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A teen reader wants to convince her father to let her buy a new car, but Howard isn't being helpful.

2 minute read

Question: I want to buy a new car, but my dad says I should just fix the one I have. Thing is, it has over 100,000 miles on it. Won’t it be cheaper in the long run to just buy a new one? It’s a Honda Civic, and it’s reliable. But it’s also 8 years old. I’m just finishing my first semester in college, and I don’t want the car breaking down in a new city far from home. So I want to buy one of those cute VW Beetles.

— Cindy in Idaho

Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…

I have a daughter who will go off to college in a few years; and I want her to drive a safe car, too. However, if she had a 8-year-old Honda Civic with 100,000-plus miles and no serious mechanical or electrical issues, I would not buy her a new car.

Here’s why…

“The average vehicle cost about $3,900 in the early 1970s, but didn’t last anywhere near as long as cars do now. Today, that cost has jumped to over $33,000, and the average age of passenger vehicles is 11.5 years. With proper routine maintenance, the typical car should deliver at least 200,000 miles of safe, dependable, efficient and enjoyable performance.”

Those wise words are from Rich White, executive director of the nonprofit Car Care Council.

The VW Beetle you want, Cindy, starts at $18,765 and has an estimated loan payment of $211 a month, according to TrueCar. White has a suggestion I agree with completely: “By simply budgeting the equivalent of just one new car payment, you could cover an entire year’s worth of basic maintenance on your current vehicle and redirect the rest to beef up savings, take a vacation, or pay off credit card debt, college loans and other bills.”

Of course, keeping an older car is much like living in an older body — regular checkups are no longer optional. You can extend the life of your car (and your own life) with scheduled maintenance. Like other auto companies, Honda offers an online tool to personalize your car maintenance and remind you to schedule it.

As a father, I know how this advice sounds to a teenage girl: boring! A new VW Beetle is much sexier than an old Honda Civic. Still, I think you should listen to your Dad. The money you save now might keep your student loan bills from exploding; And when you graduate, you’ll be grateful you followed that boring advice.

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About the Author

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

I’m a certified public accountant who has authored two books on getting out of debt, Credit Hell and Power Up, and I am one of the personal finance experts for I have focused my professional endeavors in the consumer finance, technology, media and real estate industries creating not only, but also Financial Apps and Start Fresh Today, among others. My personal finance advice has been included in countless articles, and has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Forbes and Entrepreneur as well as virtually every national and local newspaper in the country. Everyone should have a reason for living that’s bigger than themselves, and besides my family, mine is this: Teaching Americans how to live happily within their means. To me, money is not the root of all evil. Poor money management is. Money cannot buy happiness, but going into debt always buys misery. That’s why I launched I’m glad you’re here.

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