Hiring a babysitter or nanny who can help drive the kids around can be a serious benefit to busy families. In addition to helping you tick items off your to-do list, a driving caregiver “allows the child to enjoy a variety of activities and social interactions they wouldn’t have if transportation wasn’t available,” notes Lora Brawley, a 30-year nanny veteran and consultant and trainer at Nanny Care Hub in Federal Way, Washington.
Establishing a driving routine with your nanny or sitter also “breeds trust and responsibility between families and nannies and allows for more tasks (such as errands and grocery shopping) to get accomplished,” notes Florence Ann Romano, a child care advocate and author of “Build Your Village. Keep in mind, though, running errands may equal more pay for the nanny.
Perks aside, counting on someone to cart your kids around can feel like a leap of faith, as you’re not just trusting them as a nanny or sitter, you’re trusting them as a driver. To help assuage uneasiness and make expectations clear to both parties, consider these 10 expert-backed to-dos before hiring a nanny or babysitter driver.
1. Run a background check
Whether your nanny or sitter is driving the kids or not, you should “absolutely run a criminal background check,” says Kimberly King, a parenting expert at Tough Topics Mom. However, if you’re hiring a nanny to help shuffle the kids around, you should also run a motor vehicles record (MVR) check, which can show the following:
- Status of driving privileges.
- Expiration date of license.
- License type and class.
- Violations, accidents and DUIs.
Note: MVR checks can be obtained via each state’s department of motor vehicles, but they are not available in Pennsylvania, Utah or Washington.
“If you’re hiring a nanny to drive your children around, anything other than a parking ticket should be a disqualifying item,” King says.
2. Check references
“Parents should always check references,” says King, noting that it’s especially important when hiring a nanny or sitter to drive the kids.
If you plan on reaching out to references before hiring a nanny or sitter, ask them about their experience with the caregiver driving their children. Did they ever have any concerns about the caregiver’s driving, especially regarding safety? If the caregiver didn’t drive as part of their duties, ask the reference whether they would have been comfortable if the caregiver had?
“Before our sitter started driving our daughter around, I checked in with a former employer of hers to see how everything went,” says mom of one Claire Katz of Basking Ridge, New Jersey. “She told me everything was always fine — which I knew it would be — but I felt better having that reassurance.”
3. Determine which vehicle they’ll use (and make sure it’s safe!)
“It’s always best for the family to provide a vehicle,” Brawley says. “This way, parents can choose a vehicle that meets their safety requirements, keep it well maintained, keep the car seats in the car at all times (which is best for safety) and there is less liability.”
However, as Trachtenberg notes, if the nanny is using your car, “make sure they’re familiar with all of its features.”
If the nanny winds up using their own car (it’s not always feasible for parents to leave their car at home), Brawley notes that the family can “pay for a safety inspection from a dealership if they have concerns around the condition of the car,” as well as “regular maintenance and safety checks.”
You’ll also need to buy a second set of car seats for the nanny’s personal vehicle and install them properly, King says, adding that “this is more risky than having them use your car, as the nanny may need her car to transport her own passengers and move the extra car seats around.”
4. Go on a test drive
Dr. Jen Trachtenberg, a board-certified pediatrician in New York City, notes that parents can consider “going on some practice runs with the nanny as the driver” to make sure they’re “safe and careful.”
A simple test drive, notes Romano, is a good way to “observe their patience, knowledge of the rules of the road, if they’re easily distracted, etc.” But remember, she says, “they’ll be on their best behavior when with you, and that’s not necessarily a true indication of how they’ll drive without you.”
5. Make sure they understand car seat safety
Roughly 150 kids are treated in emergency departments every hour in the U.S. because of injuries caused by motor vehicle crashes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Using and installing booster and car seats properly is crucial to protecting kids in the event of a crash.
Brawley says the best way to ensure car seat safety initially is to hire a certified passenger safety technician (CPST). “Have a CPST come to your home to show both you and the nanny how to install and uninstall the car seat they’ll use and provide education on child passenger safety. Or pay for the nanny to become a CPST.”
Additionally, Romano notes, parents should make sure nannies and sitters know the proper way to strap kids into car seats or boosters.
6. Figure out insurance
If the nanny is using their own vehicle, make sure they’re covered under an insurance policy. If they need to change or increase their coverage, you, as their employer, should cover the cost. Brawley recommends nannies add a “business use rider to their personal policy” to provide coverage while on duty.
If a babysitter or nanny will be using your car, consider adding them to your insurance policy. “I suggest raising the liability limits in all categories to the highest amount available because employers can be sued if an accident happens while the nanny is on duty,” Brawley says.
7. Figure out reimbursement
According to Brawley, if the nanny is using the family car “parents should not reimburse for gas.” Instead, she says, parents “should provide a debit or credit card for the nanny to purchase gas.”
“If the nanny is using their own car, the family should pay the nanny the IRS mileage rate for reimbursement, which covers gas, maintenance and repairs,” she says. “This can be added to the nanny’s paycheck with a note detailing the reimbursement. This amount is not taxed.”
The 2023 IRS gas reimbursement rate is 65.5 cents per mile.
Additionally, Brawley says, “many nannies are also asking for detailing two to three times per year, because, well, just look at the car when you take a car seat out.”
Gas, and other reimbursements should be determined on the front end, and included in your nanny’s work contract.
8. Set and discuss ground rules
“Parents should always set rules for the nanny to follow in regards to safety in the car,” King says. Among them, she and Trachtenberg note, are:
- No distractions while driving, such as touching phones or blasting music.
- Never leave a child unattended in the car.
- Never allow kids who aren’t old enough in the front seat.
- Always use car seats and seat belts.
- Follow speed limits and traffic rules.
Other things to discuss upfront, according to Trachtenberg, are whether or not parents should be notified before driving with kids (read: Are impromptu library trips allowed?) and whether or not children’s friends are allowed to be transported.
9. Use technology
Consider utilizing safe driving apps, notes King, which can help “everyone who is part of the family care team be a safer driver.” Two of her favorites are:
- Drivemode, which eliminates the need to manually look up directions or answer the phone by enabling voice commands.
- OnMyWay, which automatically activates when driving over 10 mph. Similar to Drivemode, it enables voice activation for sending messages, answering calls, looking up directions and even listening to music.
10. Start off slow
Finally, if you’re nervous about your child being in the car with someone else, consider taking things slow until you get more comfortable. Instead of starting off with a full day of shuffling to practices and playdates, have your sitter or nanny take your child to the park or for ice cream.
“We didn’t jump right in with driving,” Katz says. “I wanted to get comfortable with everything first and wanted to make sure she was familiar with the area. After a week or so of close-by trips, we never looked back.”
A note on safety: To help maintain a safe community, Care requires all caregivers to undergo a criminal screening called a CareCheck. CareCheck is a good place to start, but it does not replace the safety precautions that families should take on their own. Our membership eligibility standards for caregivers may differ from your hiring standards, and we don’t share CareCheck reports for privacy reasons. We strongly recommend following our 3 Steps to Hiring Safely, which includes running your own background check.
To learn more about background checks, visit the Care Safety page.