School schedules are starting to flow, afternoon activities are picking up, and carpooling sign-up’s are in your child’s backpack or filling up your email inbox. A parent’s job is demanding, whether you work full time or you’re a full time parent, the to-do list never seems to get any smaller. From school, to sports, and after school activities, the hustle and bustle of chauffeuring our kids will consume most of our time during the school year. By following these carpooling tips you can share some of the back-to-school driving and create a clear actionable plan that leaves you comfortable and your child safe.
Maintain Your Car – Start with a reliable well maintained car. This means regular oil & filter changes, maintaining other vital fluids, checking your tires, inspecting headlamps and directional lights, and testing the battery. If you’re like me, the very last thing you want to have happen when you have to get the kids from point A to point B is have a vehicle break down. Having a vehicle towed into the shop and being without one because it’s undergoing a major repair causes a lot of additional problems and expenses. Talk to your fellow carpool parents or share this blog to make sure they’re keeping their car up to date as well.
Have a Plan – If you’ve never carpooled before, it can be hard to share responsibilities at first, especially as worry takes over. Discuss your schedule with all parents involved and have a clear easy to read schedule and plan of action. A printed carpool schedule, distributed to everyone, with contact numbers and addresses along the bottom works best. If your child has allergies, or a medical condition, make sure to add this to the form. Here’s a great template courtesy of Angela’s Blogspot. The file is in excel format and easily modified, printed, and shared via email.
Buckle Up in Appropriate seats – Remember September is National Child Passenger Safety Month, and all passengers should be in age appropriate seats and buckled up every time. If one of your carpoolers needs a seat, do you have an extra, or will the parent leave the seat at school for you to borrow? If you’re switching out seats often, make sure you installing properly every time.
Extras – toys, snacks, dvds, quiet activities, EpiPen and medications just to name a few. Driving around a few extra kids can take some adjusting, you know your child and their demeanor after school, but add on a few more kids and your car can feel like a playground if you’re not careful. Keep some crumb free snacks on hand, and some sort of activity to keep them occupied and allow you to focus on driving. If you have a child on your carpooling schedule that has allergies, make sure you are carrying the proper medications and know how to use them in case of an emergency.
Drop-Off’s – Ensure each child enters their front door before driving off and insist all other drivers do the same. If you’re carpooling older kids that may be home alone, send a quick text or email to other parents letting them know that all kids were dropped off at the predesignated location. Similarly, as a courtesy, let the carpool group know if your child was absent or sick and will not be picked up.
Carpool Payments – Establish the rules from the start, is there going to be a payment to one parent doing all the carpooling or will everyone take turns and pay their own costs? If you’re’ the lucky parent doing all of the carpooling, according to the IRS, you cannot deduct carpooling expenses, but you don’t have to pay income tax on money you receive from carpooling either. As long as money received is a reimbursement for things like gas and payment toward maintaining items that wear and tear on your vehicle, including replacing tires, you’re in the green. If you start to make a profit off of carpooling then check with your accountant or tax expert.
Check Your Insurance – as long as you’re not operating like Uber and making a living off of shuttling kids around, you do not need to upgrade to commercial insurance; but, you may want to check your limits. You’ll have a few extra passengers in your car and if something happens, you want to make sure you’re covered. A car packed full of injured passengers can easily go over the state insurance minimum of $50,000 and you don’t want the threat of high hospital bills to negate the money you saved by carpooling. Be sure to check with your child’s school as well, as some require their own insurance limits for carpooling.
Being part of a carpool is a big commitment, both on your end and on the other parents, but they can be very rewarding as well. You’ll save time and money on car maintenance, and relieve you from having to be everywhere at once, every day. Back-to-school car care is as simple as calling Osceola Car Care Center, and scheduling your appointment. Our technicians are certified in all areas of automotive repair and will keep your vehicle running the way it should so when your it’s your turn to carpool, your car will be one less thing to worry about.