This is topic Asking the all-wise hatrackers for advice... in forum Books, Films, Food and Culture at Hatrack River Forum.

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Posted by Eruve Nandiriel (Member # 5677) on :
I'm looking at getting a car. It's a pretty good deal, cheap, good condition, etc. (I'm going to get to actually see it monday [Big Grin] )

I'm a little reluctant, though. If I keep making the same amount of money (and don't miss a lot of work), after insurance and payments, I'll only have $50 a month (for gas and everything else). Now, I could afford the car, but that means I won't really be able to buy anything else. Do you think this is such a good idea? I'm almost 17, and getting to the point where it's a hassle not having my own car. But is it worth it to not have money for other things?

[Dont Know]

[ April 24, 2004, 09:14 PM: Message edited by: Eruve Nandiriel ]
Posted by mackillian (Member # 586) on :
I'd think so. But that's me.
Posted by Elizabeth (Member # 5218) on :
E N,
I think it depends how much your parents help you with. Do you need to save money? If so, then you should not get the car right now.

Sigh. We are STILL suffering for financial mistakes we made fifteen years ago. Not good. Try not to start out that way. it is the hard way.
Posted by Eruve Nandiriel (Member # 5677) on :
I would be able to pay it off in 18 months.
I would be starting college next fall (which I have to pay for [Frown] ), and the car will probably last me through college.
I'm just worried I'm going to regret not having extra money later.

[ April 24, 2004, 09:20 PM: Message edited by: Eruve Nandiriel ]
Posted by mackillian (Member # 586) on :
Well, in 18 months, you'd have extra money AND a car.
Posted by Elizabeth (Member # 5218) on :
Hmm. The car will give you more work and living flexibility in college. Get it.
Posted by mackillian (Member # 586) on :
Posted by tt&t (Member # 5600) on :
I would get the car. (In fact, I just did in a very similar situation, heh.)

I guess if you regret not having the money you can always sell the car again? I don't know though, I've always been lucky with selling my cars in that I've always managed to sell them for more than I paid for them but apparently this isn't always the case. [Razz] (Read: You will most likely lose money on the car.)

Good luck! [Smile]
Posted by Boon (Member # 4646) on :
Heh, I almost bought a car a couple of days ago. Hubby and I took it for a test drive. A long test drive. And it's a good thing we did, because the transmission went kaput.

That's where he went today, to retrieve the car. I'm just glad we hadn't agreed to buy it yet.

Be wary when buying a used car, and make sure you have a reputable mechanic inspect it before you agree to buy it.
Posted by Jon Boy (Member # 4284) on :
What kind of car is it? How expensive? I would consider getting something pretty cheap for your first car, like a few thousand dollars or less.
Posted by Troubadour (Member # 83) on :
How good is the car?

I can echo what a few others have said about getting yourself into such debts in your teens that you're still not shut of them by the time you're 30.

A close friend's first car was the crappiest Datsun 120Y in the world. But it was a purely mechanical motor - no computers or weird stuff in there that you have to be qualified to deal with. He just got the car, got a book on how to fix it if it went wrong and kept it for about five or six years. By the end, the driver's side door was half-rusted out, there were no rear-vision mirrors at all, the boot had to be gaff-taped shut and the driver's side seat had half let-go so the driver always rode with one shoulder back...

But the engine even worked.... even if you had no dash displays to tell you that...

Plus, there's a certain cachet owning a crappier car than ANYONE you've ever met. Plus you can be ultra-decisive in traffic and no-one's gonna argue as they know that YOU don't care if you get tapped!
Posted by mr_porteiro_head (Member # 4644) on :
I would recommend against buying the car. It wasn't *fun*, but I managed to get by without a car until I got married at age 24. I saved myself a *lot* of money, time, and effort.

Also, it doesn't sound like you'll have enough money left over per month if anything goes wrong with this car. But maybe it's just me -- I don't like living near the edge of paycheck to paycheck.
Posted by Eruve Nandiriel (Member # 5677) on :
It's an '88 Oldsmobile Cutless Calais.
A guy my Dad knows is selling it, and he is known for taking good care of his cars. It's reportedly in good condition, and only $1500. I probably won't find a reliable car that cheap for quite a while.
(although a mechanic friend of mine told me that that model tends to be a little iffy on the transmition and electrical)

Like I said, I could pay it off in only 18 months, but I'm not thrilled about "living paycheck to paycheck".

[ April 24, 2004, 10:56 PM: Message edited by: Eruve Nandiriel ]
Posted by jexx (Member # 3450) on :
Have a mechanic check it out.

If all's a go: get it.

$1500 is cheap.

You will want to have a car. Trust me. I didn't have a car until I was twenty. Made it difficult to go to work and school. Not impossible, but very, very tricky. Peace of mind alone, this car will benefit you.

Don't forget to get everything in writing (payment schedule, etc), and definitely test drive and have a mechanic look at it.
Posted by Bob_Scopatz (Member # 1227) on :
Here's some food for thought.

1) The car is going to be 20 years old by the time you finish school.

2) No car is maintenance free, so you have to plan for the cost of repairs. Some repairs are major! Nothing worse than paying to keep a car that isn't working. Paying for insurance and registration on a car that's also costing you $600 for a (cheap) rebuild on the transmission is just killer.

3) Tires, batteries and general maintenance stuff is something you definitely need to plan for. Your $50 per week for extras isn't really all free and clear. At least some portion of it (if not all of it) might need to go toward vehicle costs above and beyond payments, insurance and fuel.

4) The need for a car depends a lot on what you need to do and where you live. Are you in a city with decent mass transit? Are you planning to work on campus or nearby at least for a little while? Will your essential transportation costs be more or less if you own a car.

5) The freedom that a car affords should not be the primary factor in making the decision. I'm not saying you've expressed this opinion. I'm just pointing out that you should plan for the necessities and for your education first, then plan for the extras based on what's left in your budget.

6) The time value of money is important. When you are young, incurring debt is bad because it limits your overall freedom. It means you can't choose to take a year off after school. You've got debt obligations. It means you can't consider jobs that you might enjoy more but which initially pay less. It means you might have to put off important life changing events like marriage and children because you have to clear up your finances first. Things that may not be important to you now, but which could be irksome if not downright depressing to contemplate when you are ready for them in a few years, but can't seem to dig out of the financial hole.

7) I would NEVER buy a $1500 car on a payment plan. It's just not smart. Save the money first then look around for a car you can afford and that is in good shape. Set aside some of your saved money for inevitable repairs. I.e., don't spend every dime you saved on the purchase. Reserve at least $500 for emergencies.

I hope this helps. I'd lean AWAY from buying it. But if you live in a town where a car is a necessity, then your options are limited.
Posted by mackillian (Member # 586) on :
Hmmm. I got the car I had in college for $500. A 1989 Chevy Celebrity (which quite a few jatraqueros have seen!) and it lasted until the year after I graduated from college. [Smile]
Posted by TomDavidson (Member # 124) on :
No way.
Don't do it.

An '88 Olds Cutlass? For $1500? First off, that's not a deal. Secondly, it's an old car -- needing more maintenance and gas, and likely lacking certain amenities (like ABS).

Moreover, if you're really paying off $1500 in 18 months, you can't afford a car. Period.

Add to this the fact that you're starting college in a year, and you suddenly realize that you're going to need to SAVE money. Cars do not -- and let me be very explicit about this -- save people money, especially old cars.

Finally, you're starting college in a year -- and most campuses do not allow freshmen to have cars on campus. You might want to check with your school to see if you're even permitted to have one.
Posted by Phanto (Member # 5897) on :
Don't buy it.

Unless you can drastically increase your income.
Posted by ElJay (Member # 6358) on :
I'm with Bob & Tom. A $1500 car should not be bought on credit. In fact, I'd say a $1500 car should not be bought unless you can pay with cash and honestly say you won't be majorly put out if the car falls apart in a month.

First cars for 17 year olds should either be reliable cars a couple of years old that their parents buy and just make you pay the insurance on or $500 junkers that are purchased with cash and it doesn't matter too much when they die. If you want freedom, buy a car you can leave at the side of the road if that's where it decides it wants to stay.

(Note: Except that that would be littering... you should be prepared to have it towed to the junkyard if necessary. But it's a lot easier to do that if it's paid off then if you still have 8 months of payments on it.)
Posted by ak (Member # 90) on :
Okay, if it were an 88 Honda Civic, and it was $750 I'd say go for it. But American cars simply do not last that long. Keep looking, I bet you can find a better deal than this.

My first car was a 15 year old VW. They are cheap to maintain and easy to work on. I got a book that taught me everything I needed to know. That car broke down about once a week. I spent big money on the engine, transmission, etc. etc. each time thinking now all major repairs had been completed and each time finding out something new that could go wrong.

I now have an 1987 Honda Accord with 125k miles on it. It never gives me any trouble, except the brakes have to be redone every couple of years. The brakes are inadequately designed in this model. Also all the hoses and tubes have had to be replaced, as the rubber and plastic parts only last about 10-12 years. I'm planning to replace it soon regardless.
Posted by mackillian (Member # 586) on :
They have a point. My car WAS a $500 junker that got me $200 from a dealership when I had to get a Real Car. [Wink]

The conversation about the value of my "Trade-In" went something like:

"Okay. So your trade. We had our guy look at it and he said we can give you...$200." Man has that look of 'Wish we could give you more and I know it sounds like so little.'

Me, knowing the condition of the car. "That much?!"

$200 for a trade in was worth not having the hassle of finding a buyer (not likely at all) or getting it to the junkyard.

And that sucker got me through college and a 3000 mile road trip...and only needed one quart of oil on said trip. [Smile]
Posted by Ayelar (Member # 183) on :
My first real car (that I paid for myself) was an 87 Volvo 3 years ago for $1350. It was a fantastic deal on the car, and it treated us very well for 2.5 years until it finally rusted out (who knew you were supposed to wash road salt off cars in the winter??) Mechanically it was fantastic, those old things were built like tanks. And they look it. [Big Grin] I would buy a late 80's/early 90's Volvo or Honda in good mechanical condition for $1500, but not anything American. You're just asking for trouble.

The best place, I've found, to get a cheapass college student car is from a trustworthy, sympathetic mechanic. Ask around, there's sure to be one in town who people you know trust.
Posted by Toretha (Member # 2233) on :
I wouldn't. college is expensive, and its nice to be able to afford to go out with your friends on occasion. Not to mention, exta curricular activities can sometimes be expensive too.

I'm in college, and carless, and probably going to stay that way until law school at least. Its not that bad. Bikes, scooters, walking, you can generally manage pretty well on a college campus with that. For those few things you can-beg a car ride from a friend. Bake cookies and trade cookies for car rides. It's not that hard. And it's really better that way. Parking and all that gets to be a real hassle, and at colleges, people are always jumping out in front of cars.
Posted by Eruve Nandiriel (Member # 5677) on :
I hope this helps. I'd lean AWAY from buying it. But if you live in a town where a car is a necessity, then your options are limited.
There is practically zilch mass transportation here.

can-beg a car ride from a friend.
To be realistic, I don't have many friends. [Frown] And even less who could give me rides.

Thanks a lot for your input, guys. I really appreciate it. I think I've decided that I'll take a look at the car, but not decide anything yet. I'm going to look around at dealers and shops to see if I can find something cheaper.

Thanks, again!
Posted by Jon Boy (Member # 4284) on :
How many miles are on it? A car that old will easily have close to 200,000 miles on it, and any car with that many miles is probably not a good idea to buy. According to Kelly Blue Book, a Cutlass Calais in excellent condition with relatively low miles and some basic options. wouldn't be worth more than $1200. If you do buy it, make sure you don't pay more than its worth.

And Cutlass Calais (and their cousins the Pontiac Grand Am, Chevrolet Corsica, and Buick Skylark) are somewhat problematic cars. When I was buying my car a couple of years ago, my dad (who is somewhat of a car expert) strongly recommended against getting any of those models. Unfortunately, if you're that strapped for cash, you might not be able to afford a more reliable car.

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