New Or Used?: The Third Car Edition

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
by Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
new or used the third car edition

Bernie asks:

Steve: great work at “Hammertime”! Having grown up on a car lot–my dad managed/sold at my uncle’s Chrysler/Plymouth dealership–I think I am savvy when it comes to buying cars. Take my ’98 F150 Supercab 4X4…bought used in 2001, it is still in great shape (I dote on it like a newborn). I am an avid outdoorsman, so ‘Mavis’ (that it’s name) doesn’t get babied during deer season. The rest of the year I take her on drives like one might take grandma out for a walk.

But here’s my problem. My soon to be 16 year old daughter will be driving soon. She is heavily involved in sports and marching band, so a car for her to get to such things would be a great relief for mom and dad. That’s 1000’s of miles to and from school, and whatnot! We will have NO car payments around the same time (wife’s 2005 Exploder will be paid-off in July).

So what to get??? A 3rd car to use as a city car? A newer used car for wife, I jump into the Explorer and share it with daughter?

A car for daughter solely??? We will not be getting rid of my truck or wife’s explorer. It has to be used, domestic brand prefered, but V-Dubs are OK. And no more than 8 grand.

Steve Answers:

A lot of kids these days care as much about cars as they do about linoleum floors. It’s a thing. An appliance. A machine for A to B and little else. Time will tell whether your daughter sees cars this way. Pray she does since cars can be an incredibly expensive and debt-full hobby these days.

I would start slow and let her drive the Explorer for a while. It would be better if one parent were with her for a good part of the time… but not all the time. A teenager has to get used to trusting their abilities and if she’s not the impulsive type, she should be fine.

I would simply let that be the status quo and car share for a couple of years. During that time you may want to put a word out to family and friends that you’re looking for a good used vehicle for your daughter. My neighbor managed to buy a hospital blue Olds 88 for the princely sum of $800 for his daughter recently. It’s not an enthusiast’s dream. But it’s a cash car… paid for… and the recent grad is absolutely in love with the freedom of owning a car.

If she takes good care of your property for a couple of years… and perhaps washes and maintains it every now and then. You won’t have to worry once a new set of keys are given to the deserving damsel.

Sajeev Answers:

Giving a kid their own whip can be a great relief for the parents. Mine were thrilled to give me the family’s 1965 Ford LTD, as I helped deliver airline tickets on behalf of our travel agency. Then again, I consider myself the minority: the monetary impact of my work had a direct correlation to our company’s bottom line. But owning a Ford from the “Total Performance” era (when your friends had half-dead junk from the 1980s) was more than a little helpful for my social life too.

With that in mind, buy her the cheapest, crappiest car (not truck or SUV, for fuel economy’s sake) you can find with a straight body and an un-ripped interior. Hit up Craigslist and every community event board where people post fliers for anything. Make sure it gets new tires, brakes, etc. to ensure it isn’t a death trap. But then make her clean up the interior and polish the paintwork. Punishing a teenage girl like that makes for great stories to tell guys who dare question their skills. And women with this knowledge do go out of their way to talk about their teenage automotive hardships. Not that I’ve ever judged women like that, but I love their candid remarks when they realize I speak the Truth About Cars. So let her follow that path, she won’t hate you for it…in time.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to, and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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2 of 58 comments
  • Colin42 Colin42 on Jun 23, 2010

    I use to search multiple craiglist sites. You can enter a zip code and search up to 250 miles from your location. you can often spot the fraudsters as well as they tend to post on multiple sites with the same pictures but different words As for the car - you said your daughter is in a marching band - If she has a large drum to move around I'd go with a hatch or a station wagon with ABS & airbags, Consider a Saturn Astra (some are just into the $8000 range) or a Pontiac vibe

  • Qest Qest on Jun 23, 2010

    Cost including maintenance, repairs, and depreciation of a damaged car over 3 years = $7164 + tax, tags & insurance = 2010 Toyota Corolla lease at $199/mo for 36mo (you could do better if you haggle at all) When it gets damaged, no worries, it's a lease, just have it minimally repaired. Peace of mind of having your daughter in a safe car = priceless.

  • TheEndlessEnigma In 2022 I put my college (then 21 year old) daughter into a 2022 Mirage SE, this year I put my college age 21 year old son into a 2023 Kia Soul LX. They are both very happy to have and both very happy with their vehicles, both are low cost to run and insure.
  • CEastwood If there are 10 laps or less left after a crash and a red flag only let the first ten cars finish the race . I watched the race from about the halfway point and the crashes caused near the end were caused by drivers who had zero to very little chance to finish in the top five .
  • Alan I blame COVID, the chip shortage, container shortage and the war in Ukraine. This aggression is evident in normal daily driving of late.
  • Alan $10 000 is a bit rich for a vehicle that most likely been flogged all its life, plus it's a VW. Lots of electrical gremlins live in them.
  • Alan Mitsubishi, Hino and Izuzu trucks are quite common in Australia. Another factor that needs to be taken into account are the cheap Chinese trucks and vans that are entering the market in Australia and becoming more popular as reliability improves, with huge warranties. Businesses want the cheapest logistics. Plumbers, concreters, builders buy many of these in their lightest versions, around 2.5 tonne payload. Hino/Toyota could use the cheaper competitor in Mitsubishi as a competitor against the Chinese. You don't see too many of the Japanese/Asian trucks in the rural areas.