Diary of a Used Car Salesman: Getting Your Graduate a Car

It’s graduation time. In just three months, parents who are now watching their kids get high school diplomas will be watching them go off to college. They grow up so fast. Freedom. It’s a blessing and a bitch. As graduates in the 21st century, the average Jane and Joe college freshmen are loaded with expectations aplenty. Cell phones, computers, and iPods® are a given these days. Credit cards? Perhaps only for gas and groceries. But that’s on the list also. The expenses of the young are laden with a thousand cuts of consumerism. But none of them compare to the cost of a car. So, what should all the members of the family do when they’re considering buying a car for their erstwhile scholar to drive at school? Think. Think. Think.

What you do should be a reflection of the type of person you’re doing it for. Has the student been academically successful? Ambitious? Are they easy going and laid back? Or loaded with more hormonal imbalances than a Sweet 16? If he/she/it is the best of all things, a late model used car may really not be a bad thing. There are plenty of folks in their thirties and beyond who were able to put their best feet forward in their college years by having a car that was reasonable to maintain and even fun. They may not have been given a new Mustang convertible and taken over their family’s business, but they were able to establish their own merits throughout life despite having something a little nice given to them before college. Rewarding good work in this respect is not really a bad thing. It’s worth considering.

Accidents? Were they reckless? Does this person average two to three dope slap moments a day? B average? Remember, in many schools today’s B is yesterday’s C. Those who may have a few strikes against them may require a car whose cost isn’t so much on the higher side. A hand me down Plain Jane Ford Taurus, Honda Accord or Toyota Camry may be perfectly fine. If they keep up with it until junior year and get good grades, then you can revisit the idea of a nicer car at that time. Or perhaps a later time. Of course the non-enthusiast may be more interested in a nice bike or a cheap place to live off campus. Again, this is all worth considering.

If he/she/it is not going to college or receiving some type of professional training (military service, police work, vocational schools) . . . they pay the gas and the insurance . . . and the car. It’s that simple. Life will be far less brutal if they take responsibility for their behaviors with their own money from the get go. Some will succeed outside the college or pre-professional route. A lot of others will be stuck in minimal wage and unemployed ruts. The less money involved when they dig themselves into the ditch. The easier it will be to help get them out, and back in the real world.

Finally, remember it’s just a car. Their footwear is going to have a bigger impact on their life than the car they drive. In fact many of them may not even want the car after the freshman year or will gladly exchange the “car” for some off-campus housing that is far less costly. Since we’re in a recession and people are less car-centric these days, the need for four wheels is not necessarily a given. If money is tight and college is a must, plan accordingly. Some of the best plans can be laid to waste. But they pale to the waste that comes with giving someone the wrong thing for the wrong reasons.

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