Buying advice for a cash-strapped 15 year old.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Sep 01, 2002

Dear Tom and Ray:

I am 15 and on my way to buying my first car. I have a summer job, but I'm still on a limited budget. I was wondering if you could recommend a car or car company that would be good for a high-school student with no cash. I am basically looking for something that looks nice and is CHEAP. Can you help? -- Mark

TOM: Well, we have to be honest with you, Mark. There are very few cars you can buy with no cash. You can STEAL cars with no cash, but then you'll get locked up and you'll be in a place where they use packs of cigarettes for currency. And you won't have any of those, either.

RAY: So your best bet, if you really have no money, is to find a relative or family friend who is ready to trade in an old car. That way, you'll get a car that you know has been driven responsibly, you'll know the repair history and, if you've dutifully written thank-you notes for your birthday gifts over the years, you might even get it for little or nothing.

TOM: So you've got to convince Uncle Ted that his '99 BMW 750iL is starting to look a little shabby. And it's starting to reflect poorly on his image.

RAY: Of course, even if you're successful in prying away a car, you'll still need money to pay for insurance, gas and the inevitable repairs that an older car brings. But you'll be starting with a better car than you could otherwise buy.

TOM: If you were to go out and find a car for $500 or $1,000, you'd probably immediately have to put at least that much into it to make it safe and roadworthy. So if you can start off with a car that you KNOW is roadworthy, you'll be ahead of the game.

RAY: So put the word out with your extended family that you're looking for an old -- but decent -- car sometime in the next year or so, Mark. And it wouldn't hurt to quickly send out any overdue birthday presents.

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