Who Should Buy Your Teen Driver’s First Car?

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The subject came up during my recent conversation with Tom Woods – whom many know as an expositor of libertarian economic and moral principles as well as a man who possesses what some call horse-sense.

We talked about what makes sense when the time comes for a driving-age kid to get his or her own car.

In prior – saner and freer – times, the sound policy was to encourage the teen to begin working and saving for their first car years before they could drive it. Mowing lawns, summer lifeguarding, baby-sitting or a part-time/after-school job, even. If a kid starts working when he’s 13 or 14 he ought to be able to save up a couple thousand bucks by the time he’s 15 or 16.

This used to be enough to buy a beater.

Something that ran, though not necessarily well. Probably rusty, likely ugly. Nothing fancy, certainly. But it beat walking and it built character to own such a first car.  Even if it was a blue-smoking, oil-dripping old ’73 Beetle with holes in its floorpans and a passenger side door with a pair of vise-grip pliers in lieu of a window crank, it was their car. Their ticket to ride.

Freedom, at last!

But those were saner – and freer – times.

Beaters now cost more than a new car cost when a ’73 Beetle was new – thanks to the Biden Thing, among other things. Used car prices are up more than 30 percent over the past year.

Teenager earnings probably aren’t.

In addition, there is the cost of insurance – which government-mandating has made so expensive many parents can’t afford it.

More about this, here.

The average “premium” – it ought to be called shakedown, because that’s what it is when you can’t say no to it – for a 16-year-old driver is around $2,000 annually. This is more expensive all by itself than the beater cars bought by teenaged Gen X drivers such as this writer, when he bought his first beater car back in the ’80s for less than half that.

Plus – politically incorrect observation coming – back in the ’80s, insurance was “optional” in that the mechanisms of pantopticonic electronic enforcement did not exist, back then. If you didn’t wreck, who was going to know? Just check the box on the DMV form.

Yup, I’m “covered.”

Today, they’ll know if you’re not – as soon as you’re not. Cue the Hut! Hut! Hut! Even if you didn’t wreck.

The eyes of Sauron are upon you.

At any rate, the tag team of exorbitantly pricey used vehicles and unavoidably usurious insurance costs plus inflation in the 7-10 percent range this year alone – thanks to the Biden Thing – have altered the Situation considerably. Adding salt to the wound is the typical teenager’s nonexistent credit rating – and the legal matter of being a minor and thus unable to secure financing, solo.

Financing used cars also usually means paying through the nose for interest – relative to what you’d pay to finance a new car. The catch-22 here being the new car, itself, represents a massive debt-anchor around one’s neck, irrespective of the cost of the financing. But financing a used car at a higher interest rate over a shorter period of time almost always means higher monthly payments, which a high school or college-aged kid probably can’t afford.

Especially if they’re also trying to save for or pay for college at the same time.

Enter the question of buying that first set of wheels for your teenaged driver. Or helping them out with the cost of acquisition – so as to make it financially feasible for him or her to deal with unavoidably usurious cost of “covering” it.

And the cost of fueling it, courtesy of the Biden Thing.

In saner – freer – times, buying a kid their first car was generally considered less-than-optimal parenting in that it encouraged dependence rather than fostering independence. It was considered sound policy to leave it to a teen who wanted to drive to figure out how to acquire the means of driving – on their own. This being readily doable, via after-school and part-time jobs back in the era of widely available beater cars such as this writer’s rusted out, barf green but it ran (and it was mine) ’73 Beetle.

Sadly, that era is gone – along with sanity and freedom.

A sound case can be made, today, that parental help is not a hindrance as regards the fostering of independence. For without a car, a teenager remains a child. Dependent on parents (or government) for transportation. Few sensible people will regard that as optimal.

So what is sound policy, in this era?

A parental loan might just be. This enables the teenager to avoid the debt-albatross of  new car payments for the next six years (ruinously coinciding exactly with the years during which most teens are spending most of what they earn on their education or on getting their lives going) and the problem of higher monthly payments for a used car, on account of higher interest and shorter loan duration – which leaves them not much left to pay for the “coverage” they’ll be forced to spend more on than they will probably have paid for their first car.

It assumes the kid is a good kid – responsible, financially and otherwise. A good metric of this being their having saved up for a large down payment, say $2,500 or so. That plus another $2,500 in low interest parental financing ought to be enough to allow for the purchase of a functionally viable used car, even in the Biden Thing’s America – while leaving cushion enough for the kid to “cover” the cost of the insurance he’ll be forced to buy and still have enough left over, after that, to cover the cost of gas and oil and tires, etc.

It’s not as independent a trajectory toward adult self-sufficiency as was open to teenagers when this writer was one. But it’s still a great way to fan the flames for that – which ought to be burning fiercely in the heart of every sixteen-year-old. They’ll want to pay you off as soon as they possibly can.

And they’ll be able to pay you off, sooner  . . . because they can.

. . .

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56 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Eric,

    Great stuff, and so true! Was hoping you could expound a bit on the eye of Sauron part. I know they use automated license plate readers for other things, but didn’t know they could also check insurance status. Curious about this.

    Thanks!

  2. Psssst, Eric,
    Sent ya an email with something I think you’ll really enjoy…keep an eye out for it. (Sent from the junk account I’ve been using…not sure if you always get ’em)

  3. I’m thinking it best for teenagers to avoid financing through the bank cartel, which forces full coverage, and exposes them to repossession, destroying their credit rating before they’ve begun. Parental financing, if possible, might be far more desirable. The parent can use such as a training tool for kids, wherein for example, if you miss a payment you can’t drive anywhere except back and forth to work until you make it up. Consequence without destruction.

    • Agree John.
      I became friends with a car dealer owner. Just talking, 20+ years ago, he figured out a plan for my high mileage use in about 5 minutes. And it eliminated the banks.
      His simple plan for me and my usage was basically the difference between trading in a wholesale vehicle or one that he could retail on his lot. Took me a couple car cycles to get out from under the bank, but the differential in the end was approx. $8-10K (for $50K vehicles).
      He took 30% and I took 70%, roughly. Been paying cash for vehicles ever since.
      To each his own.

      Similar issues with home buying, but bigger numbers. The scam is paying all the interest up front the first 10 years +/-. Not as big of a deal with current 3% ,but it gets real past 4%+

    • I’m thinking it’s best for anyone to avoid financing- especially a depreciating asset! Paying interest on depreciating assets…that is just absurd! Back in the 90’s, in my 30’s I drove a car I paid $125 for…and I loved it! (Wish I still had that ’78 Le Saber!)

      • I bought a couple of trucks on notes when I was making a living with them, and needed reliable trucks to do so. Which at the time were still made, and cheaper than cars (pre-goat roper). I’ve never borrowed money to buy personal transportation, and paid cash for a few of those trucks. My personal opinion? The only justifiable excuse for taking out a personal loan is for real estate. My father taught me to avoid debt like the plague, a real one, and it has served me well. Another simple and obvious lesson he taught, “if you live above your means, you never have money. If you live beneath your means, you always do.

  4. The capitalization of the economy is too low for entry level marginal labor utility to compensate even the most qualified juveniles enough to afford to drive. Most people’s best is just no longer good enough which is exactly what the financialization monolith wants.

  5. I owned five vehicles, At the Same Time, before I was old enough to legally drink and I was NOT by any means a rich kid.

    80 GMC when I turned 16, I’d been driving a 76 impala for two years to work before that, but it was on loan to me from my Dad, but was still kind of my first car, I worked on it enough that it felt like it. I added a 76 Firebird when I was 18, a 87 Camaro at 19. A 65 Mustang and 74 VW Squareback when I was 20.

    Mostly it was just that if you knew how to fix cars, you could find ones that needed fixing and buy them cheap and get parts from junkyards if you needed to. I didn’t have to smog anything back then and keeping them on the road was cheap, I didn’t have to have insurance if I didn’t want to.

    Hell I went a LONG time without a insuring any cars I owned or having a driving license, well over a decade, almost two. I simply refused to do it after I left the military in disgust with our country. I looked at being forced to get a license and pay for insurance as “paying my fine before I got caught”. Well fuck em, let em catch me and make me pay. That was my thinking and I saved a bundle, lot’s more than with Geko.

  6. My first taste of freedom was a ten speed bike around 12, I rode that bike EVERYWHERE in my town. It was so liberating. I can sneak out of the house at midnight to join my friends camping and sneak back in by dawn if for some reason my parents didn’t approve. Stage 2 was a toyota corolla at 16. Now I can drive to CITIES. Atlanta Savannah Jacksonville and later with a different car Miami Baltimore the Gulf Shore. Fairly dangerous single shot 13 hour drives with a barely awake driver at times ha. I wonder if the kids take road trips like that anymore. Certainly bonds you to the car.

    • Most people of early driving age don’t do trips like that (me included). I would suspect most kids are too lazy/glued to their devices to drive that far. I would, but I keep my wad tighter than a vice. I’m so cheap that if I were living alone, I’d only turn on the heat enough to keep the plumbing thawed. You’d have to point a gun at me to make me consume multiple tanks of gas for nothing more than a roadtrip.

    • I didn’t start roadtripping for a couple years, worked my way up to it with the occasional 1-3h (one way) drives rather than jumping right in.

      Driving is work, and if you want to do that you have to learn how to handle driving while fatigued, and know when to quit.

      My brother fell asleep behind the wheel once over being too cheap to get a hotel for the night. Results were not especially serious, but easily could have been. Not the smartest decision he ever made.

      • You learn a lot by road trips. I remember driving so long in an old Mercedes Diesel (600 mile range remember!) that I started to hallucinate. I remember my right arm stretched across the bench seat back starting to drift away from my body- at which point I realized I should probably stop for rest and food. I doubt many kids do it because of the dangers posed by the highwaymen and the general brainwashed mindset of seeing the world through a screen.

  7. Sic & Dan,

    That was the beauty of those durable, simple old cars: You could always buy ’em…drive ’em for a few years, and never fail to get all of your money back- and usually even make a profit, when ya sold ’em. I’ve been doing that my whole life..only for the last 25 years or so, it’s been $4500 vehicles. It’s gotten to the point now where that is becoming impossible, with a very few exceptions.

  8. An old friend bought a ’48 Chevrolet for $50 dollars back in 1970, I owned a 1962 Chevrolet Bel Air, both keys started both cars. Whoddathunk?

    Bill Gates can afford to buy all sixteen year-old teens a ten thousand dollar car and it would cost him no more than 42 billion shekels.

    He’ll still have 80 billion left over to spend as he wants.

    Have Joe Biden mandate Bill Gates buy all sixteen year-old Americans an automobile. It will be a nice gesture and a hefty tax deduction.

    If Bill would do that, he’d be doing something.

    Bill keeps dinking around with vaccines that prove beyond all reasonable doubt that he is a prime candidate for Dunning-Kruger syndrome.

    Gots to be fixed one way or another, it is definitely broken.

  9. I still remember the day my father turned me into a teenager from a child. I had saved up some money and was wanting a Bianchi bicycle I had found for sale. I was really into bikes since that was my first form of transportation and I would ride everywhere. A Bianchi would have been the equivalent of a Porsche compared to the bike I was riding at the time.

    Dad says “You’ll be 15 next year and getting your learner’s. You should save for a car.” I just remember that light bulb lighting up above my head because I hadn’t thought of it til Dad said it. I didn’t get the bicycle.

    I ended up buying a ’78 Datsun pickup from my father for 800.00. He wanted the cash for a down payment, I wanted my freedom. It didn’t look good but it did have mag wheels which I thought was cool. I thought kids would make fun of it at school since other kids had nicer cars. No one ever said a thing.

    I still wanted a newer looking car and eventually traded the truck in on a POS called a Nissan Pulsar. I shouldn’t have done it, but it was a lesson learned. Paid for vs. car payment sucked. Plus I was out a truck which always has an intrinsic value. I wish I still had that truck. Flip side, I had a sun roof, shiny paint, AM/FM cassette radio, and pop up headlights!

    I watched the neighbors give their kids cars with mixed results. The oldest kid who got good grades, worked hard, kept his vehicle up and the kid that never tried hard just ragged his vehicle out with no maintenance (his father was a mechanic, no excuse). The daughter never got a car from her parents but she is the one who said “screw you” and left the moment she turned 18. She got a job, bought her own car, and pays her own way for everything. So I guess it is a mixed bag depending on the individual child.

    I have pride in saying that every vehicle I have ever owned has been 100% purchased by me. I think it puts skin in the game to take care of what you work hard for. Which sounds all well and good, but even then, when you are broke teen, recharging air conditioning systems would cost more than a teen could afford. Short of my first truck which did not have AC, every vehicle I had after “had” AC, but it didn’t work. Instead, I had vehicles that were burdened with the extra weight of an AC system that did not work and cost me more in fuel over the years to move a dead system around everywhere I went than if the vehicle didn’t have the extra weight.

    So, at the end of the day, I’d say, evaluate the child. What’s good for the goose is likely not good for the gander.

    • **”A Nissan Pulsar”**

      Ha! The very first car I bought to fix and resell (Rebuilt the motor on it) was a Pulsar! It had a really [needlessly] complicated carburetor, and a crank position sensor that was built into the distributor shaft, so when the CPS went bad, ya had to replace the whole distributor!

      Best thing about it, was that I sold it to a neighbor where I lived back in NY at the time, -an old Englishman from northern England (a Geordie!)- and we became really good friends. He was quite a character.

      The car gave him some trouble at first, and it was stumping me and everyone else. Turned out to be that CPS in the distributor shaft, which I learned from a junkyard. Managed to find a used dist. with a good sensor, and the car was perfect after that. The guy ended up giving it to his gold-digger daughter.

      Man, that brings back memories! I ended up introducing the Geordie to another neighbor of mine, as they both had one thing in common: They could really put away the booze. He ended up marrying her and moving back to England with her. RIP John.

      • Was it a blue 86 Pulsar? I blew the engine on mine.

        It was my fault the engine blew, however, not my fault was the transmission would not stay in fifth gear. My friends would have to ride in the backseat and use their foot to hold the stick in fifth gear.

        I didnt have the car very long but had a lot of fun with it. There was no internet back then and us kids would find things to do to entertain ourselves for free short of a few bucks for gas. Good times.

  10. It all depends: My son was tops in grades, tops in sports, and earned a martial arts black belt, – I gave him a car that he still drives eighteen years later. Since he wasn’t a “car guy” I determined he had more productive things to do with his time than worry about transportation.

    • Perspective, for sure, matters.
      We did a similar thing. Made them have skin in the game first, but when they were off to college far away we made them a deal. Take your asset in for a trade, and we will get you into relative new vehicles that will be paid off exactly when you graduate and the car will be yours to do with it as you wish. No more, no less.
      We made sure the newer cars had factory coverage for the 4 years so they didn’t have to worry about cars at all, and just focus on more important things.
      Worked out pretty well.

      • That sounds like a good deal. I knew a lot of kids that graduated, got a job, and ran out to buy a new vehicle. Not only do they have student loans to repay, but now they had car payments and insurance to worry about. Having a paid off vehicle starting a career sounds like a great way to get the kids saving instead of spending.

        I had an opposite experience. I bought cheap but relatively reliable foreign cars to get me through college and student loan payments. I refused to take on a car loan until student loans were paid off.

        Now Im 4 payments away from paying of my truck loan. Words cannot express how happy i am to be so close to having only 1 debt left, my home.

      • Another reason my son wasn’t too concerned about transportation in high school – as a football star he had a bevy of cheerleaders eager to provide “transportation.” What a life!
        He’s now successful in Silicon Valley.

  11. My mother bought me a Columbia Paperboy bicycle which I used delivering papers to buy my first vehicle a Honda 50,,, then throwing hay I moved up to a 305 scrambler. All Unpossible in today’s beloved electronic wizardly and machines. Many call this progress. We have now progressed to the point where no one, young or old, wants to work yet demands everything for free.

  12. I ended up taking over one of my parent’s cars after I started working full time, but it was no prize pig. 1984 Dodge Aries station wagon with high milage, electrical issues (never quite got them resolved), bad airconditioning, rust. Got me to work for a few years until I was able to aquire the vehicle I was using for work, bought for a $1 after I was laid off. Drove that for a few years too. I didn’t have a car payment until I was about 25 or so.

    My sister used my parent’s cars until she got full-time work after graduating college. She picked up a new Dodge Shadow by taking advantage of incentive pricing for recent grads and my parents cosigning a loan. That car ran well for about 10 years or so.

    My nephew is working at a Wall Mart distribution center while living at home during a gap year. My sister bought him a brand new Jeep Wrangler but he’s making the payments and pitching in for the additional insurance. He wasn’t going to get financing on his own, even with a full time job that pays $35/hr and no other expenses. I think he is planning on going to a local school and living at home so they figure he’ll need decent transportation. I’m a little surprised they went that route, but then again, times are very different.

  13. I milked cows, worked in the tobacco fields, and did other farm work to buy my blue Vega station wagon. My father wouldn’t put a dime towards it. I don’t blame him.

    • Mike
      Sweet vega flashback.
      Just got discharged from Uncle Sams Misguided Children at Camp Lejeune ,picked up by my brother and his bud in a red Vega coupe with a “shitload” of play in the steering wheel and we headed north to check out the 200th USA anniversary fireworks at battery park NYC.
      Spent a night alongside the Dismal swamp canal in VA (Lickpenny housing – a GI blanket and the stars)
      When we arrived at battery park and witnessed the line to enter , ornery me said F..k the line and just vaulted the 12 ft chain link fence in 2 seconds…A black port authority cop watched me do it a said “man that’s a monkey “!
      Tell that to the marines!😎

  14. Another source of used cars cheap is the towing companies, quite often they have older cars you can buy cheap, usually they are cheaper then buying retail or at used car lots, I had a friend who would buy $300 cars off them, if something major broke he would scrap it and buy another one, his maximum loss risk was $300. On a new car if a computer or a screen goes it can be $3000 to $10,000 to repair.
    If you want a cheap car get an old Mk3 VW Golf 1993 to 1999, pre 1996 is better, no airbags or ABS, the diesels are better but the 2.0 lt. aba gas engine is great, it is almost impossible to sell a used 2.0 lt. aba engine because they don’t break, so no market, there is a huge demand for used Honda engines of the same years because they wear out/break, the 2.0 aba is a low end torque engine, lower rpm engine the Hondas are high revving engines, must be screaming to make power, so they wear out faster. The Mk 3 Golf is easy and cheap to fix, lots of parts available, new and used, for a $300 repair you can keep it going for several more months, on a new car if a computer goes you have a $3000 bill. There will be a growing demand for these when people find out how expensive it is to fix the new cars. Mk4 Golfs are good too for cheap transportation, the other benefit is you get German engineering.
    When Jeremy Clarkson is asked what car to buy he always says buy a Golf.
    The VW Golfs have been very successful on the track and in rally racing this shows how well engineered they are. The VW GTI is a legend, the first hot hatch, even rich people can drive them, they don’t make you look like you are driving a cheap econobox.

    The old air cooled VW’s and the Mk1 and Mk2 Golfs and the Mk1 caddy pickup truck, used to be cheap, not anymore, they are expensive cult/collector cars which shows how good they were.

    The Mk3 Golf GTI for example was very successful on the track in ITB racing…..

    https://bringatrailer.com/2012/01/14/itb-winner-1995-vw-gti-racer/

  15. My oldest daughter was in competitive swimming since she was 7 and when she turned 16 we were driving her 25 miles to practice twice a day. We wanted to get her a car so she could drive herself to practice. She got great grades and swimming was a character builder activity in her life. My mechanic suggested a mid 90’s Toyota Corolla. He said I would pay more this this car, but they are engineered to go 300K if maintained. I found a 94 Corolla with 100K on the clock and bought it in 2006 for about $2,000. I had my mechanic do a new water pump, tune up so it would be baselined and a runner for a long time. It runs like a Swiss watch. I still have it in my driveway today as a spare car.

    • Maybe another reason there are few used vehicles today…

      Besides cash for clunkers that destroyed perfectly good cars for Obama, I often wondered why are there not more older Corollas and Civics running around that are reasonably priced? Think about all the crap we bought from China which came from the shipping containers they also built in China. The reason we have or had an abundance of shipping containers (which some leftwing-nut Architects believe could be made into housing) is shipping them back to China with nothing but *air* is costly. I wonder if some of these containers had used Corollas and Civics stuffed in them and shipped back to China or other third world countries? Look at what they drive in Africa and other parts of the world…nothing but mid 90’s early 2000’s Toyota Corollas. China got us twice…selling their slave labor crap they copied stole from us, then they picked bargain used cars for third-worlders needing a taxi business.

        • In Japan it is worse, they are very strict with inspections so most of the cars are new, when they get a bit older they are too expensive to keep to these high standards so they are exported to Africa, Afghanistan, etc.. Germany also has very strict standards and testing….it is good for the car manufacturers, people are forced into something new.

      • Ahem Hans
        I take exception to the “left-wing nut architect “ container jab. I come from a family of architects and have seen amazing things done with both 40’ and 20’ (7×40 ft and 7×20) containers. They are eminently practical . With respect to the rest of your comment good show 👍

        • No offence intended Licknickel,
          I’m a VP with a Construction firm and seen some very interesting things done with containers. However, when you consider what *may* have been transported in them then you might have second thoughts of using them for human habitat.

          As for Architect’s… the world needs them desperately. Not the Rem Koolhaas’s of the world but ones that create buildings with a sense of humanity, not ego. (Also has a sense of structural engineering and signs my pay app without dispute.)

      • When I had a Toyota Hilux pickup, I got to know a guy who had a Toyota junkyard. He made a LOT of money by parting them out and shipping containers of stuff to Africa and South America where they still maintain their vehicles.

        • Some of these auto wreckers have shut down because of cheap after market parts, mostly from china. The problem with these parts is a lot of them are junk, one guy used an cheap after market water pump, it lasted 750 miles, the labor to re and re the part is the biggest cost so it doesn’t save you money, use oem parts. Mercedes would change up their designs periodically to make it harder for china to copy their parts and make a profit. china has bastardized the after market parts market flooded it with junk, this will help kill the old ice cars off.

        • That makes sense, in Pakistan used Toyotas are expensive, but the labor to fix them is cheap so it makes sense to fix them, so more demand for parts, in N. America the labor is so expensive to repair cars they just scrap a lot of them, less demand for parts.
          For example 924 Porsches used to be cheap, not anymore. The Porsche guys wouldn’t maintain the 924’s, because they weren’t collectable so they ended with problems then get scrapped. Now they are hard to find in good shape and are becoming collectable so the prices are rising. In Europe it is worse the 924’s were also scrapped because of the scrap it programs to get rid of ice cars, so 924’s are getting expensive there, some of these type of cars are being shipped back to Europe for a profit.

      • Hans,

        I have an African friend who says many expats ship used cars home from the US as cars are so expensive there they can actually turn a profit, and if they ship one at a time they can claim them as personal use and not a business venture.

      • The reason is that cars are so easily ‘totaled’ these days.
        Sometime rebuilders get them here in the USA, other times they end up going overseas. I remember hand wringing about cars damaged in floods being totaled and then shipped to Africa for sale. Nobody was even accused of fraud. Buyers in Africa knew what they were getting and the cars were appropriately discounted. Just safety cultists in the USA offended that people were buying ‘unsafe’ cars.

        Basically the only way to save these fixable but economically totaled cars in the USA is if the self-employed rebuilders get them fix them and flip them. Quality of the work varies of course. From slip-shod to excellent.

  16. My first car cost $75, and took 2 months to get driveable. It leaked everything including electrons (it was British, after all!), but it never left me by the side of the road that I coudn’t fix it with what I had. Nowadays, that is most certainly not true, with all the fedgov diktated drivetrain “enhancements”. That in itself drives up the cost of cars past where any teenage earner can afford it, IMHO. Add on outrageous insurance, mandatory drivers Ed fees, ridiculous purchase price for used cars, motor vehicle sales taxes, doofus inspection fees annually, etc. etc., it becomes just too much.

    18 years ago, one of my kids inherited my (then) 20 year old Plymouth. It could still be wrenched back to life by the side of the road if it failed. It had a manual trans and a carburetor. Insurance by then was becoming a money issue for a teen driver, so that required a bit of assitance for a while. Ditto the inspection fees, since it was 5 years from being able to drop the emission sniffer check, also requiring additional cost to keep the rudimentary emissions hardware going. IMHO, where an emission test is required, that ends up being the limiting factor in vehicle age, since it becomes increasingly difficult to squeeze the last 5 years of the 25 years-to-no-testing out of a modern drivetrain. Parts become unobtanium, or there are so many dying at once to be cost-prohibitive, not to mention chasing vacuum leaks!

    By the time the next in line was of driving age, we’d run out of hand-me-down cars, so one had to be procured at cost. That opened my eyes as to the differences between 1970’s first car costs, and 2000’s first car costs. It has only gotten worse in the intervening 15 years.

  17. My dad bought the car (titled in his name) & I paid him back with wages from my part time job. I think he paid the insurance bill, but I was responsible for gas.

    After I wrecked it, I had to get around on a bicycle for about 5 years til I could get another one.

  18. Eric, I love the title picture! It just says so much! Vent windows! Real metal! No blinking, beeping distractions. Young Greg Brady could easily learn to maintain and repair that car; Unless one wanted to be a doctor or lawyer, they likely weren’t going to encumber themselves with debt for the next 40 years to pay for a degree in lesbian impressionism, when there was no shame in an American learning a trade or working one’s way up at a machine shop, garage, department store or butcher shop.

    One actually lived life, as opposed to constantly putting it off in order to [supposedly] guarantee a ‘better tomorrow’….which often never comes.

    That car could carry 6 people, and a decent amount of cargo…and likely tow a good-sized boat/camper; no need for a $70K pick-up or SUV with an individual seat and seat belt for every person, and a padded egg-crates for every kid to be strapped into.

    It’s been so long that it’s getting hard to remember when life could so free and unfettered for anyone who desired such- and with very little thought to make it so- it was the default mode. The young’uns today have known such a time at all; they don’t know it existed, nor the joys thereof. They are told by their teachers and the media that such times were evil and barbaric and dangerous, and that what passes for life today is somehow civilized and nurturing…. 🙁

    • Hi Nunz,

      Freedom still exists but only the kids in rural areas still experience it. Both of my kids were out of car seats by the time they were three. I buckled them up until they were old enough to unbuckle the seatbelt themselves. My daughter refuses to wear one. My son will put one on because he usually rides shotgun and the beeping sound annoys him.

      Location has a lot to do with it. Cities and suburbia have their limits when it comes to rearing children these days. The rest of the country is still a playground where it is okay to ride your four wheeler without a helmet, because their is no one around to see you.

  19. Great article Eric. I’m impressed that you got it spot on even with no kids of your own. Almost always, kids stories from people with no kids are never accurate. Just shows how smart/honest/researched you are, which we all know here already.

    My wife and I argued/debated these issues a lot. We both came from upbringings that we had to do everything ourselves if we wanted to drive. We both did what we had to do ourselves to be able to drive. I believed it built the character/drive that we both obviously wanted in our kids, she disagreed, (and at the end she was mostly right).
    We settled on my ‘put my foot down moment’ that at a min. they will have skin in the game. The skin in the game grew as they got older. And that’s how we did it. Maybe not as fast as I would have like it with the way we did it 40 years ago, but the end results, a little later, worked just as good (or very close).
    As you said, it’s nearly impossible for a kid to do it themselves today, although I’m sure there are outliers.
    The fun part for me was when my daughter came back from her first job as a young teen and said “they ripped me off, I got $8/hr, 20hrs, which should be $160, but I only got $120, what the hell!!!!” Hahaha…………. She was pissed for a long time.
    She then learned pretty quickly that doing the ‘harder’ job of our little firewood biz (for the local kids) was a much better effort vs reward. Winning.
    Son figured it out a little faster only cause he ‘wanted’ things/results earlier, like dirtbikes. And when he missed a big race because he didn’t plan/maintain the bike/finances properly, it hit home hard. Nice.
    Thanks Eric.

  20. My oldest 3 sons were all gifted $5000 towards their first car. Son 1 and 3 used it as a down payment. 2 bought a $5000 Civic. Insurance and gas were their problem. 1 and 3 ofquickly traded up for nicer cars. 2 drove that Civic into the ground, then bought a newer used Honda Civic, which he still drives.

    I had to buy my own first car, and had zero help from my parents on it. They did however, take care of other expenses such as food and lodging.

    My wife got it on a platter. Car, insurance, gas, and a replacement car when she wrecked her first one.

    All scenarios seemed to have been successful. I think you just do what you can afford.

    My youngest son is two years away from his first car. My wife wants to give him her car and buy herself a new one. I’m probably okay with that.

  21. We all know where I stand on this so I won’t rehash it. 😜

    Eric mentioned that most teenagers are unable to afford today’s cars, but along with autos increasing so has wages. My children work for me several hours a week (around 10 on average as not to affect their school work), but at their age they are making $12 per hour. At their age I was making $4.25. Are cars triple what they were 25 years ago? Yep, but so is pay.

    Each of my kids easily make $5k to $6k a year. Their father and I pay for housing, food, and clothes, but they are responsible for the things they want. If my daughter wants horse back riding lessons she pays for them. If my son wants to add to his train collection he pays for it. I don’t see how you show a child the value of money without allowing them the ability to handle it.

    • Mornin’ RG!

      I certainly agree with you teaching kids the value of money and responsibility. NOTHING does that like letting them be fully responsible for the purchase and maintenance of a big-ticket item that they are fully responsible for, and if they abuse or wreck it, knowing that mommy and daddy aren’t going to just buy ’em another one. They understand the time and work that it cost to acquire it.

      But even though wages may have increased….it is still a whole different ballgame today, as wages have not increased proportionately to the cost of cars and insurance and repairs and taxes/fees, etc. You really can’t get a decent car today for less than $5K (There are cheaper ones…but they will typically only last a very short time, and then have no value….requiring that one buy another such car in short order, and getting nothing for their present car). That $5K car is (if one is lucky!) about equal to a $500 car of the past -i.e. it costs ten times as much….but wages for a job that a teen might have have not increased 10-fold. I was making $3.25/hr. when I bought my first car for $1200 in the early 80’s. Are teens today making $32.50/hr.? Many adults I know don’t make $32/hr.

      My insurance back then was around $200 a year. For a teen today? LOL- I don’t want to think about it!

      There was nothing you couldn’t get fixed on one of those old cars for a few hundred bucks, tops. Today? On a cheap old beater, when it breaks…it’s likely time for another car, ’cause even one moderate repair will easily set you back $700 or more…and who wants to put that into an old beater that will likely need more such repairs, often to the tune of thousands, in short order?- -And for a car that is a POS and has no future value.

      If I were a teen today, I would likely not even have a job, as jobs -especially ones that don’t require uber-submission (Masks; drug tests; etc.) are harder to come by, and at $10-$15/hr. unless one works full-time, and doesn’t have to contribute to household expenses, a car would be unattainable/unsustainable- or, would be such a financial burden that it would cripple one, and not allow for any substantial savings or money for anything else. (This is likely a good part of the reason that there are so many 30 year-old ‘children’ walking around today, because they have never had the ability to stand on their own when younger- and so have never learned the lessons one should have learned earlier on).

      • Totally different world!

        I don’t know of anybody in my age group that’s financially independent without the help of their family. Those of us that started businesses had a financial boost from our family.

        The kids that were raised by either single mothers or came from small, poor or lower-middle class families aren’t doing well. Some are either hopelessly in debt from school or stuck working a minimum-wage slave job.

        Without strong family support, you’re screwed in today’s society.

  22. The days of buying beaters for a few hundred bucks (even adjusting for inflation) looks to be totally gone. I think butt-boy Barry’s “cash for clunkers” is partly at fault among a dozen other things.

    My first car was a 1973 Buick electra 225 paid, no joke $250.00 for it in 1994. Purchased it from the neighborhood drunk who insisted the tranny was gone cause it “wouldn’t shift right.” Got him the cash and drove home in 1st gear . That 455 roaring all three blocks back to my place is a fond memory. Turned out to be a vacuum modulator (about $15.00 at pep boys.) I had to remove some hardware from under the steering column as it was set up for hands only driving, one of the previous owners had prosthetic leg(s).

    With my daughters we made a deal we would pay them 3k towards their first car the rest is up to them insurance, maintenence, repairs. They both worked, stacked cash and were able to buy decent used cars no payments with interest. I also encouraged them to have a cash envelope for emergency repairs. Even though I’ll help them with the simpler stuff I don’t always get to it.
    When something breaks on these newer cars it costs a lot of time money and knowledge even if you’re decent with wrenches and have a good scan tool. It still astonishes me what repairs cost mostly due to complexity of design and emissions crap.

    • You got me beat. 76 Malibu $400 in 94. But I didn’t have the benefit of the neighborhood drunk.

      Drove that thing back & forth between PA & VA beach several times. Sold it for what I paid for it when I was done.

    • WoW, Sic! Those old Electra 225s were awesome indestructible cars!

      Those were truly the days, when one could a functional vehicle for a few hunnert bucks! And those cars weren’t terrible; they had character. Now? You can get $700 for a car at the scrap metal place….and the cheapest functional cars that can still run and drive will fetch $2K….but they are disposable, and will not last very long, and are little unpleasant 4-cylinder crap boxes, like a Dodge Neon or Olds Alero which give no joy, and only make one eager to have lifelong payments to drive a better car……

      My sister lived her whole life driving nothing but few-hundred dollar beaters. I wish I had some of those cars! -A ’61 Mercury Comet; a c. ’70 Vista Cruiser; a ’72 Galaxy 500….. My first car was a ’74 Duster. It was cheap and reliable…but…blah (I was too practical!).

      • Nunzio: That Buick was actually a reasonably nice car so maybe calling it a beater is unfair. The interior was practically mint. Minor rust in the typical places and a few cracks in the vinyl top otherwise a very well maintained smooth ride with plenty of room and power although a bit unstable once you got it over 100 mph. They guy I bought it from received it as a partial payment for some concrete work he did for an older lady whose deceased husband was the previous owner.
        I drove it for two Years before the transmission actually went out and sold it for more than I had in it. There are days I miss that car. As you said, it had character that just doesn’t exist in today’s crossover suvs and cookie cutter optioned out sedans.

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