Ask Bark: Beater For The Kid, Bimmer For Me

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
by Mark "Bark M." Baruth
ask bark beater for the kid bimmer for me

Doug writes:

Hi Sanjeev,


I am coming up to a time that many of us must face. My son is about to turn 16 and will need to have his own ride. Currently, we own a 2012 Toyota Highlander that my wife drives, and a 2013 Honda CR-V that I drive. I am currently scheming to dedicate the CR-V to my son and then my daughter as they begin driving, then buy something for me to enjoy driving for a while. My sights are set on a used 2008-2012 BMW 328 that is in the 70,000 mile range. I have always wanted something like this, but would not be able to afford a new one.

So here is my quandary: my wife likes that the CR-V is well rated on safety and that it is not too powerful of a car. But, she and others think the car is too new.

Me, I think it is a car I know is well maintained and should be able to get to 200,000 miles or more while repairing the dents and dings of teenagers. My main concern about a BMW is if a car that old will bleed me dry on repairs and maintenance. While I can perform basic repairs like brakes and fluids, I do not venture into cracking the engine open. I am also considering just buying another Honda like the new Civic hatch where I get a turbo and manual and hope that it is somewhat fun to drive.

So what should I do? Pass on the boring safe car and buy something that is hopefully fun for me, or just buy a beater for the kid like others are telling me?

Any advice will be helpful!

Sanjeev was too busy to answer this question, so he e-mailed it over to me, because everybody knows that I have nothing better to do. Actually, that’s a complete lie. I’m freaking swamped. I’ve been in Miami so much lately that I’m learning Spanish through osmosis. So let’s quit screwing around here and answer the question, okay? Wait, was that our old friend, Doug Demuro, who just walked by? No, it was Dave Barry. Okay, moving on.

Let me tell you a story about my very first car. It was a brand new, 1994 Mk III Jetta GL that my father leased for me. It cost him $199 a month plus tax, which was no small amount to spend on a car for a kid in 1993. His friends said he was nuts for doing it. And it was such a great idea that I’ll be doing exactly the same thing with my kids.

Why, you may ask? Because having a shiny, new car was an amazing incentive for me to take care of my car. I washed that thing by hand three times a week. I made sure that none of my friends ever drank or ate it it. I parked it far away from potential door dings. Once, I accidentally backed it into a neighbor’s car and scratched the bumper. I literally cried.

I completely agree with your assessment of the CR-V. It’s a reliable, safe car that should last both of your kids until they go to college. Plus, kids are different nowadays. His friends will probably think that the CR-V is a cool ride. You might even be helping him get a better-looking date for the prom.

Besides, giving your kid a beater is a great excuse for him to treat it like, well, a beater. Don’t be surprised when he forgets to change the oil, allows 12 friends to pile in the back seat, lights it on fire, or crashes it into a river. Maybe you should ask him to do some chores or get a paper route to pay the insurance or something to help him have some ownership of the car, too.

But let’s get to your real question, which is should you get yourself a Bimmer? Of course you should! Listen, it’s not like you’re asking for permission to buy a 997 GT3 or something. You’re asking to buy a used, entry-level, low-horsepower sedan. The E90 328i should be just as reliable as the corresponding Camry or Accord of that era. I’d be a little more worried if you had said 335i, but the 328i should be fine. Here’s a one-owner, off-lease certified example with low miles…and just a little damage. You can probably find a similar car in your neck of the woods.

Make yourself happy, make your kids happy — and buy your wife some flowers.

Bark M. is a super friendly dude who loves everybody. He even loves you! Send him e-mails. Follow him on social media. But he won’t accept your Facebook requests. He’s not that friendly.

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3 of 99 comments
  • 427Cobra 427Cobra on Sep 28, 2016

    Finally... some validation. I always shook my head in disbelief at some of the guys I work with, when they would lease brand new cars for their newly-licensed teens. It seems the kids drive newer/nicer cars than the parents these days. "oh... it HAS to be safe... and reliable..." and I suppose from a given perspective, it does make more financial sense- if the parents are footing the bill for everything. I suppose I'm a bit jaded because I was not raised that way. I was lucky enough to drive my great grandmother's 1970 dodge dart... which didn't have a straight panel on it, due to a number of collisions (hers, not mine). I only got to drive it because I had a job. I worked 40 hours a week my senior year of high school. All insurance/maintenance/repairs was on my nickel. I think I was late 20s before I ever had a brand new set of tires... (always bought used tires at $10 each) and 32 before I bought my first brand new car... tho the payment was still less than my student loans. My sister gave me some perspective... she said she liked giving her daughter things that she never had. My niece left for college with a brand new v8 4Runner... and a flat screen tv in the back for her dorm room. My sister paid for her education as well. I was so "jelly". I always drove beaters... and babied them, as I needed to keep repair costs to a minimum. I wish I'd been one of the "haves"... but... c'est la vie.

  • DC Bruce DC Bruce on Sep 28, 2016

    Well, I raised 3 girls, so maybe my experience doesn't apply; and we lived in the city of Washington, DC a 5-minute walk from the subway and two different bus lines. So, none of my kids had cars when they were in high school. College was a different matter. My oldest, who did her final year of high school in a boarding school and who started school young, didn't even get a driver's license until 1 year after graduating high school. After a "gap year" in NYC, she went to college in Los Angeles, so a car became just about mandatory. We got her a nice, used Nissan Altima (late 90s), which she totaled on the Pasadena freeway, thankfully injuring no one. The rest of her cars she bought herself: variously a BMW 5-series (also totaled without injury or damage to anyone) a Saab 900, a Hyundai and, now an RX-300. It has taken her to her mid-30s to become a moderately competent driver. The next younger daughter inherited our Previa after her freshman year at U of Virginia, which she drove for the remaining 3 years of her college career without incident. When she went to work in LA, we bought her a lightly used RAV4, which was totaled by a drunk while it was parked. With the insurance proceeds, she bought a second RAV4, which she sold when she got a job in NYC. Thereafter, subsequent cars she has bought herself (RX300, used; and, now a leased VW Golf). My youngest inherited our Saab station wagon after her freshman year at Wisconsin (Madison), mostly to come back and forth between home and school. She banged it up a bit in parking; and we sold it when she joined the Peace Corps 2.5 years ago. Now, she's studying in London and, obviously, has no use for a car. We made a deliberate choice to move out of the suburbs and into DC when my oldest started 7th grade and DC was going to hell in a hand basket. In fact, the Washington Post, while doing a story about people moving out of DC, dug our name up from the transaction records and interviewed me for their article. One of the reasons for our move was to avoid the "teenagers in cars" issue. About a year before we moved, 3 high school age girls had a nasty wreck in a nice new 3-series driven at high speed by one of them who was drunk. If I recall correctly, one of them was killed; the other two were permanently maimed. We had to allow for the fact that alcohol use among high schoolers is far more prevalent now than it was when my wife and I were high schoolers in the mid and late 1960s. None of the comments, or Bark's original article seem to be cognizant of that. As far as what the guy wants to buy for himself, my own experience with an '02 Z3 3.0 was very positive. I did, however, prophylactically replace everything associated with the cooling system (hoses, radiator, expansion tank, water pump, thermostat) at a little over 40K miles. That cost me about $1,000 in parts. Other failures were the "DISA" valve, a camshaft position sensor and a section of the tubing between the MAF and the intake system that cracked. These were cheap and easy to fix. I also replaced brake discs and pads all around, but I consider that maintenance. Like others here, I'm a big fan of the normally aspirated 3 liter BMW 6 and a 128i might not be a bad choice, assuming you don't want a real back seat. Beyond that, one gets into the endless discussion of manual vs. automatic and so on. For me, who learned on and grew up driving manuals, part of "driving for fun" is a good manual (and not every manual is good, by a long shot). If that's one of the criteria for the requester, it narrows the scope of the search quite a bit. Likewise, my taste for a "fun drive" is either RWD or a "hot hatch" FWD car that is small, light and nimble, as a Mini Cooper or a GTI or maybe an Abarth (which I've never driven). Paying the big bucks for face-flattening acceleration is not really necessary to have fun on public roads; but if that's your thing, cheap thrills are available from the Mustang GT.

    • Delow48 Delow48 on Oct 04, 2016

      Good comment DC. One of my concerns in this situation is that our county in NC happens to be the one with the highest teenage fatalities. That is where the safety concerns come from. As far as the 3 series, it is almost impossible to find a manual. Especially in good condition around here. I work at home so with no commute a manual is my first choice. I still have about 10 months so I have time to wait on the right car if that is the direction I go.

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