Transforming a Terrible Driver into a Safe Driver: Au Pair Success Stories?

by cv harquail on February 3, 2016

Usually when a Host Family gets a new Au Pair and discovers that the Au Pair can’t actually drive well or safely, we all say “Rematch”.  

photo-1446436975449-d93bd4cebfcfIt’s just too darn hard to orient an Au Pair, teach the Au Pair to drive yourself, find the extra money for significant driving lessons, and/or deal with the uncertainty and inconvenience as you wait until your Au Pair’s driving is really safe.

What if, though, you have matched with someone who seems like a “phenomenal” au pair? Someone so much better than your previous Au Pairs that you’re starting to think you might take the chance on the Au Pair learning to drive well?

If you did take the chance, is there any hope that your efforts would work, and that you’d end up with a happy Au Pair who drives well?

We want to hear some success stories!

Dear AuPairMom–

After two nice APs with great driving skills but total party girls, I looked long and hard for an AP that genuinely loves children. AP3 arrived and has blown me away. I can’t believe I found someone who loves to be around my kids, is happy, cleans up and loves to cook. She is phenomenal.

She is also a terrible driver. I took her out and when I got home, I was shaking.

Our Au Pair is over 21. Her profile said that she has her own car that she drives once a week for 2 years. From this data and from our conversations during the matching process, it seemed like she had the driving skills I needed. But, no.

I contacted my LC immediately.

“Rematch,” she advised.  

But what about driving lessons? More practice?  

I need an Au Pair to take my youngest to preschool in the fall which is 3 miles from my house. Also, my school aged kids have after school activities that I need a driver for but we can probably manage. Also, I worry about her being trapped in my house when off duty; we are in a city with horrible public transit but tons of other APs in the area.

My question: Are there Au Pair Learning To Drive success stories out there? 

Is it worth the money for driving courses?


See also:

Improve Your AuPair’s Driving With an Online Driving Class
The Best $98 You Can Spend on Your New Au Pair
Don’t Be Afraid To Rematch If Your Au Pair Can’t Drive
Driven to the edge because my Au Pair can’t drive


Returning HM February 3, 2016 at 3:25 pm

We have brought in a professional driving instructor on three occasions with au pairs, after we evaluated them in our usual drive together and found that we were not comfortable with their driving skills. In the case of two of them, the instructor said that it would be a minimum of ten lessons, plus a lot of practice, for them to be “entry level” drivers. Since our children need more than entry level, we chose to rematch (this was a long time ago – before I found this site and before the widespread internet made the kinds of back-and-forth conversations we have now possible, so there was a lot more taken on faith in the applications). I will say that both of these APs were 25 years old, both had had their licenses for 6-7 years, and both considered themselves good drivers. They were just not good enough to manage safely the kind of driving we needed them to do.

In the third case, the instructor felt that the AP’s driving skills were good, but she just needed practice and confidence. We paid for six lessons over three weeks and scheduled her a lot of time to practice driving, and she became an excellent driver who had a very successful year with us.

I would call in a professional driving instructor/evaluation, preferably someone who has experience working with au pairs, and ask for a candid assessment of what you are dealing with. If it’s the former case, then likely you will need to rematch if you decide that a driver is essential (it sounds like you’re trying to convince yourself that one isn’t, but I suspect that your children may end up suffering for this since they are used to activities outside the house). If it’s the latter case, then you may decide on a number of lessons you’ll pay for or ask the AP to go in on a certain number, and then re-evaluate in that time. Hopefully it will be this kind of a case, and your AP will turn into the kind of driver you need.

HRHM February 3, 2016 at 4:04 pm

We had an AP who “bought” her DL back home and really had no practical experience driving when she arrived on Friday. I needed her to start driving my kids Monday morning!

DH spent the whole weekend in the car with her, having her drive him around town. Luckily, we were in the middle of nowhere and preschool was 1.2 miles away, so by Monday, we were good to go.

Fast forward 6 months and we were moving from East Jabib to DC! I had been harping on her to go out while kids were in school all day to practice on the highway and in more populated towns nearby – she didn’t. When we moved, we couldn’t trust her to drive in the city traffic or highways and so little DD stayed home with her instead of going to preschool but this put us over hours on some days and I’m not a rule breaker by nature, so we initiated rematch.

That was the push she needed and all of a sudden, she started working on her driving skills and actually improved enough that I felt she could safely make the daily drive to preschool. She never had an accident and she actually got her US DL during her second year (she extended with another family)

So, overall, a happy ending. It can be done.

HM - OP February 5, 2016 at 12:33 am

Thank you HRHM. “It can be done.” That’s what I wanted to hear.

Anna February 3, 2016 at 4:36 pm

Not myself, but my sister had an au pair from Ukraine where many buy their DL and have no practical experience. Her au pair improved fast and was driving her kids anywhere they needed (school, activities) etc. They were in NJ – vicinity of NYC.

I think it really depends on the au pair, and on your driving requirements.

Mimi February 4, 2016 at 10:52 am

This was also the case with our AP from the Ukraine.

KirkeboysMomma February 5, 2016 at 3:58 pm

Funny- our first Ukrainian AP totaled the car on her first day of work by herself (driving the car into the preschool’s brick stairs during carpool pickup). Thankfully no one was hurt, but she had a car and had been driving for a while, but she didn’t even want to learn how to drive in the US after that. We are more cautious about explaining how much driving is required of our Au Pair!!

I just don’t have time to sponsor a new driver as well and our boys aren’t that great in the car to begin with—

Anna February 26, 2016 at 12:16 pm

didn’t you give her a test drive with you or your husband first? I always do

Hostmomgalore February 24, 2016 at 7:42 pm

I’m 2 weeks in with our au pair from Ukraine and same story. No real driving experience and very bad at driving. I’ve spoken to Ukrainians and there are key differences:
– no stop signs (all lights)
– there are right of way roads, none of this “person in right” stuff

Ive also been advised that at our global company, Ukrainians are a fraction of the workforce but over 90% of the at-fault driver claims when they travel in the USA, and was shown a blurb in a travel book about how bad they are at driving.

Crossing fingers but I may be headed into rematch soon.

WarmStateMomma February 25, 2016 at 11:35 am

I had a college internship in Moscow. The only English words the company driver knew were “crazy driver.” He would honk at old people hobbling across the street with canes, as a courtesy to let them to hurry up before he barreled into them. He drove on the sidewalk, trolley tracks, etc. None of this drew any attention because it was not that unusual.

Driving experience is not enough when the local habits are that bad.

TexasHM February 25, 2016 at 5:34 pm

In the Ukraine the public transportation is good enough that many people never get licenses. Ever. As said, the ones that do, learn horrible aggressive tactics. One of very few countries we completely rule out (because we need a strong driver). Would only consider if candidate learned and drove in another European country (like uk, Spain, France).

Anna February 26, 2016 at 12:14 pm

I am about to match with an experienced (two years daily, family owns two cars) Ukrainian driver au pair from a smaller city whose father was a DMV employee and trained her on driving safety from teen years… She of course may be an exception

Taking a Computer Lunch February 3, 2016 at 11:48 pm

We used the services of driving instructors twice. First for a Chinese AP who really, really, really couldn’t drive (she got stuck on her first day trying to back out of pull-in parking space). We used the services of off-duty police officers who run a driving training company in our community for three 2-hour sessions. After the last session, the officer told my husband that she was basically competent in street and highway driving, but would fail on parking and three-point turns. She was not a confident person by nature, and he recommended more lessons. We let her choose the company, and after 10 lessons she got to the point where we felt she was safe enough to drive our kids. And then it snowed. She refused to drive. It snowed some more. And more. And three months later, she was literally back to square one. If your AP cannot drive when she begins her year with you and does not drive for weeks at a time, count on a huge setback in skills. In the end, we used her failure to acquire a state license against her (there were many, many other factors) and chose not to extend with her.

Another AP was young, immature German woman, and had two “distracted driver” events in her first three months with our family. First, despite being warned that flashing red lights on a school bus meant “stop,” she blew by a bus on a narrow side street in front of another parent in our carpool. Strike one. Weeks later, on her birthday, she failed to yield at a stop sign, slammed into the side of a Hummer whose driver came out ready to punch until he saw a scared little white girl. She woke us up (on a work night) just before midnight to tell us she couldn’t drive because one of the headlights was out. It was only after my husband arrived at the scene that he understood that she lacked the English to say, “I slammed into the side of a Hummer and it ripped the front end off the car.” Fortunately all her predecessors had treated the car like gold, so our insurance rebuilt it. Our insurance has insisted since that each AP obtain an American license as a result, even though our state does not require it during an AP’s first year.

My answer is “It depends.” If your AP has a strong, confident personality, it might translate behind a wheel. AP #1 was from Brazil, and bought her license. However she was confident, and having had owned a vehicle for two years, really did know what to do behind a wheel once she gained a little confidence. It turns out we had far more time to help her, at the expense of our own time, when our kids were babies and toddlers, than we did for any AP once our kids were school-aged and had multiple weekend activities.

Some options (other than rematch)
– If you don’t need a driver, but love your AP, then take away the keys and give her cash to give to friends who schlep her around.
– Evoke the word rematch, and give your AP a choice. Split the cost of lessons with her 50-50, agree how much will come out of her salary and over how long. If she’s not willing, and you need a driver, then rematch.
– Find time to teach your AP how to drive. It will serve you well when your children become teenagers (and when you’ll care more because they’re your own flesh and blood).

Do agree on benchmarks for 1) driving the car alone during the day 2) driving the car alone at night 3) driving your kids around 4) driving friends around at night. Make it clear that there is no alcohol consumption or cell phone use (even if she is over 21, she’s a beginner and it’s your car!) Warn your AP that if you discover that she breaks the rules before she meets the benchmarks it will mean immediate rematch. (Really want to practice teaching your own kids to drive? Have her sign an agreement!)

And for her successor, make driving questions 20-30 minutes of your telephone interview. Emphasize the need to be able to drive in your initial email! And in the future, don’t match with anyone who hasn’t held a full license for less than one full year – preferably two!

HM - OP February 5, 2016 at 12:30 am

Thank you TACL. I appreciate your comments and suggestions. Setting milestones is a great idea and holds her accountable. I plan on putting together a plan with the help of my LCC and I will discuss rematching. This process can be a bit tiresome especially with the party girls. I think that’s why I can’t give up on my All-Star.

And your suggestions for interviewing for the next AP are duly noted. I was narrowly focused on an AP that genuinely loves children and missed the driving factor entirely! Live and learn. Cheers.

WestMom February 4, 2016 at 8:57 am

My initial was to propose to rematch, because in my current situation, I really really need our AP to drive right away. DH and I work long hours and I need AP to be ready to run as soon as she arrives.

But your situation is different. AP needs to drive come September, which leaves you 7-8 months for her to prepare. The comments you received above are great. I particularly like the idea of setting driving milestones for her over the next 7 months. I would also make it clear that if by July/August you are still not comfortable with her driving, you will initiate rematch. She sounds like a lovely AP and I would propose sharing the cost of driving lessons, but I also think it’s important that she contributes, considering she misrepresented her driving skills.

We had a similar situation with a nanny we adored and who worked for us for 4+ years. When she started, I told her it would be imperative that she get her driver’s license, which she did. But her driving was still horrendous and I basically forbade her to drive our kids anywhere. Luckily they didn’t really need to go anywhere at that age, and we can access most everything by foot from our house, including public transportation.

The year my babies were going to start school (September), I approached our nanny in January to let her know that she would need to perfect her driving by the time school starts in order to stay employed with us. It was up to her to practice (she did have a car, but she always took public transport to our home). I did some test drives with her monthly, and sadly we had to let her know in June that her driving was not up to our expectations. (Poor nanny- her husband was a bus driver, and I really think he just didn’t really want to let her drive around on weekend). That’s actually what triggered us to start with the AP program. We have only had experienced drivers ever since.

Set the milestones, and give her a chance to reach them, but also be ready to rematch if you are not completely comfortable with her driving by the time you son needs to go to school. Driving is part of her duties, and you shouldn’t have to compromise on that.

MN Host Dad February 4, 2016 at 9:42 am

Our last Au Pair was similar to what you describe – we loved her, but her driving was very poor. Particularly when you consider that she arrived in January in Minnesota and had never driven on snow or ice before. We have had 10 Au Pairs and none had been this bad at driving. We took her out and drove with her in a local cemetery – going over and over some of the things she needed to focus on. That helped, but still not enough to feel really safe. So we bought her driving instructions. She had three of them. She was a much better driver after the third one – but the whole process took about 2 months. We were able to work with that – not sure if your situation you can. By the end of her year, we didn’t worry about her driving anymore.

I will say, that of the 10 Au Pairs that we had, she was in the top 3 and we would have missed out on one of the best Au Pairs that we ever had.

HM - OP February 5, 2016 at 12:19 am

Thank you MN Host Dad. I appreciate the positive story. My Husband and I needed to hear that. We do have time to train her to drive. And I just can’t let her go, she is that good.

Ebhm February 4, 2016 at 11:14 am

I don’t understand how anyone can insure a driver with less than 3 years safe driving experience. To me it seems the cost is
I have just been through the painful and expensive process of getting my au pair added as a named driver on my policy. I know this topic has been addressed on this forum before a couple of years ago, and I was fascinated by how many host families insist that the au pair is covered as a guest driver. I am not sure if this is true or if they are taking a huge risk of having their claim turned down in the event of an accident.
I tried to get a clear answer to this question from two different representatives from my insurer, and I could not get a clear response. What I can gather is that au pairs are not considered guests. I don’t think any insurer would define them as such. So I wonder if anyone has had to make a claim under these circumstances and had no problem being paid?
Also, I live in California which has the added complication that it is not possible to add a foreign license holder as a named driver on my policy. So, my insurer said they will cover my au pair as a guest for the time it takes to get a California drivers license and be added to my policy. Trying to pin them down on exactly when/if my au pair ceases to be insured as a guest was not possible.
Now that my au pair has a California drivers license, I felt we were taking too big a risk not having him as a named driver.
When I went to my insurer asking to add him, I was gobsmacked to be quoted another $4500 annual premium. From the post on here, I was expecting around $100 per month or less.
So, I spent the whole day talking to multiple insurers, learned a lot about auto insurance and some of the particulars of California auto insurance, but the end result was that I was able to find a reputable insurer who could add my au pair for another $110 per month. This however was only because we could prove that he had received his original license more than 3 years ago and there were no points on the license.
I think this whole topic is skimmed over in the au pair literature, and it is very state specific. However, I have now learnt that if we get another au pair in July, an absolute requirement will have to be at least 3 years incident free driving history. So, no 18/19 year olds for us.

Meg February 4, 2016 at 11:59 am

I used to work in CA so I know a little about this! CA outlawed insurance companies “discriminating based on age.” Both younger drivers and less experienced drivers are higher risk. However, according to the actuarial data, of the two, youth is the larger risk driver (the 25 year old who grew up in NY and has only been driving 6 months is less likely to get into a big accident than the 18 year old who has been driving for two years.) If you think about it, it kinda makes sense. A lot of the issues with cars and young people, especially the big things vs. the tapping another car while parking are judgment issues more than skill issues. Anyway, because CA insurance companies can’t put any premium on being young, they dump it all on experience. It tends to work because most US drivers start driving at 16 or so, therefore, most drivers with 2 years of experience ARE 18. It’s especially difficult on international drivers because it isn’t easy for insurance companies to get international records. Many make a business decision to simply not regard international experience at all. So, even a 35 year old from the UK with 15 years driving experience will get quoted essentially the price a 16 year old with no driving experience gets quoted in most of the US. Anyway, that is how it was in the dark ages when I worked in the industry. But, I agree, the cost of insurance can be really high. And, I don’t feel that our agency gave us a lot of guidance on that either.

Old China Hand February 4, 2016 at 7:58 pm

Our insurance company allows a guest to drive for one month before being named. To be named you must have a us license.

It was such a pain and so expensive with the only ap we allowed to drive that I just do preschool pick up. I’m lucky that I can and I enjoy getting lunch at home with the kids.

Ebhm February 4, 2016 at 11:45 am

I have just been through the painful and expensive process of getting my au pair added as a named driver on my policy. I know this topic has been addressed on this forum before a couple of years ago, and I was fascinated by how many host families insist that the au pair is covered as a guest driver. I am not sure if this is true or if they are taking a huge risk of having their claim turned down in the event of an accident.
I tried to get a clear answer to this question from two different representatives from my insurer, and I could not get a clear response. What I can gather is that au pairs are not considered guests. I don’t think any insurer would define them as such. So I wonder if anyone has had to make a claim under these circumstances and had no problem being paid?
Also, I live in California which has the added complication that it is not possible to add a foreign license holder as a named driver on my policy. So, my insurer said they will cover my au pair as a guest for the time it takes to get a California drivers license and be added to my policy. Trying to pin them down on exactly when/if my au pair ceases to be insured as a guest was not possible.
Now that my au pair has a California drivers license, I felt we were taking too big a risk not having him as a named driver.
When I went to my insurer asking to add him, I was gobsmacked to be quoted another $4500 annual premium. From the post on here, I was expecting around $100 per month or less.
So, I spent the whole day talking to multiple insurers, learned a lot about auto insurance and some of the particulars of California auto insurance, but the end result was that I was able to find a reputable insurer who could add my au pair for another $110 per month. This however was only because we could prove that he had received his original license more than 3 years ago and there were no points on the license.
I think this whole topic is skimmed over in the au pair literature, and it is very state specific. However, I have now learnt that if we get another au pair in July, an absolute requirement will have to be at least 3 years incident free driving history. So, no 18/19 year olds for us.

WestMom February 4, 2016 at 12:10 pm

I am amazed at the difference between states and insurers… This is our first year putting AP on our policy. Our insurance previously told us she was covered as an occasional driver and we never bothered asking our APs to get a NY state license.

After reading all these crazy scenarios on this and other forums, I decided to get insurance this year. But what I realized is that in NY state, it takes about 4 months for an AP to get her license (from getting her SSN to passing the road test). Our insurance agreed to cover her for 3 months until she gets her license, and I basically had to get back to them asking for an extension, which was apparently approved. It seems like a lot of cost and trouble for her to have her license for app. 8 months while under our roof. I guess that’s a bit benefit of being an extension family.

But even more shocking is the discrepancy between insurance costs… Our is $310 for 6 months, so when I hear $4500, I am completely flabbergasted! Our Ap is a 25yr old female who has been a driver for 7 years. Aside from age, gender and experience, I think they might weigh the car model quite a bit in this equation…. AP drives a 2010 Honda Fit.

Ebhm February 4, 2016 at 12:43 pm

The 4500 was for 20 year old who just got his CA license. With 7 years experience I could get a great rate, but would have to prove it. I don’t know if the insurers consider all countries equally. I know some won’t consider international experience at all. It can also take a few months go get the Ss number and DL here.

WestMom February 4, 2016 at 1:18 pm

I did provide her French DL to prove the date, and I guess they took that in consideration for her rate.

Admittedly, I deal with a small mom/pop broker and they give us very good personal service. It would probably be different if I did self-serve online with Geico or other. not much room for exceptions there I’d think…

HRHM February 4, 2016 at 1:35 pm

Male driver + under 25 + unmarried = REALLY expensive car insurance.

I will say that all of our APs are REQUIRED to get a US DL within 60 days of joining our family and they are not allowed to use the car for personal use until they do. This was implemented after AP2 just didn’t bother learning to drive well until we threatened to rematch.

Being unable to use the car on nights and weekends turns out to be a really great motivator to get your license apparently!

WestMom February 4, 2016 at 2:38 pm

Unfortunately, wait list in NY state is 3 months for the road test alone! And that’s not counting the wait to receive her SSN which is required to get her student DL and then attend this 4 hr class. It’s impossible to do in 3 months, and very difficult in 4. All the stars have to align, and that SSN has to arrive within a few days of her apt.

I find it ridiculous… AP has a valid French license for 7 years and has to start all over again to get NY state DL. If everyone with a foreign license has to go through this, no wonder why it takes 3 months to get an appointment. Crazy…

Taking a Computer Lunch February 5, 2016 at 8:01 am

Each state varies a lot in requirements, and it’s a good thing to push your LCC to stay on top of them – because they can also vary enormously from year to year. I happen to live in a state where APs from certain European countries may surrender their license and get my state license (none have had a problem in obtaining a new copy of their country’s license when they returned home). After AP #8 drove into the side of a Hummer, my insurance has required that my APs have a US license, even though my state does not require it for their first year.

We have found that by sending APs to the social security office on a Tuesday, that wait times to get their card are very low. Where they get stuck is taking my state’s mandatory drug & alcohol class.

Because we require a driver, we reimburse the AP for every hoop she must jump through to get that state license.

Anonymous in CA February 4, 2016 at 11:45 pm

I just had this experience – my insurance would only accept the past driving experience from the U.S. or Canada. Our rates were going to go up by $2K per year for a 27 yr old female driver who has been driving for almost 9 years because they were going to treat her the same as someone who just got her license.

My agent endeared herself tremendously and immediately started shopping around and moved our entire bundle (home, car, personal items) to a different provider. We had been with Hartford and are now with Travelers. So, yes, for some insurers, they won’t count years of driving experience unless from certain countries (and in my case, only from the U.S. or Canada).

hOstCDmom February 4, 2016 at 1:20 pm

Our experience–
Put AP on insurance; New England; 3rd driver on each of two cars (AP shared HP cars), both Toyotas, both 10 year old models. 2 scenarios, same insurance company (USAA, which is across the board cheaper than any other company in our area).

23 year old female, foreign license first year, state license 2nd year, cost us an additional $72 per 6 months, so $144 for each YEAR. pretty good :)

19 year old male, foreign license first 30 days, then state license. cost an additional $700 per 6 months, so $1400 for the year. Over 10x as much as what our female AP cost us, but still not dreadful compared to the $4500 quoted above!

No matter what you are told on the phone by the rep, read the fine print of the policy, especially the contractual definition of guest driver, or occasional driver with permission etc. Many contracts define guest driver to explicitly exclude someone who lives in the household. Similarly, if you have an AP, and 3 cars, and 3 drivers (=2 HP + AP), that AP may well be considered the “primary driver” of one of the cars. And if s/he is a primary driver, who lives in your household, it is going to be tough to argue that s/he was a guest driver.

And you are only ever going to be arguing this point if something has happened such that the insurance company is facing a financial liability because of what an AP did while driving your car, and in such a situation the insurance company’s legal/financial interests and your legal/financial interests are in conflict!

(Contrast this with situation if AP gets pulled over for speeding, has to show insurance, and does so — well, the car is insured and the officer is probably not going to question if AP was driving with permission or not, so her not being on the insurance is likely not an issue. But in this scenario you (or AP!) are talking about a possibly few hundred dollar ticket at worst…not thousands or 10s of thousands…or more! in liability for an at fault accident in which there is major damage/totaled car/injuries/loss of life. In the latter scenario, I, personally, don’t want to give my insurance company any additional opportunity to wiggle out of satisfying the claim! Nor do I want to have to litigate in order to get them to pay out.)

Mimi February 4, 2016 at 5:26 pm

This was our experience. All female APs as primary driver (19-23 in ages) on an older model Volvo station wagon, with USAA insurance has been very reasonable. We recently had to replace the 2003 minivan with a 2011 Suburban and costs still stayed ok given that she is primary on the 2002 Volvo (HD drives a ’98 pick-up) and doesn’t drive the other vehicles.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 5, 2016 at 8:04 am

A lot of insurers will reduce rates for good grades (really!). So after your AP completes a course, if the grade is an A or B, show it to your insurer to see if they will give you a good-grade cut.

Mimi February 5, 2016 at 2:47 pm

USAA used to do this, but it’s been awhile since we’ve bothered to ask.

Ebhm February 4, 2016 at 3:11 pm

So I’m very interested to know how many host parents don’t allow their au pair to drive until they get their US license. It makes sense to me, but would make it hardly worthwhile getting an au pair. Can we take our insurers word for it that they are insured as guest until then. I never got in in writing from the insurer. This is a really big factor in deciding whether I will continue with the program at all. Or I could limit my search to extension au pairs with license only. But the pool must be pretty small.

WestMom February 4, 2016 at 5:15 pm

And extension APs are reaaaally picky…

HRHM February 4, 2016 at 6:12 pm

We limit her driving to work driving only. So in the first days she is in our home, HD takes her out to make sure that she is at least competent behind the wheel. Anyone who can’t pass that test would be sent to rematch ASAP.

Then, she is allowed to use the car to transport the kids and if we do family events, we’ll often have her drive for practice then. Once she gets her state DL, she can use the car for personal use as well. We add her to our insurance as soon as she arrives, but the rate goes down significantly when she gets her DL in the US.

Seattle Mom February 4, 2016 at 7:28 pm

A lot of extension au pairs want California though, so that would help you, Ebhm.

Quirky February 5, 2016 at 11:30 am

Our first au pair was English, and 26, and had been driving for quite a while. I know that the driver’s exam is much harder in the UK, so I took her possession of a license and her age (and her verbal reassurances about her driving experiences) to mean she would be a good driver.

Unfortunately she was a very anxious and non-confident driver especially about driving on the right hand side of the road — she made us extremely nervous if one of us rode shotgun because she would come so close to the curb with the right-hand tires. We also learned that she had to take the full driving test here (both written and practical) to get her U.S. driver’s license, which we needed to put her on our license. She arrived in late September, and it took her all the way until April to finally pass both written and practical tests. Along the way, she slammed the front end of our car into a pillar in an underground parking garage — entirely due to her anxiety translating into hasty and panicky moves. Huge repair bill there.

We came to find out it took her six tries to pass her UK exam. In hindsight — I never thought to ask that particular question. Even though English is her native language, she failed the written test at least once. She ended up paying a driving instructor here to give her several lessons to enable her to pass the practical test.

We do things differently now — first, we only match with German candidates, because Maryland allows German drivers to trade in their German licenses for a Maryland one with no tests required. I trust that the German system is way more thorough than most. I also quiz candidates closely about their daily driving experiences, car ownership, etc. Second, we have a driving instructor who is very experienced with APs evaluate our new AP on the very first weekend. We pay for two two-hour sessions to get our APs up to speed on our roads. Because we are in the close-in suburbs of DC, our APs have to deal with a lot of traffic on all types of roads, including local neighborhood roads, three-land 45 mph suburban arteries, and Beltway/270 traffic that is fast-paced (and full of terribly aggressive drivers). Our APs can use their German/international licenses right way and our insurance (USAA) will cover them right away.

For the OP, honestly, I’d be much more inclined to rematch quickly if my AP couldn’t get up to safe driving standards very quickly. I need our AP to be able to hit the road driving — both for the kids and for kid-related errands — immediately. I would not be “managing” by doing it myself — the AP is here to make my life easier, not more complicated. It would be a giant pain for me to try to make alternate arrangements for my kids for their after-school activities, and there’s almost no way I can envision trying to juggle those without my AP.

I understand it’s so hard because she is such a great person with your kids — but I also wonder whether your attachment to her might end up clouding your judgment as to whether her driving skills have improved sufficiently, the longer she stays with you and the more you are invested in her emotionally. I would personally be inclined to go into rematch before you and your kids become even more attached to her.

cv harquail February 5, 2016 at 11:51 am

Thanks Quirky… Never knew that about the German/Maryland license transfer!
I’d love to know what you pay w/ USAA– that’s the agency noted from the first person who entered info into the Insurance spreadsheet. ! cv

Returning HM February 5, 2016 at 2:29 pm

An amusing story about the Maryland/German trade-in of licenses: When we lived in MD, one of our sweet German APs did this. Upon arriving home, though, she was shocked to find that her license – as in the actual piece of laminated paper she had turned in to get her MD license – was not waiting for her at her DMV at home. The use of the term “trade in” had led her to believe that the actual license would be waiting for her (how it would find its way to the DMV she wanted it to go to, I have no idea!), and she could just “trade it back” for the exact same German license upon returning home. :-)

Emerald City HM February 6, 2016 at 12:32 am

We have USAA also. I give them the date they got their out of country license. Our current au pair is $40 a month extra I think. 26 y/o male. When I put my son on at 16 he was $150 a month (thank goodness he’s at college without a car right now). I think the quote was around $150 a month for our 19 y/o Mexican au pair, but she had only had her license for a year and a half, so that might have been a large factor (we didn’t need a driver at the time so ended up not letting her drive because the cost wasn’t worth it).

Ebhm February 5, 2016 at 12:53 pm

If the au pair said in her application that she has her own car that she drives once a week, It’s hard for me to imagine how further discussion resulted in the OP having confidence in her driving. I would have skipped the application based on the once a week driving comment.
I have also thought about putting up with a non driver if we can get someone really awesome on the other requirements, but it would be a real strain after a few months. Also, if she thinks she can drive, she will be even more frustrated by not being allowed to for a year.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 5, 2016 at 3:30 pm

DH and I own two cars. I rarely drive more than once a week. I use public transportation to commute. I’ll even walk two miles to the supermarket to pick up a couple of items because I’d rather have the exercise and I hate fighting for parking. I say this because while it may be a flag, if the AP is a city dweller, access to public transportation and the hassle of city traffic may naturally lead to less driving. On the other hand, for APs in rural areas (and this is where google maps comes in handy), I would expect more frequent driving.

I will say, based on my 15 1/2 years experience in hosting, that all APs are surprised by how much more necessary cars are in the U.S. than in their home countries.

Mimi February 5, 2016 at 2:49 pm

Some super advice here for the OP. You are right to be concerned about your AP being stuck at home without transportation, because it causes real issues of isolation and cabin fever. If this wasn’t an AP that was good in other ways, I would say to cut her loose, but many of the other qualities you mention are worth putting in some time to see if her driving can be improved. You have a good time table for practice as TACL proposed, but really make sure to stick to it and make very clear upfront that there are repercussions if she can’t drive as needed.

We’ve had a few not-so-great drivers; a Ukrainian AP who had purchased her license and had limited real experience, an Italian AP who was a super aggressive driver, and a Colombian who eventually decided she didn’t want to drive (especially once it snowed). Our APs from Eastern Europe haven’t been an issue and we’ve decided to stay in these groups for driving (and other) reasons. We’ve been able to work with all our poor driver APs, but have limited their driving with the kids when necessary. Driving hasn’t been a necessity for us, only for the APs if they don’t want to be trapped in the house with the kids because we are in rural NE with no public transportation.

Our state (CT) doesn’t require a state permit for the first year, nor does our insurance provider (USAA). Our rates have been very reasonable because of the provider and the APs status as the primary driver of an older vehicle so we were initially very blasé about screening for driving skills beyond some basic questions and their application info. The Ukrainian (AP#2) prompted us to more careful about our screening and to be much stricter with follow-up testing for skills when they get here. HD takes them out for a specific driving skills test, based on road tests given to commercial drivers (we were both driver trainers in college) and when it snows, repeats some of it in the snowy conditions.

We can’t afford driving lessons, and would have them pay for them themselves if needed. My father (who is retired) is our go-to instructor. It is less pressure for the AP to be able to relax and build skills, without worrying about her HP judging every move. Driving lessons are always on their time.

hOstCDmom February 5, 2016 at 3:57 pm

Haha! Mimi, you are not going to believe this — all this time you have posted, until just now I thought you lived in NEBRASKA! Reading “NE” as “Nebraska”…not “NEW ENGLAND”! (Even more ironic, bc I too live in NE (New England!))

Mimi February 5, 2016 at 4:38 pm

I thought Nebraska was NB, but it looks like it changed to NE at some point. My bad!?!

hOstCDmom February 5, 2016 at 7:03 pm

I thought you somehow had an AP in the middle of rural Nebraska…which probably makes rural CT look like a metropolis !! ;)

Returning HM February 6, 2016 at 7:57 am

I thought Nebraska too…

Au pair! February 6, 2016 at 4:41 am

Au-pair POV in this kind of situation. One that worked out.

My bad: totally overestimating my driving abilities. You hear in your home countries driving in the US is far easier than South America, so you relax. Big mistake, I know, I know, but in the interest of being honest, that’s the truth.
– 2nd mistake: taking for granted public transportation in South America, and the ease we have to get around. We are overpopulated more often than not, so really, getting from x to y place is super easy, and we have everything from groceries, bakeries, craft stores within walking distance —anywhere most of the time. Using a car in the US is such a HUGE necessity most of the time (I can only think of New York or DC as an exception right now) and girls back home don’t really get that.

3rd mistake: first time au pairing *ever* –so it sure was intimidating to not only get to a new home with this new people that while nice and wonderful you don’t really know, now you have to get behind the wheel, and it doesn’t usually go too well. In my case, that first time with HD in the car it went something like….” Oh no, this hostdad is getting really nervous, oh my god, I suck at this, am I’m going to fast? too slow? I can’t read his face! Oh no, I just launched us forward trying to stop at the stop sign! Gee, I’m so so sorry! please someone just make this stop….uh oh, what do I do now?” ……true story, ‘member? ;)

The silver-lining —-*in my case*: summer au pair, parks/coffee shop/Wallgreens/library within walking distance, au pairs w/ cars nearby, my beautiful host kid not beginning Pre-K that year until late August. Whew, they are not sending me home quite yet! :)

—Also, wonderful host parents that didn’t give up on me “Stop apologizing,” HD would say, “Just get better” and I did.

– HD took it on him to practice my driving with him. It was summer, so thankfully longer days, so, bless his heart, HD took it upon himself to take me driving every night after putting hostbaby to bed. About an hour or so each night. This lasted for about three or four weeks. (To this day I still don’t know why he would do this for me, but from the bottom of my heart I’m still so so thankful because his family is my family now, and I’d do just about everything for his children in turn! Pay-it-forward kind of thing!))

– Confidence driving started building up in me quickly enough, HM at one point lobbied the word rematching over the phone, scared me terribly, DID give me the push I needed to just stop worrying about embarrassing myself in front of Host Dad and instead I started getting better.

– I was to get State licence before driving in my personal time –I started doing practice tests online and reading the manual since before getting to the US, so the written test was cake, and I got the learners permit pretty quickly.

– By august I was ready by HostDad standards to drive Hostbaby to preschool so YAY! hard work paid off!
Lessons with hims stopped, I was allowed to keep practicing during work hours, still no use of the car for free time.

-Practical test scared the bejesus out of me, so I took my sweet time before actually getting over myself and taking it. After all, I did have au pair friends living close by who didn’t mind picking me up to do stuff, so it wasn’t so bad.

-HD’s lessons were mainly driving, day, night, highway “SPEED SPEED! NO NO! TOO MUCH SLOW DOWN!!” Bless his sweet, sweet heart, I swear! :) Yet, I had NOT a clue how to parallel park, or back in a parking spot, which was part of the practical test. Which was also why I didn’t want to take it.

–Next door au pair took a few lessons with an instructor who even took her to the DDS after hours to practice on the actual test parking lot. With a bit of insisting, next door au pair “passed” on me her lessons and I got the cliffsnotes of how to park, pass the test! HOORAY!

-By September I had my full State licence and access to the au pair car! YAY! By December I was driving the family around and all was good with the world! I was under 21 so I was the family’s designated driver on those night outs! Can’t say I complained —nada!! Not after everything they did for me!

So yeah, the point of this whole thing, was so OP could hear that YES! It CAN BE DONE! but it might also not work. It’s a toss up. This was years ago, and to this day I’m still just as close to this family as ever! Of course, fast forward to 2016, there is NO way they would be able to do this for any new au pair —no matter how great sadly. Kids are in school full time, activities afteschool, activities in the summer, at least 50% of the job is driving kiddies around, so they need all new girls to be great right off the bat.

-So for me it was a combination of good timing, kindest hostfamily, and the fact that I was too motivated to make their time worth their while.

GOOD LUCK to the OP! this program can be so so wonderful when the stars decide to align! :)

HM - OP February 7, 2016 at 1:10 am

Yay!! Thank you!! Great story with a happy ending. I so enjoyed reading your post. Thank you for the positive feedback. We have a plan that we have started and I’m feeling hopeful.

NJ Mom February 10, 2016 at 8:20 am

We went through this with our current AP (full story on one of the earlier posts about driving). It took about 2-3 months or intensive driving lessons and practice to get AP road ready. We only did this because the other areas were great. A mediocre AP would be rematched, we did come close at one point, and LCC suggested rematch (but also not a great LCC). We paid for professional lessons, gave her lessons, AP put in a ton of her own time and efforts to practice and improve. Set up a bike as AP’s primary transportation and AP got rides from friends for the most part. As AP improved, we gradually gave her more car priviledges. The day she came home with her state DL, we signed her up with AAA and celebrated.

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