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Buying My Daughter a Car

My daughter will have her driver’s license shortly. Her being able to drive is going to be a great convenience for her mother and I. So, we are going to buy her a car.

Keep it quiet! She doesn’t know.

I got my first car at the same age in 1987. It was a 15-year-old Pontiac Grandville. My uncle bought it for me for $500. There was nothing fancy about it. It got 10 gallons to the mile. It was sluggish and lumbering. I loved it. Sweet freedom on a shoestring!

It was my mental template for what I would provide to my own kids. No one would get spoiled. If they got into an accident, no big deal.

That is not how this is going down. My wife puts a priority on safety. She wants to get an M1-A1 Abrams tank or a Volvo XC90 (which can boast no deaths over the last four years). The tank costs $6.2 million. The Volvo is roughly $50,000. Cough, sputter…. Uh, no.

But I do see her point. Teenage drivers are very likely to get into an accident. Now that I am on board, we need every safety feature known to science.

And then an old friend of mine who lives in New Orleans posted a picture of his daughter in front of her new, used car on Facebook. He bought a 2013 Ford Focus for $10,000. This friend is a civil engineer and has his head screwed on real tight, so I picked his brain. He had given much thought to car size versus safety, airbags etc. He made a good choice and he did it on a budget.

Now staring this decision in the face, I am inclined to get a brand new car that can stop on its own to avoid an accident, keep to its lane and generally cocoon my daughter in safety. I really, really relate to the Subaru ad. You know the one. The dad is giving the car keys to his daughter.  He sees this….

When in reality it’s this….

And dang if those folks at Subaru aren’t catering to parents like me. The Subaru Impreza, at just over $18,000, is an IIHS Top Safety Pick and probably the choice we will make.

And yet I still struggle with the decision. My uncle loved me and presumably cared about my safety. My buddy loves his daughter every bit as much as I love mine. Am I just buying into the marketing hype? Or am I just having a hard time giving up on a money story that I have been telling myself for a long time.

I don’t have an answer. It makes little difference to my short term cash flow or no difference in my long term financial plan. It makes me feel good. God forbid she is in an accident, I’ll know I did everything in my power to keep her safe. I didn’t favor money over safety. But I can’t fault my buddy for his decision nor my uncle for his.

If there is a moral to this story it is that we all do the best we can and there isn’t a ‘right answer.’ But it makes sense to give this decision deep thought and arrive at an intentional decision. Whatever the future holds for my daughter and this car, I like the decision I made.

Gabriel Brenner

Gabriel Brenner is a financial advisor with Abacus Wealth Partners.

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