Saying No, and Staying Confident, When Your Au Pair Wants Your Car For A Roadtrip

by cv harquail on December 4, 2014

Why do we find it so hard to stick to our guns when an au pair asks us to bend our rules?

None of us wants to seem petty, or stingy, or selfish.  On the contrary– we want to be generous where we can, we want to reward au pairs who do a great job and we want to keep happy the au pairs who bring warmth and good humor into our homes.

So why is it that, if we’ve made our rules and principles perfectly clear, we get flustered when an au pair makes a request the goes full tilt against what we’ve said is possible?

puppy carI’ve been thinking over this email, below, trying to figure out what the subtext is.

What’s really going on here? The au pair’s request seems outrageous. The host mom’s principles are sound, and her logic is exhaustive. So what’s really going on here?

Dear AuPairmom-

We are very happy with our current au pair, and she has shown herself to be a safe drier. Despite the fact that we write in our handbook that our car is not to be used for “road trips,” she asked the other day of she and an au pair friend could use it to go to California from our western state.  It’s a 2,500 mile round-trip (40 hours of driving)!  I explained to her that she might not understand how large the United States is and that we would need to discuss more later.  We haven’t yet sat down to discuss it, but her request has been bothering me ever since.   

I feel like I need to mull over ALL of the reasons why I’m against the idea, and consider whether there are any other options.  I’d really love to hear about host families (and au pairs) who might have addressed this issue themselves.

[cv:  One thing to note: this is the family’s extra car– a car they only have because they have an au pair. ]

For background, here’s what I have in our host family handbook, in the section on using the host family car:

You cannot take a “road trip” using our car.  

Here is why:
To you, taking our car for a road trip costs you gas money and possibly up to $500 for an insurance deductible if there is an accident.

However, 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
  • The cost of use of a vehicle averages $0.56 per mile.
  • 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.

It is not usually possible to rent a car in the U.S. (Michigan and New York are exceptions, but even then it is VERY expensive) if you are under 25. However, there are many options for travel to see the USA via various Au Pair travel organizations. Here are a few:, Cultural Hi-Ways

I know it’s not a holiday-themed post, but I would be interested to see how other families have handled this topic.~  hostmominco


Image by Elliot Blackburn on Flickr


Should be working December 4, 2014 at 5:35 pm

We had a very nice and helpful AP last round who was not so much member-of-family, which was fine, but I noticed that if I gave an inch she took a mile. We invited her boyfriend for dinner, she asked (at dinner) if he could stay the night (against the handbook rules!). We let her use the car once to go to a nearby big city, and then she asked to take the car on a 4-hr-away trip. It took me 2-3 times to realize the pattern, and then I just said, “no, sorry!” and she didn’t seem to mind at all. I think she simply thought, “I might as well ask!”

I suggest the HM not wait any longer. I also tend to stew WAY too long about AP dilemmas. Just quickly take her aside, or send a text message, and say, “I thought about your request, and unfortunately I have to say no–take a look at the handbook, because that really explains our view on this.” Easier said than done, I know, because I’m the world’s biggest fumer/stewer over AP missteps, but really you’ll feel better once you put the kabash on that idea.

TexasHM December 4, 2014 at 5:54 pm

This is actually a great explanation that I fully intend to steal and add to our handbook. ;)
To get back to the OPs question, I am starting to think that OPs think taking the host family car is the cheapest and easiest transportation model so even though they know its not what we want, its compelling enough maybe for them to ask anyway (assuming they feel close/comfortable with you as HPs).

We ran into a situation where our AP actually went to rent a car with a friend (AP who was 26) for a road trip (3 hours each way) and when it didnt happen (26 yr old AP didnt have insurance – dont get me started) I felt so bad for our awesome AP (since it was in no way her fault and she had paid for hotel and activity tickets already) I called my husband to ask if she could take our car even though it’s a no-no in our household too!

He was tied up so it took too long to get back to our AP so it didn’t happen anyway (they gave up after trying to book under my AP and paying the underage charges and then being told they had to have an advance reservation and it was super expensive last minute) but it bothered me and it had nothing to do with us and she never even asked! We did offer to let her drive to another place that was closer for that weekend (1.5 hours away) as a consolation and they did but I won’t lie, after we wished we hadn’t done that for all the reasons listed above. When they went I was worried all day (what if they break down, car issues, wear and tear, etc etc) and that was less than 2 hours away!

I can’t imagine 2500 miles away that is beyond reasonable. I almost wonder if maybe we had said “here’s a consolation but its 55 cents a mile” if I would have felt better about it. I am sure that sounds penny pinching and crazy but at least then she would realize the value of the favor and be forewarned that all costs are hers including towing, etc if something happens. Might have eased my mind a little about taking the chance and made me feel a little better.

Although I have to ask, how many host parents are ok with APs renting cars on their insurance? That made me cringe as well when she said they had looked at putting the car under her name. She was an excellent driver but again, AP rents a car in another city and wrecks it on my insurance – yikes. Do any of you have in your handbook that they can’t rent under your car insurance policy or do you have them buy supplemental rental insurance or you just cross your fingers?!

WarmStateMomma December 5, 2014 at 3:18 am

My AP rented a car over Labor Day weekend and we told her she would have to buy the insurance from the car rental agency. She doesn’t understand how car insurance works, so she didn’t ask questions about why that was so. In the end, she caused an accident a week before the trip (in my car) and it was still in the shop when she got the rental car….

Lais December 5, 2014 at 2:07 pm

I rented a car on my last AP year, to go from Denver to the mountains. It never crossed my mind to use my HF insurance. I paid for the insurance cover they offered and shared with friends.
Altough we know about all the reasons the families use to not allow AP to use their cars for road trips, I have to say it was conforting to see that some families do. There is nothing I wanted more than to travel on my AP year. I have been to 24 states and hope to fulfill my dream to visit all 50. If I had a car I could drive everywhere, even paying for the wear and tear I would be a happy girl.

Host Mom in the City December 5, 2014 at 2:51 pm

Thanks for this, Lais! So I would actually be totally open to considering an au pair taking our car for a longer trip if she approached me with a plan for reimbursing me for the cost of using the car and acknowledging the costs and risks. That would be a totally different conversation than just an ask to use it for a super long trip.

Host Mom in the City December 5, 2014 at 2:53 pm

Also, perhaps obvious, but I would have 100% considered this for our last au pair, who had shown herself to be absolutely responsible and trustworthy in every way. For our second au pair, who showed herself to have no integrity and lied to my face at least twice that I know about, there would be no chance.

Returning HM December 5, 2014 at 11:30 pm

After one of our APs spent every single weekend in a city 200 miles from our house, using our car to get to and from and putting loads of miles not to mention wear and tear on it, we started limiting the distance the car could travel. Our APs now can drive to locations maybe 40 miles away, and we ask them to talk to us about driving when a new location is involved since there are places around that we aren’t necessarily comfortable with them taking our car.

At the same time, we have allowed APs we love to go on road trips on special case-by-case bases. One AP took what was then our “cool” car (a convertible – sadly long gone) to the Cape and back from DC, and we were happy to give her this experience. Others have driven from NJ when we lived there to Boston or DC, and again, we were fine with that.

That said, these trips were between 275-550 miles, not 2,500! I can’t imagine allowing someone to put that kind of mileage on my car. That is a quarter of my YEARLY allowance on my leased car! So this would be a no-brainer for me.

On another note, several of our APs have done the national parks trips for APs in CA, and they have loved them.

HRHM December 4, 2014 at 5:59 pm

I agree that we tend to overthink these things (me included). We want so much to make our AP happy, especially if she is doing a good job. But that shouldn’t make us feel like we have to bend our principles in order to do so. Unless you were less than upfront during the matching process, your AP already knew that this wasn’t in the cards. Just say no and refer her back to the HB.

FWIW, one time an AP asked DH to bend/break a rule (I was deployed at the time) and he went into a long dissertation about why it wouldn’t be possible. At the end, she just stopped him and said, “You just had to say NO”. She was more upset about him detailing all the reasons than she was with the no itself!

WestMom December 4, 2014 at 7:47 pm

I think some APs will just ask because the worst thing that will happen is that we say no. But I truly believe that some APs have never really digested the handbook properly. The first few days are inundated with information in a new language, and depending on the APs personality, the information may be glanced over at best. We had an AP a few years back who was great on so many fronts, but would often ask us to bend the rules. After weeks of fuming over her overuse of our car, I gently mentioned that she needed to stay under the 75m per week limit. AP told us she did not remember that was in the handbook and apologized. Case closed. Don’t’ feel bad, and just remind her of your agreement.

Taking a Computer Lunch December 4, 2014 at 10:46 pm

2,500 miles isn’t “just a road trip.” I don’t care how great a driver your AP is, has she driven 3 or 6 hours in her home country? Because, if she hasn’t, then she isn’t prepared to take this trip!

It is natural to be hung up on the wear & tear on the car and the potential for accidents, but it’s also wear & tear on the driver. It may seem like nothing to a couple of APs to drive to California, but if they’ve never been behind the wheel of a car for 8 hours a day going 75 mph (the speed limit in many Western states), then they have no idea how driving will affect them.

We are a rare HF that does permit road trips – and the AP car has gone over 200 miles one way past major cities, and it has gone to the beach. There have been times when I have said “No.” When AP #8 drove it headfirst into the side of a moving SUV (failure to yield on her part), we gave the care a curfew of 8 hours before her shift on weekdays and an hour later on weekends. No amount of whining on her part made me budge. I have also refused APs who didn’t drive much around town. If they preferred public transportation in town, then they could also use it going out of town.

Would I say yes to the OP’s AP? No. She has a rule. All she needs to say, is, “I’m sorry, but I have to say no. As you read in the handbook, you may not use the car for road trips.”

Anonymous in CA December 5, 2014 at 12:48 am

Totally agree with all of the above. When I read this, the first thing that I thought about was that it says something about how considerate (or not) and how mature (or not) someone is to know that something is prohibited, but to ask anyway, on the chance that the answer will be ‘yes.’ It puts person being asked in a very awkward and uncomfortable position and in my opinion, considerate people don’t do that. Or if they do ask for something that’s clearly against the rules, there is some reasonable rationale, there’s an express acknowledgment that the ‘ask’ is something that’s goes against the rules, and the ‘ask’ is modest (not a 2500 mile road trip)!

Seattle Mom December 8, 2014 at 3:12 pm

I agree- I’ve definitely been asked things that were clearly not ok and it put me in an awkward position. Not regarding the car, but we had one au pair who wanted to go away for the weekend her first weekend in our home. She had been invited by the previous au pair’s friends. I was nonplussed to say the least. She ended up in rematch within a month, though this was just a small thing in the grand scheme of why she was a bad au pair for us.

Seattle Mom December 5, 2014 at 1:12 am

I agree that the au pair is probably just asking because “it doesn’t hurt to ask” and if she’s a reasonable person she’ll accept a simple, “no, I don’t think that’s a good idea. It’s too risky.” And if she presses then you can either bring up all the reasons that are in the handbook or just refer her to the handbook.

If she’s not a reasonable person and she gets pissy then you may have other problems on your hands.

AlwaysHopeful HM December 5, 2014 at 7:22 am


SeuteDeern December 8, 2014 at 11:11 am


Emerald City HM December 5, 2014 at 4:11 am

We actually have a distinct advantage here. Our spare car is a known piece of junk. I certainly wouldn’t risk taking it out of town myself.

Though I do think I will also add the above list to my handbook. Along with some of the options they would have for travel.

Seattle Mom December 8, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Haha, same here. I hadn’t thought of this, but what sane person would want to drive my ’95 Chrysler Concorde for more than 50 miles? Perhaps they would feel safer in our ’93 Volvo, but that’s the kid car and we need it every day.

NoVA Twin Mom December 5, 2014 at 9:43 am

I completely agree – the road trip is out of the question with your car.

I like the suggestion of renting a car and buying THEIR insurance.

I wonder if this is supposed to be a “National Parks Tour,” something really hard to see without a rental car. If so, maybe you (or your LCC) can help her research tours or other transportation that would let her do a similar tour. I see you have some suggestions for tours in your handbook already, but as discussed above there’s a good chance she either didn’t read it, didn’t understand/internalize it, conveniently “forgot” or figures asking is worth a try, especially (not that I agree) since she probably sees the car as “hers” and therefore just sitting in the driveway if she’s on vacation. That might even be the exact reason her friends are encouraging her to ask you to borrow the car. :)

Does Megabus or something similar exist in Colorado (guessing from your screenname that’s where you are?) It’s a “step up” in my mind from Greyhound but cheap. If she’s just trying to get to California without the touring in between, a cheap bus service (or better yet, a cheap airline) might be a better option.

Lais December 5, 2014 at 2:16 pm

No Megabus in Colorado :( – That was a huge disapointment for me as on my first time as an AP i lived in NOVA myself.
Colorado ( and the area) is a huge playground for road trips.. and the surrounding states. I took a road trip to south dakota, to see the rushmore and crazy horse. BEST trip ever. I think everybody should experience a US road trip once, stopping at little towns, eating like locals… ! Not a cross country… altough I would def do it myself! Will do it someday

Host Mom in the City December 5, 2014 at 10:03 am

Oh great, another topic I haven’t thought of :)

I wouldn’t take my car for my own trip of 2,500 miles. That is a ton of miles to put on a car at once. I would also be really making sure the car is in good working condition, getting an oil change and a tune-up, etc. before heading out. And then that would precipitate additional maintenance and our repairs after the trip as well.

That’s why the government (and other employers and employed people – nannies included, incidentally!), charge the government rate of .56 cents per mile for car useage. That covers gas, wear and tear, etc. That’s $1,400 this trip would cost the owner of this car. It’s about $350 in gas assuming the car gets 25 miles/gallon and gas is $3.50. So essentially, it may cost this family about $1,000 to lend their car for this trip. That’s a big ask.

There’s also the insurance issue, which hit home for me recently. A friend of ours was hit by a driver that ran a red light. His car was totaled, and he was seriously injured and could not work for three months. The driver of the car was not impaired or anything, it was just a simple mistake. The driver had the minimum insurance required (which many of us do, I imagine), and the amount his insurance paid out wasn’t enough to cover my friend’s car and his medical bills. They are in a nightmare of insurance company and lawyer deliberations now, which is costing my friend thousands until it is worked out. If my friend decides to sue, and the driver has a house or savings or any other assets, the driver could lose these things.

So from a simple mistake (though a really bad one obviously!), the driver of the car could lose his house and his life savings. My friend was seriously injured, put out of work for months, and is spending thousands on legal fees.

This situation really drove home for me how risky it is to drive a car or to have anyone drive your car on your insurance. I certainly didn’t understand the risk in my early 20s, and I imagine most au pairs don’t either, especially if their legal system works differently.

So it’s a risk analysis for each host family every single time they allow their au pair to drive their car – I’m willing to take on that risk, I suppose, to have someone to drive the kids to school and pick them up. I’m willing to take on that risk so that my au pair can drive around on basic social life trips so that she will be happy and make friends. It’s not worth the risk to me, especially considering the expense, for her to take a 2,500 mile road trip.

Host Mom in the City December 5, 2014 at 10:06 am

Also, hi everyone! I’ve been absent for a while :)

DarthaStewart December 5, 2014 at 10:20 am

I wouldn’t explain the rule. I’d say “That doesn’t work for us, Sorry”, and move on.

We do state in our rule book that the distance that the au-pair is allowed to go from here is about 6-7 hours (i.e. major metropolitan areas/tourist areas about that far out), and I explain it as- I’m not willing to go any further than that to retrieve you if you have a problem. They’ve never had an issue, because they start to understand just how far that is, and how much driving, and don’t mind. And, honestly, even if you start explaining, she’s probably going to just glaze over..

Just a simple “no”.

Taking a Computer Lunch December 5, 2014 at 10:36 am

The AP also won’t be driving alone, right? I’m sure the intention is to share the responsibility with friends. If your policy doesn’t cover non-family drivers on a road trip, then just say “No.”

I get it that in the West it’s cheaper and easier to move around by car. We on the East Coast are spoiled – every day of the week it’s cheaper and easier to take Megabus than to drive up and down the I-95 corridor – and if one books far enough in advance, then it’s next to free!

Host Mom in the City December 5, 2014 at 11:57 am

Ah, an excellent point. I would also be concerned about other au pairs driving our car – and I imagine no one would commit to driving 2,500 miles on their own! So that would be another no, sorry. That would be an easy excuse too – sorry, my insurance company won’t allow anyone else to drive the car other than the people on the policy.

exaupair December 6, 2014 at 10:30 am

Exactly what I was thinking – if your insurance only covers you + family member just tell her that, she’s probably not aware. You don’t have to explain yourself any further than this, but if you wish you can tell her about other worries you have.

Peachtree Mom December 5, 2014 at 10:54 am

I agree a simple “no, that in in our handbook” (with a more detailed explanation in the handbook) is in order and if questions arise…review the handbook. I have talked about our totaled SUV (aupair at fault) saga at nauseaum but more than one year later, two claims against us are still pending. We do have good insurance and I think the claimed injuries are a crock so I am not overly worried but it is a nuisance. It also enlightened us to the “what if she had killed or seriously injured someone”. I have also said as Dartha stated “you cannot go any further than I am willing to drive to rescue you to include the time”. Our new au pair is wonderful, I want her to have a fabulous time and she has full use of a car until midnight within an 80 mile radius. It is in our handbook, it was carefully thought out and that is my limit for my sanity. This is in a special section of non-negotiable items in our handbook. The non-negotiable items are few so they stand out from the blah blah blah of the rest of the handbook. What a great post!!!

Host Mom in the City December 5, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Oh, I LOVE this idea. We too have a handbook of about 9-10 pages, but a whole bunch of it is common sense stuff. Since we use extraordinaires, I don’t find that they need a whole lot of how to engage with the kids expectations stuff. We do have a three or four absolute non-negotiables that we share upfront when matching, but I think I will put them in the handbook too.

Should be working December 5, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Hm, our limit is 25 miles! But most interesting things around here are within 25 miles.

Host Mom in the City December 5, 2014 at 2:55 pm

We never put a mileage limit and don’t intend to. But then, no one has ever asked to take our car outside of maybe an hour drive away. We are on the East Coast, so we’ve got the bus option, which is much easier than driving anyway.

Dorsi December 5, 2014 at 3:52 pm

I have had Au Pairs rent cars when they were under 25. It might be easier than you think. ( we live in the northwest). One time it was a 22 year old Brazilian who wanted to go on a 300 mile road trip (and we did not allow any car use). She got stopped going 80 in a 45, and was able to talk herself out of the ticket (likely the cop didn’t want the hassle of dealing with an international drivers license). The other time it was a 21 year old German who was on a work trip with me. I had flown off alternative id because I forgot my DL, and she rented the car and drove it 200 miles with me and the baby. In retrospect, it seems like a disaster in the making. It was her first time driving in the US. Luckily, it went just fine.

So, it may be possible for her to rent a car. For a good Au Pair, I would volunteer to help her navigate that process. Then she can decide if it is worth the actual expense.

Also, for insurance, anyone who has an Au Pair (or teenager) should really have umbrella insurance to cover you for things above and beyond your regular (car, home, etc.) policies. You can get them from the people who you normally get insurance from and adding an extra million dollars is usually fairly cheap. I think we pay a few hundred a year for ours.

hostmominco December 5, 2014 at 5:22 pm

I know for a fact that she cannot rent a car. We actually went to the car rental agency after making a reservation online and were turned away. I was with her. I called every reputable car agency and was told they don’t do it-it is not required in our state for them to allow under 25 car rental and especially not under 21 (she is 20) .

Has anyone’s au pair used any of the au pair travel companies to arrange a trip? From their websites, it looks like a really fun way to go but they don’t post any actual reviews, so I’m unsure.

Host Mom in the City December 5, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Ours have. One did a national parks on the West Coast tour and loved it. I’m not sure which one specifically, but I don’t think it was just for au pairs. It was all international students, though.

Taking a Computer Lunch December 5, 2014 at 9:14 pm

There are a lot of travel companies that cater to au pairs (i.e. Suntreks).

Peachtree Mom December 6, 2014 at 9:18 am

A great idea for another post may be. What are some nice travel ideas for our au pairs? Ours is only 19yo, wants to travel, not quite sure how to do it. We talk about travel agencies and tours but our au pairs before her were 26 ish so I did not have much to offer. I will look up Suntreks. Thank you for that great tip. :)

SeuteDeern December 8, 2014 at 11:22 am

Would her friend be old enough to rent the car? Or could she rent a car through a non-US website? I know that if you book a rental car through specific German websites (I have just checked the ADAC website real quick) they do offer car rental to under 21 (at an additional fee).

Herz – minimal age driver and all additional drivers: 20 years
(Mindestalter des Mieters und aller Zusatzfahrer: 20 Jahre)

Depending on her home country that might be an option.

Taking a Computer Lunch December 8, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Personally, even if my au pair rented a car for a 2,500 mile road trip, I would insist that she purchase the rental company’s roadside assistance, American AAA, or the equivalent of whatever national organization she used to rent the vehicle. The American West can be very sparsely populated – I’ve seen it surprise many of my au pairs. No one wants to pay towing fees for 100 miles!

I think this is one of those gray areas in which HP find themselves truly “in loco parentis.” I often react badly to ill-planned road trips. When AP #10 wanted to drive into Manhattan with several friends, my immediate reaction was “Why drive?” To me, it was insane to think that a bunch of APs who had just arrived in the U.S. would attempt to drive into a city of 8 million people (not to mention pay for hotel parking)! The minute the words “Have you thought this through?” come out of my mouth, I know I’ve really put the Mom into HM!

Jen hill December 5, 2014 at 5:26 pm

this would be an absolute no , it’s too big a trip , even for the the experienced American driver it’s a very big trip , renting a car is best option if of age, but there would be no hesitation or question in my mind to my response, no mulling etc . there are many bother ways they can travel, train, bus , plane . Jen .

WarmStateMomma December 5, 2014 at 5:57 pm

A little tip for HPs who hand over a credit card to their AP: let your AP know if she is not supposed to use your card to secure a rental car.

When my AP rented a car, the agency she made the reservation with would not honor the reservation because she had only a debit card and no credit card. Her 18yo AP friend was too young to rent a car, but they eventually found an agency willing to rent the car to my 25yo AP with the 18yo’s credit card. The problem is that it wasn’t the AP’s own credit card – it was a card her HPs had given her to cover incidentals related to their family. Likely, the HPs had no idea their credit card was being used in this way – or of the liability she could have brought down on their doorstep. Even more likely, the 18yo AP had no idea herself of the trouble she could have caused.

old au pair mom December 5, 2014 at 8:26 pm

Dartha Stewart you get my award for the nicest host mom. 6-7 hours away is a long way to travel to clean up a mess not of your making. I once had to drive 25 minutes after an AP reversed on those metal prongs where the sign says “do not back up, severe tire damage” It was a long car ride back home.
We have strict car rules. The most important being AP can only drive 1 other AP. Our cluster is filled with suburban families who don’t provide cars and just drop off their APs at the monthly meetings and provide bus maps. I think this is a major flaw in the system but I don’t need to supply the taxi service. Like Dartha, just say”that doesn’t work for us.” If you love the AP just give them the money to rent the car, on their own credit card of course and they must buy their own insurance. Wrap around policies are a must! Question? where are you getting your AP extraordinares? Last few times we have looked, there were none available.

old au pair mom December 5, 2014 at 8:36 pm

One more thing! It doesn’t matter that it is your extra car. It is still yours and your responsibility. The lawsuit discussed above could happen to anyone. AP # I can’t recall, had a bad accident which was her fault and then she said she had to go home (because she was shamed not injured). We were super kind and supportive but I told her she wasn’t allowed to compound the expense of the situation (we had to buy a new car the next day) by having us pay more fees to the AP agency to find a new AP. It was a lesson in American grit and stick to your commitment. She did fine the rest of the year and did go on a bus trip through some national parks and San Francisco.

AussiePair December 6, 2014 at 12:53 pm

That’s a really big trip! I’m honestly not sure I would even think to ask to borrow the car to drive that far away, especially when you’ve put it in your handbook! I think I only took the car “far” – the distinction is a little different here as my cluster is very wide spread and I have au pairs in my group that are 45 minutes + drive away (and of course the ones I became closest too ended up being the farthest away, go figure) – but I don’t think I ever drove the car more than 2.5 hours in any direction and thy was ALWAYS after asking permission first. I did ask to take it on a 5 hour drive once, my host dad said he wouldn’t be comfortable with it as there may be something up with the steering wheel and not to take it further than my au pair friend’s town. I’m fine with that, understand his concern and end of story, we found another way.

As an au pair I understand that it’s frustrating and expensive to not travel by car, BUT I feel like we kind of know this coming into the program, and at least with my agency they repeat constantly that car use is a priviledge not a right, you can always find other ways.

This doesn’t help in this particular situation, but I’m using a fantastic company right now to do a West Coast road trip called Escape Campervans. They don’t charge extra for under 25s (although you need to be 21 or older and have a credit card to rent), the prices are reasonable, we’re getting really good mileage, they don’t charge extra to add additional drivers and we’re saving money on accommodation by sleeping in the van most places. I would highly recommend it.

HRHM December 8, 2014 at 6:38 pm

One of my prior APs mentioned this and I looked at the website and it seems like a fantastic way to go . My only comment to her (and all APs looking to “rough it” in the US) is that you can’t just park and sleep anywhere, even in a camper van. It’s considered vagrancy in many/most places and you can get a ticket or arrested. However, Walmart allows overnight parking/camping in their lots! So, find your nearest Walmart during your travels and camp on! :)

AussiePair December 9, 2014 at 3:25 am

Funny you should say that we’re currently in a walmart lot right now lol. I’m an organiser by nature and put a lot of time into researching and planning for this trip, so was able to find out that walmart is a good option, also most are open 24 hours, or if not close late and open early, so they’re good for restroom access!

imabusybee January 4, 2015 at 1:29 am

I agree with everything said here. This kind of trip is out of the question. It’s been hard because our AP hasn’t had driving privileges and many of the girls in our cluster do. The first week she was here she visited with a girl who had her “own” car and was allowed to take it from TX to CA which our AP made sure we knew.

As far as I can tell, these girls think they are far better drivers than they actually are. Many EU countries don’t even give out licenses until they reach 18 and many come from small towns that don’t have freeway systems. I remember so many girls that specifically said that they drive once or twice a week in their videos. It was something that actually stood out to my husband and I because I can’t image someone in the US ever thinking that was enough experience to specifically point it out. Definitely not enough for me to trust having my 0, 1, & 2 year old in the car with them.

After having our AP in our house for nearly 4 months we have finally given in and are giving her driving privileges. We explained exactly what this list has on it (wish I would have found it a few days ago – would have saved us time coming up with it). I think the big thing is understanding the liability and long term implications of an accident for us. It may not impact them long-term but it will us.

We won’t be having her drive our children at all. We really emphasized that these privileges were for her and that we could revoke them for ANY reason and almost certainly for an accident – even if it wasn’t her fault. We are holding her responsible for the first $1000 in damages and making her pay .50 a mile. And we made her sign a piece of paper that she understood this. I think part of this program is to help these girls become responsible women. Part of that is understanding implication of your actions. People treat things better if they have an interest in them. I hope the thought of losing $1000 will give her some incentive to really pay attention to her driving. If she wants to use the car she can also pay for the wear-and-tear on it. The gov’t number is .56 but we figured .50 was easy to calculate for her and me. There is more cost than just gas when using a vehicle and that is something everyone must learn so why not teach her now. I think it’ll also make her more understanding of the cost of driving her places. We are also only letting her drive locally and with no more than one passenger. She is not allowed to drive 20+ mi to the nearest city and no freeway driving until we have experienced her driving and are comfortable extending privileges. Hopefully this will also be an incentive to try and make more “local” friends and not rely on the AP program to provide them. We may seem harsh but at the end of the day it is our house and savings on the line if she gets in an accident and someone decides to sue – and let’s face it America is pretty happy to do that these days.

Emerald City HM January 8, 2015 at 5:01 pm

This might actually violate your host family contract with the agency. Ours specifiaclly says that au pairs can only be at most responsible for $250 of the deductible. Though this does vary from agency to agency.

And the though of having someone sue is exactly why you should maximize your liability and look into an umbrealla policy.

Our au pairs pay for gas on the car, but we expect that insurance and wear and tear on the car are part of the additional expense of hosting an au pair.

hOstCDmom January 8, 2015 at 5:44 pm

I agree that expecting AP to pay $1000 if there is an accident *may* violate agency contract (if BusyBee is in the US?); ours also limits the costs the AP can be responsible for in an accident. (up to $500max if off duty, $0 if on duty) Ours also explicitly notes that if we are going to permit the AP to drive our car we must put her on our insurance policy (we may NOT consider her a guest user) and that the cost of insurance is a HP, not AP, responsibility.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 8, 2015 at 8:55 pm

While I’m more generous than this, since imabusybee has explicitly stated (I hope in matching) that APs won’t be driving her children, then she can put restrictions on car use that make them respect it as a privilege and not a right (but that may also be easy for me to say, my city has excellent public transportation and tons of APs from many different agencies). My agency does limit the accident fee to the deductible, and so far only one AP has had to pay it. It is something that the LCC discusses explicitly at the intake meeting.

AlwaysHopeful HM January 9, 2015 at 7:36 am

I’m curious about this. Driving is absolutely a requirement of the job in our family, and personal use of the car is pretty important here to be able to enjoy the AP year. I make both of those things clear in matching. However. I also make clear that personal use of the car is a privilege that depends on their obtaining a a state DL, and their continued responsible behaviour such that I trust them with the car. I don’t understand why having a driving component to the job necessarily means I have to also allow personal driving.

My situation is certainly different from busybee’s… in fact, I encourage personal car use because public transportation here is poor. AP pays for his or her gas and deductible up to the agency limit, but not for mileage, wear and tear, etc. I think of our car more as a family car than as a rental car, which seems like bb’s model. However, I would have no problem leaving that family sitting in the driveway if our AP proved him or herself too irresponsible for me to feel comfortable with them using it during off time.

AlwaysHopeful HM January 9, 2015 at 7:40 am

Actually, as I think about it, requiring those payments may backfire. AP may begin to feel like she has more of an ownership stake, and feel more entitled to use of the car if use of it entails such financial risk to her. Maybe something to consider.

BearCo Mom January 9, 2015 at 10:03 am

Yep, definitely – assuming it’s not outrageously expensive. I remember an article I read that when daycares/schools “charge” parents for picking up their kids late, they tend to do it more often because then people feel less guilt about it and feel they’ve now paid for a service.

WestMom January 9, 2015 at 12:51 pm

We did experience this. We started to charge a small weekly ‘car usage fee’ with AP2. It worked super well with her, and she remained very respectful of our car and it’s usage throughout her year. AP3 and 4 used the car a lot more, to the point where we had to have multiple conversation about this. In retrospect, I do think that charging made them feel like they were entitled to use the car as much as they wanted. We have since returned to a free use model, to a max of 75 miles per week. I emphasize that car use is a privilege, and I encourage public transport (We are walking distance to everything, including train to NYC city and two bus lines to major suburban centers as well.) our last two APs have been incredibly respectful.

This post brings up another approach question for me. I do have a very detailed handbook which I share with AP prior to matching and I make sure it is discussed in details first week of arrival. Despite this, some APs oversee certain items in the handbook and need to be reminded. But overall, I start more with a ‘we trust you until you break our trust’ type of approach’, as opposed to ‘you need to gain our trust before getting privileges’. I think this would be an interesting topic for a future blog posting, perhaps?

Taking a Computer Lunch January 9, 2015 at 7:00 pm

WestMom, I’m definitely from your school. APs in my house start out as full adults, and out of the 11, all but one maintained that status. AP #8 (the one that drove headfirst into the Hummer) pushed back on being a responsible adult. She was the only AP to whom we gave a car curfew. I nearly gave her a curfew when she claimed she was ill on a day the kids had no school (she had already hinted that she wanted that day off). When I told her that if she pulled it again, then she would have a curfew of 8 hours before her shift and she never did it again.

WestMom January 9, 2015 at 6:59 am

I can imagine what predicament you were faced with. You don’t need a driver, so I suspect you never offered your car during the matching process. But now AP is here and wants to use the car. I can see how that would be an unpleasant twist of events. We are in a different situation here, with 3 middleschoolers so we absolutely need a driver. So we can’t really escape driving privileges. And you are right, some families offer some very good ones we can’t compare with. But I am curious in your case, what might you change, if anything, in your next round of interviews? Would you look for a non-driver specifically? Or do you think your driving privileges are here to stay?

imabusybee January 9, 2015 at 12:08 pm

Thanks for the response ladies. I did check on the insurance deductible and it is limited by our agency to $500. Thank you for pointing that out. Since we never intended on giving driving privileges I had remembered that number as a suggestion and most likely based on the circumstances we probably wouldn’t ever have actually charge the $1000 but do believe that having a higher financial burden emphasizes the amount of responsibility involved in driving. We have added her to our insurance and are covering that cost so there is no upfront cost to her if she doesn’t use the car. We do have liability and an umbrella policy but as anyone who has ever been in a lawsuit knows the headache can be far worse than than the cost and that’s what I really want to avoid. Please also note that she actually suggested we buy another car for her.

We did make it very clear that she wouldn’t be driving and even requested that she look-up our address on google earth so she could see the surrounding area. Her first week here we purchased a bike for her which she has only used twice. My husband and I went five years without having a car or sharing one so we really have little sympathy for seeing driving as a necessity.

Also, our situation is a bit different than most because I consider myself a stay-at-home-mom (I work with my husband) and my husband works from home. My Au-Pair is with me during the day so she gets out a lot and almost always has a ride available to her whenever/wherever. She also has flexibility in her schedule. Unless I have something I specifically need her for she can mostly work the hours she chooses and do whatever else she would like. There are also A LOT of other perks in our situation that she seems to forget when she tells us about all the things the other APs get.

I won’t clog up this discussion with the details but we did almost go into rematch last month for a number of other reasons. We really like this girl but she has a lot of growing up to do and we are trying to make it work with her that is why we are giving her driving privileges.

As for the next time around. I’m not sure if we will keep driving privileges or not – depends how these go. If we do they will probably be “earned” and probably progressive like we are doing now (no freeway driving or far distances at first). I really need to see that the person is responsible.

Our interviewing process will probably be very different and I will be looking for different things across the board. Like I said we really like our AP but we did almost rematch for a bunch of reasons. I put together a manual this time and went through it with her but it’s as if everything from our interviews and those first weeks went in one ear and out the other. I think I will be making sure that the girl has the manual in advance and signs each page to be sure she understands what to expect. I would love it if this site or somewhere else had a larger collection of manuals.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 9, 2015 at 6:56 pm

There are sample manuals here – look on the right hand side for Categories, and then click on Foundation & Basics. You’ll find Handbooks there.

Buy her a care. Wow!

One thing I have experienced is that some of my more immature APs (not necessarily the youngest) have misconstrued “member of the family” for “being a child.” I make it clear in my handbook and when they have issues with commanding respect, that APs are an adult in my house. A couple, pushed back on this, and they were my least favorite APs.

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