Should Donna's Daughter Accept Her Grandfather's 25 Year Old Jalopy?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 2007

Dear Tom and Ray:

My fix-it-type father is offering to give my 16-year-old daughter (and new driver) his old car. It will be in perfect running order, with new brakes and a sound engine. He is even offering to pay for insurance. She is the apple of his eye. Unfortunately, his car is a 25-year-old GM sedan without any of today's safety features, such as air bags or anti-lock brakes, etc.

He dismisses the lack of safety features by saying the car is "as solid as a rock," "you know where it is on the road" and "they don't make cars like this anymore." He has kept it going all these years. My maternal impulse is to say "thanks, but no thanks." He is my dad, and I don't want to seem ungrateful, nor do I want to accept the car only to not let my daughter drive it. We own two fairly new and well-built cars that she is able to drive. Having her own car would be great, but at what expense?

-- Donna

TOM: Gee, that's really nice of your father. It's a very sweet gesture. But I have to side with you, Donna.

RAY: Me too. He's right that they don't make cars like that anymore. And I, for one, am grateful. Modern cars are much safer. Plus, they drive better, stop better, are more reliable and are easier to handle. That's especially important for a relatively new driver, who has enough to concentrate on without worrying whether the starboard outrigger is clipping a mailbox.

TOM: So here's what I'd do. I'd tell your dad that it's a wonderful, sweet gesture, and you're very grateful that he has such a great relationship with your daughter. But you want her to drive a car that has modern safety features.

RAY: If he's game, you can suggest that he sell the old heap, and then he and his granddaughter can make a project of using the proceeds to find her a newer used car. He'd get to spend time with her and help her check out and buy her first car, and he'd probably enjoy that.

TOM: And you can set the minimum conditions. You can say it has to have a driver's air bag, anti-lock brakes and a five-star crash-test rating. By the way, the more air bags (side, curtain, rear side, rear end), the better. Electronic stability control is also looking like a real life-saver, although that's been widely available only for a few years now, and it'll be harder to find in the used-car market.

RAY: And if he doesn't bite on that suggestion, maybe he'll let his granddaughter drive his new Lexus once in a while (we know he's getting one with air bags, stability control, anti-lock brakes and seat heaters as soon as he figures out a way to dump his old clunker).


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