Buying Your Kid Their First Car

By January 30, 2020
Home » Buying Your Kid Their First Car

When I was young, sometimes I daydreamed about the fleet of cars I would own someday. Raising four children in the suburbs has certainly allowed me the opportunity to own a fleet of cars, but it’s not what I dreamed of. Recently, a client emailed me asking for advice on what kind of car to buy his oldest daughter who is quickly approaching the age of 16. Here is what I wrote back him:

There are several approaches here, all with their own advantages and disadvantages.

Option 1 – Clunker



-When (not if, when) Joley hits the garage, curb, trash cans, house…you name it, it’s no big deal

-Saves on collision insurance (as in don’t even bother)

-Keeps her close, just around town and to and from school, not flitting off to Dallas or anything

-Maintenance can be a learning experience if you can get her to participate


-Fewer advanced safety features

-Will require maintenance

-Restricted to driving just around here, not all over the place (is an advantage and disadvantage I suppose)

-Will have to be replaced prior to college

Option 2 – Nice Used Car


-Cheaper than new

-Better curb appeal

-Can safely be driven about the DFW Metroplex


-More expensive than a clunker

-But, could still turn out to be just an expensive clunker (stay away from anything European that’s used)

-You may cry a little when she backs into a stationary parked car in the High School parking lot

Option 3 – New


-No maintenance headaches


-Gas mileage

-Can definitely be taken to college



-You will need to cover the vehicle for collision insurance

-You will definitely cry when she misjudges a pier in an underground parking lot and mashes in the right back panel

-She can go just about anywhere (could be an advantage, depends)

What I did

(And remember, I’m weird and rarely do I do what most people do or what’s best)

All of my kids got clunkers as their first car and we made it fun. ’89 Wrangler, ’00 Cherokee, ’65 Mustang, ’90 Wrangler. Paid cash, never paid more than $8,000 (and that was the Mustang). Did most of the repairs myself with less help from the kids than anticipated, but some of it was expensive, back breaking work I would not want to ever do again (like rebuilding the Cherokee’s engine). They just drove them to school and back, and around town. Later, if they wanted to venture out further they would take one of our other cars. They all got replaced in their first year of college. Gretchen got a new 2012 Hyundai Elantra that she still drives. Grace got a new 2016 Ford Escape that she still drives. Daniel just got a used 2016 Mustang and I’m restoring the ’65 for fun. Gwen swears she wants to drive her Jeep for the rest of her life, but I don’t want her driving to Austin next year in it, so it will get replaced. 

Everyone remembers their first car fondly, so have fun with it!