Do you remember buying your first car? Did you buy it yourself, or perhaps your parents bought it for you? Although my parents let me use their cars when I was in high school, it wasn’t until my senior year in college that I achieved the ultimate in personal freedom and bought my own car. And just a few months ago our oldest daughter earned her driver’s license. Add some grandparent birthday present cash to the license, and the big first car search began. Since our daughter doesn’t know much about cars, the search fell to us as parents. So how exactly do you choose your child’s first car for her?
We ending up choosing a 1997 Toyota Camry with about 195,000 miles on it. It was the best deal we ran across for the cash we had. As parents we wanted something safe and as reliable as possible. We wanted something that looked a little sporty but we didn’t want to pay sports car insurance premiums, nor did we want a performance machine in the hands of an inexperienced 17-year-old driver. We wanted something that wouldn’t be a big deal if it did get banged up a little, and something that had great gas mileage. And finally we wanted something that had the chance of lasting for as many years that we could get out of it.
Those sorts of requirements tend to lead to the same type of car: a Toyota Camry or Corolla, a Honda Accord or Civic, A Mazda 6 or 3, a VW Jetta or Passat, and other similar vehicles. The only major difference is what year you get, and that depends the amount of money you pay for one.
So far the only major issue with the car was that it needed a new EGR Vacuum Solenoid Valve. I was able to install it myself in my garage with some help from our daughter over the course of a Saturday. I also discovered the wheels didn’t allow the tire iron to fit over the lug nuts, so I purchased a new one from AutoZone so flats could be changed on the road if necessary.
In the end, our daughter ended up with the true American teenager’s dream: her own car. It’s lasted a month so far with no accidents and I’m keeping my fingers crossed in hopes that the accident-free streak continues. Only time will tell if the purchase was a good one or not, but I’m happy with it so far.
Do you have experience in purchasing a first car for a brand new driver? What sort of advice would you give to parents looking for their child’s first car?