Dad, I Need a car

“Dad, I need a car….”  Those words open up a really important topic in today’s fast paced world.  Every teenager can’t wait to turn sixteen and be able to get a learner’s permit, the first step toward automotive autonomy.  But that’s only the beginning….

Once a teenager finally earns the ability to take the family car out for his first solo run, a process begins to take place in his brain, which eventually metastasizes into an insatiable desire to own his own car.

It is inevitable.  The novelty of driving solo very quickly wears off, and the inconvenience of scheduling to use the family car, coupled with the social stigma of not having his own car is what drives the desire in his young adult heart to be an owner.

It was my daughter who first decided she needed her own car.  Personally, while I realized it meant relinquishing even more of my dad desire and ability to keep her safe, I also felt a certain sense of pride.  My daughter was growing up!

A trip to a local car dealership quickly showed that with the job she had, she could qualify to buy a really nice, late model car that would impress her friends.

Now, that word, qualify, was the real problem. Car dealers love to use it, and will dance all over the showroom, rather than outright give you a firm price on a car.

What qualify really means in “car salesman speak” is, the maximum monthly payments on a car loan he can squeeze out of you, based on your income, and even more importantly, based on Dad co-signing for the loan.

“Once a teenager finally earns the ability to take the family car out for his first solo run, a process begins to take place in his brain, which eventually metastasizes into an insatiable desire to own his own car.

One of the favourite words a car salesman loves to throw out there when talking about a car as an investment. Investments are supposed to increase in value, earning you money.

Trust me on this.  A car is not an investment unless it is a mint condition collectible, and then it gets parked in air-conditioned storage, not driven.  In reality, a car is a liability.  Period.  From the moment you drive it off the lot, it starts going down in value and requires constant maintenance.  Someone rightly said that a car is a leaky bucket on wheels into which you constantly pour money.

I told my daughter I loved her, but would never co-sign a loan for him.  I said that if she needed to get me to co-sign a loan for her, she couldn’t afford the car.  I said that unless she had to have a car for work that would pay for the car, it was a luxury item, anyway.  Finally, I said that if she was going to buy a car, it should be paid for with cash.

We then looked at her savings, discussed her options, and settled on a reliable Ford Focus model, which she pays for and maintains herself. She continues to enjoy the car and has become really attached to that black vehicle that gives her so much independence.

Independence, for a young adult, is worth more than any fancy car.


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