allow our car out overnight) and it never occurred to me to ask whether they’d be staying – they’re adults and I try to treat them that way and figure they will learn by doing (as most of us did too…I certainly did some naive things when I was 20-22)…except when they are about to do something really dangerous (like sleep in the other HF’s nice big SUV in an area known for significant gang violence because they thought it would be fun and interesting….I intervened then).

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Working mom of two January 24, 2017 at 8:24 pm

We have three cars and the extra car is “my car” which I lend to our AP when asked. She basically can use it when we but only within a 20 mile radius.

The biggest help to us has been our rule that she is never allowed more than one passenger in the car (unless something important where she gets prior permission). This has really helped in that she is not the bus driver for the other APs but she can have a friend to drive with but not be used by other HPs who don’t want to give out a car.

My stellar AP says she likes being able to meet her friends whenever she wants but not obligated to drive around town picking them up. And we all should be thankful for how awesome UBER is these days!

And regarding the road trip on vacation – I just don’t believe it’s the HPs responsibility to essentially fund a vacation- rent a car, figure it out without being an imposition on your HP who would be putting themselves at great risk for liability (can’t help it – my husband and I are lawyers).

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oranje_mama January 26, 2017 at 12:54 pm

We have 3 cars. We have a “kid car” that is also the car the AP drives on her own. It’s our oldest car (nearly 13 years old), banged up with sub-par A/C, but it’s a minivan & safe to drive. With the kids, it is very rare that AP is driving more than a 5-10 mile radius (so, the 2 mile drive to the pool in the summer with the A/C not quite working is fine). Given its age, and some past problems, we do have some concerns about the reliability of the car (AP is on the AAA membership) and for that reason, will not permit long distance car travel with this car (we are in DC and will permit drives as far as Baltimore/Shenandoah/Liberty for snow tubing but that’s the limit).

We had one AP use my commuting car (6 years old and a little banged up too) for a car trip with friends while we were on a family vacation. We put a limit on distance of 500 miles +/- but AP ended up going further. Also, there were additional passengers/fellow travelers (boys from home) that we didn’t know about when we approved the trip. Nothing happened, no tickets/damage, but I will think twice about allowing use of this car for another long distance trip. I need to have a very high level of trust in the AP. Mainly, I don’t want a call from the AP while I’m on vacation informing me that my commuting car is totaled in Nowheresville New Mexico!

Our nice car (less than a year old) is completely off limits to our AP. She’s not allowed to drive it at all (and in fact, doesn’t want to drive it).

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6TimeTexasHostMom January 26, 2017 at 4:42 pm

We live in a part of the city where a car is essential to getting anywhere, and driving the kids is a big part of the job. We’ve had all ends of the spectrum described here – car curfews, great drivers, mediocre drivers, bad drivers, taking car for granted au pairs, and very grateful au pairs. We bought a new au pair car this year (Honda fit) because the old Jeep was breaking down regularly and stressing me out. Our current au pair is super grateful, super careful, and acts like an adult so we have removed the car curfew. I play it by ear based on the current situation. Not have a curfew is easier for me, because then I don’t have to worry about enforcing it. ha. I have enforced it in the past and it is not that fun.

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