When you buy an old car at a low price, you know that it is not a long-term investment. My mother, I assume through her vast network of underworld connections, has somehow managed to purchase a continuing string of vehicles for $500 each. These cars are terrible. Sometimes the wheels fall off on the highway (true story). Sometimes the doors fall off (true story). Sometimes they have gas tanks that you can’t fill more than halfway or they start to spill gasoline out of the gaping hole in the side and then they have to evacuate the mall (true story). But they are cheap! And if they last her a year, she’s done a lot better than buying a new car and having an expensive car payment every month. $500 a year in car payments is low, if you are willing to deal with repeated catastrophes. And repeated catastrophes is my mother’s middle name. But if you want to buy a newer car, you are hoping to get many years out of it. When we went out to buy a car this week, we were looking for something that would give us a decade of love.
So let’s do the math here. We have a six-year-old (almost seven!), and we are looking for a car that we will probably want to foist off on somebody in ten (maybe slightly fewer!) years. So it was very clear. In ten years, she will be getting her license, and we will be in the market for a new car, needing to do something with the beat-up old thing that had given us a decade of love. We were buying Ruby’s first car.
When you are buying a car for your teenage six-year-old, there are a variety of factors to take into consideration. On the one hand, you have a sweet little girl for whom you would do anything, and you want them to have the best, most long-lasting, super fun vehicle available. But on the other hand, even if you can’t quite believe it yet, you know that your child is going to eventually turn into some sort of teenaged maniac that will need a vehicle for sex and drag racing. So you must be careful.
Fun, zippy little cars are out, but this is not an issue, because you have children, so you need a family-sized vehicle. And you know what “Family-Sized” means. It means twice as much as the normal size. Nobody’s going to be drag-racing a bus. So this is less of a concern, but it has to be said. No sports cars.
But on the other end of it all, there is a danger of going too big. You don’t want your teenager to have transportation that includes curtains and a mattress in the back. No vans. No party buses. No limousines with fully stocked bars, multiples sunroofs, and hot tubs. That ride shall not be pimped.
This leaves you in the wonderful middle ground of station wagons or, as they call them now, “SUV”s, which stands for “Staysh Un Vagon”s. When we picked out our Mazda 5, it was love at first sight. It had everything we wanted in a future beat-up teenager car. Plenty of storage in the back when you fold the seats down, but a low enough roof to make trunk sex uncomfortable. The zoominess of a Mazda, but the length of a reticulated python, which makes maneuvering the beast a less impulsive and more thoughtful activity. It was family-sized, with decent mileage, which will be important in ten years when gas costs more than college. All in all, I think both Ruby and her parents will be very happy with her first car. Because ultimately, it isn’t for us. It’s for her.