Gently Used Car

Our Son and Daughter recently passed their road test and they will be celebrating their seventeenth Birthday is a few weeks. What’s a parent to do when an automobile is on the mind of two quickly maturing young adults ready to take on the mean streets on their own? Well we decided to buy them a gently used car with cash. After successfully completing driver education, and passing their road test it’s still clear they need more driving experience. We believe having a single car for them to share with give them more opportunity to drive and aid them in their part-time job search. Having their own car will make it easier for them to find and get to a job after school often when my wife and I are at work.

It’s certainly a big decision for us. It will come with rules and lessons. We have had many conversations over the last several months leading up to this purchase. We are hopeful it will turn out to be the right choice. These are the things that have led us to this point.

Used Car Budget

We have a maximum budget of $5k for the purchased of a used car. For years we have talked about matching whatever the kids have saved towards a car. Since most of the years leading up to this point we were in debt repayment mode and attempts to find part-time job were unsuccessful it’s not feasible for the match offer to stand. Our children simply do not have much saved.

We looked our current budget and savings to come up with the $5k dollar amount or $2.5K per child. We would expect once working that each would save $1250. We also have to consider insurance and gas impact. It’s going to be a trade-off we are willing to experiment with to see what flexible adding a third car and third and fourth driver to our house gives us.

We expect that the mom and dad taxi can slow down a bit, and give the twins a better shot at landing a part-time job with their own transportation. Only time will tell, but it’s something we are will to invest some money in to see if it pays off.

used car

Tools for Finding a Used Car

What’s someone to do when looking for a used car, search the internet of course? That’s where our search began, we used craigslist and cars.com to get an idea of what was available in our local area. We settled quickly on an import four door sedan preferably with less than 100k miles. Once found we used Kelley Blue Book to validate the price listed. This will give us piece of mind to make sure the car is in the ball park price wise before physically looking at it. We’d contact the owner and inquire about the car, availability and if a Car Fax for the car is available.

Car Fax gives you the history of the car of service visits, state inspections, accidents, repairs, etc. Our next step is to visit the car for a visual inspection and test-drive. If the car passes that step we would see if the owner would be agreeable to take the car to our mechanic for a checkup, just to determine there are no major unforeseen issues. Even if an item is found assuming it’s a minor repair this can be a negotiation point for final price.

We have reached the mechanic stage for a Honda Accord and will be taking it in this coming weekend for a checkup. If it goes well we will make an offer.

Things to Teach a New Driver

I hate to admit it, but I’ve been driving for close to thirty years. I take a lot of my knowledge of driving and car basics for granted.  It’s important to put myself in my son and daughter’s shoes and think about all the things they don’t know or don’t have a lot of experiencing doing, like:

  • Pumping gas
  • Jumping a dead battery
  • What are jumper cables/ which color cable goes where
  • How to check oil
  • How to add oil
  • How to add washer fluid
  • How to add Antifreeze
  • What Antifreeze is important and what you cannot use water
  • Changing a flat/ using a jack/ where the spare tire is

One we finalize the purchase of a car for them we will spend some time going over the above list. We have had countless discussion about texting, phones calls, drinking, etc. This was also a major part of their driver’s education. It will be a topic we revisit often.

Wish us luck.

What other tools would you use when looking for a used car? What things would you think are important to teach to a new driver?

39 thoughts on “Gently Used Car”

  1. These are all great tools! One that I’ve heard about but never used are apps that turn off notifications and/or don’t allow you to text while you’re in the car. Seems like a good self disciplinary tool, especially for teens because the temptation can be strong!

  2. These are great tools. Aside from the things you mentioned above about things to teach a new driver, I believe it’s also good to teach them the responsibilities of being a new driver. These responsibilities include paying for gas, picking up the brothers and sisters, running errands for the family, among others.

    I know that when I first got my driver’s license, all the responsibilities I mentioned above were passed on me. Sometimes, kids expect that since they have a car and a license that they can go anywhere and just about everywhere. There still is a sense of additional responsibility attached to it, it being driving.

    There are several safe-driving apps like TextArrest, which disable text messaging and email notifications and Kids2SafeDriving, which sends automated replies to incoming texts. They worked with my nephews and nieces, though the parents don’t like it when the kids are driving and can’t answer the phone :-).

    1. Unless its hands-free I would not want them answering my calls, and as new drivers I want them focused on the road not a phone call.

      They will be sharing in the responsibility, their younger brother already has a few request in of places to go. 🙂

  3. We went through this a couple years ago. In addition to the things you mention in looking for the right car, please also think about the safety rating of the vehicle. Oftentimes the most practical vehicle on paper is the smallest one in real life. Given the accident risk of new drivers, the size & design of a car for accidents is critical.

  4. Driving without proper rest – When I was a kid, the only accident I was in was a minor fender bender because I dozed a red light and I idled into another car.

    I was working +20 hrs, between a few jobs, each weekend to pay for gas and my athletics. All that work instead of rest on the weekend, turned out to be just as detrimental to my driving as texting can be.

    1. A great point. I have known a few friends who have been involved in accidents because of this. We will help them manage this.

  5. I think paying $5,000 for a used car is smart. Who needs a car payment anyway? I think I would rather drive a skateboard than part with $400 per month at this point in my life!

  6. Make sure the kids understand the maintenance schedule and the importance of getting preventative maintenance done.

    I got my first car at 16, and didn’t. My dad would just mysteriously tell me in high school that he needed to take my car in for service without explaining what was being done and why. So when I was away at college, things like oil changes didn’t get done, and I ended up with some expensive repairs (that ended up going on my credit card, thus resulting in compounding interest and credit card debt.)

  7. Lucky kids! I bought my first car cash when I was 16. I had been working for over a year at that point and had saved the $6k required to buy the car from my summer/weekend work.

    1. I’m sure that was a great lesson for you. They won’t get a completely free pass. We expect them to pitch in once working.

  8. I love this post! I am a twin and we shared a used car in high school. We worked and saved up enough money to sell the one we shared and buy our own used car before we went to college. It was a fun and rewarding experience. We paid for our own insurance and gas too. I also love your list of “Things to Teach a New Driver”. My dad made sure my sister and I knew how to change a flat tire, etc… before we were allowed to drive.

  9. Sounds like you’ve got everything covered and have a good plan to move forward. Just sharing the car should be an important lesson for your kids in communication and compromise. Good luck with the Honda!

    1. It should be and I explained the school bus has been good to you for over 12 years, if the cars not available for whatever reason, you can still take the bus. 🙂

  10. Yes I have a 16 year old daughter and she wants a car as well. I stress to her that its not about having a luxurious car, and that its just for transportation. One thing I would stress is to teach a new driver the big difference between day time and night time driving conditions. Good luck.

    1. A great point. We have been driving during both day and night and my children have notice the difference. I explained that they should not just rely on headlights to judge the distance of a car or whether a car is coming or not. Some people forget to have their lights on.

  11. I like the idea of buying one car that they need to share! Helps show the fact that things just aren’t given to them and you have to make some sacrifices, such as not necessarily having a car at all moments! Luckily, I am still 15-16 years away from having to have this debate! I will have to figure out what to do by then!

  12. My parents did something similar. We had a used car that we had to share among ourselves. My sister and I are close in age so it was us sharing it in high school. Besides the computer, which we also shared, the car was one of the only things we fought about. It will definitely teach them to find creative ways to make sure that they each get to use it a “fair” amount of time.

    1. We hope it will be a good lesson. It will be interesting to see their decision on what they deem priority and who should use the car for different things.

  13. I’m about 10 years away from this bit you’ve prompted me to think about it.
    My parents lent me half the price of my first car once I’d saved up half and I thought that was a pretty fair deal.
    I worry (already) about younger drivers getting distracted perhaps because I had an accident at aged 19 when I know I was distracted by friends in my car, so I think a maximum of one other friend in the car might be a rule for our kids

    1. Something we have discussed with them. We’ve explained they they are not to become a taxi for their friends. That we need to agree upon who they will be traveling with.

  14. Some great points here. We’re considering getting a car soon, and used is probably our best option. So knowing what to look for when searching is definitely important!

  15. I had never added anti-freeze until about 2 weeks ago and I felt like a rockstar for figuring it out on the go. I definitely wish my dad had taught me some basic car maintenance before letting me loose.

  16. Great post, Brian!! I can imagine you must be equal parts proud and anxious about your teenagers getting behind the wheel on a regular basis… Good luck!

    PS: We’ve had great luck with Honda Accords. Our first one was finally retired – still running! – at 224,000 miles, and our current one has 173,000, and has never had any issues beyond standard maintenance, like brakes, tires, etc.

    1. Great to hear about the Accords. We have owned a few Honda along the way and have had good luck with them. Yes, proud and anxious about sums it up. 🙂

  17. Good luck! Sounds like you got all the basis covered. How to jump start a battery is a great thing to teach… I remembered the first time I had to do that and was fumbling around.

  18. Well, I can pump gas and add washer fluid, but as for the rest of those items . . . Your kids will be much more prepared than I’ve ever been. All the best to you and to them as you take this step!

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