Why My Kids will Drive a Piece of Crap

AMC Gremlin

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in Kids and Money

I’m going to warn you right now, if you’re one of “those” people that feel you need to buy a baby wipe warmer to clean your precious little one’s hindquarters you may just want to move on today, WiseBreads got some nice stuff going, but if you’re not, read on.

The Beginning

You see that beauty above, that was my first car.  A 1977 AMC Gremlin, desert tan thank you very much although sadly that isn’t my actual car above it’s a 1974, but the color is the same.  It sported the worlds worst engine a 232 Straight 6 pumping out about 9 HP coupled to a manual 3 speed transmission that was designed by Lucifer himself.  Even my full rear window covering “Oakley: Thermonuclear Protection” sticker couldn’t mask its ugliness, nor the custom chrome wheels my Dad had lovingly purchased.  This indeed was my present for my 16th birthday.  Now before you tell me I should have been lucky to have such a funky classic car, return with me now to the year 1989.  Wayne’s world had not come out.  AMC Gremlins, Pacers or Hornets were definitely not cool.  I was actually laughed at by scores of kids the day I drove it into the parking lot of our high school. I was absolutely mortified.

I was bitter for some time about that car, especially because I had saved up my own money to purchase my first car myself. In my head I dreamed of owning a Chevelle, a real muscle car, but what did I get?  The first real American economy car.  And I use the term economy loosely because we had to put 2 clutches in it during the 2 years I owned it and its gas mileage was subpar.  But it did teach me some valuable life lessons.  It was something I couldn’t grasp at the time, but now in adulthood I look back rather fondly at that ugly little car and think about how it shaped a tiny bit of the person I am today. So let’s go over those important life lessons we can learn from owning a crappy car as your first vehicle.

Lessons Your Kids Will Learn by Driving a Piece of Crap

Resourcefulness. When you have a piece of junk odds are most things in it aren’t going to work, like the radio.  Your kids should learn how to fashion some custom subwoofer enclosures out of particle board, or how to wire in some house speakers to their 300w amp they picked up at the swap meet.  With their limited cash flow you’ll see all sorts of creative ways to “customize” their beater.

Mechanical Skills. Yeah it’s going to break down.  Kids need to learn how to do some basic auto maintenance.  Teach them to change the oil, check the fluids, rotate the tires, replace an alternator, hammer out a smashed fender.  It will be quality bonding time as well.

Character Building. If you go out and buy your kid a brand new car what is that going to teach them?  That their parents have a lot of money to waste on their so called “safe” car.  Giving your kid a cosmetically challenged uncool rig encourages them to be the person they should be.  Teach them to stick up for themselves and to develop their self esteem.  Their first car should be one that inspires them to give it a name like “Wilamena”, “The Blue Bomber,” the “Death Star.”  Let them get their creative juices flowing and they will quickly learn not to be defined by the things that they own.  Snap materialism in the bud right at the age of 16 just by the gift of a Ford Fiesta, a K-Car, or a Terdcel.

Frugality. Be honest this clunker is not going to get good gas mileage so they are going to need to be pumping a lot of petrol in their tank. They’ll quickly learn the art of hypermiling and negotiating with friends. “Yeah you want to go to the football game? Great, give me 5 bucks.” You could be creating the next young entrepreneur.

Hand Eye Coordination. Sure it would be handy to be able to disengage the emergency brake without breaking the dash but think of the coordination they will have by reaching their right foot gingerly under their left to cushion its blow while applying just the right pull with their hand.

Thankfulness. This will be a delayed gratification for you but it will teach your kids to be thankful for what they have.  Yeah I had an ugly car, but I had a car, parents who loved me and a real appreciation for good quality newer vehicles.  It only took me about 20 years to realize this.

Entitlement. If this isn’t the scourge of the earth right now its people’s underlying feeling that they “deserve” something.  You know what you deserve?  A 1990 Toyota Camry Station wagon. See Thankfulness above.

To the Naysayers

I’m already prepared for it.  What about the safety of newer vs. older cars FiscalGeek?  I’m not advocating you get them a rolling shrapnel wagon, you can find plenty of reasonable crappy cars that are perfectly safe.

What about the reliability? We don’t want Jimmy or Cindy stuck by the side of the road at night.  Give them a prepaid cell phone and a AAA card.  Done.

Should kids even have cars?  Well if you live in the sticks like we do, there isn’t much choice in the matter, there’s one bus a mile away that runs about 8 times a day.  At the age of 16 we’re all going to be done hauling them around from practice, to their game and then on to the math olympiad.

Reader Rides

I’m very interested to hear your comments about your first cars or what type of car you’ll buy your little angel or if you will at all.

*Photo courtesy srqpix on Flickr

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