20 year old male looking to buy first car, parents willing to help with cost, limit around $15,000

it says parents are willing to help purchase car. OP did not say how much they are helping.
I am guilty of helping my kids have a better car than me. but that was my choice. to me it was peace of mind to know they were in a safe and reliable vehicle.


We needed the Volvo more back when the whole family was in the same place. My sister just started her freshman year in a study abroad program for NYU in Europe, and I’m in my junior year at UCLA. As my parents are about to switch to living in our rental house in San Francisco, they’re going to rent out the home my sister and I grew up in - so they don’t need 2 cars anymore. If I’m not mistaken they paid around $30,000 for the BMW, and the Volvo I’m not sure about the cost but I’m sure it was $35,000 - $40,000 when it was new.

In the part of Los Angeles where I am, it’s impossible to get anywhere without paying a ridiculous amount of money for an Uber as UCLA is right next to Bel Air and Beverly Hills. Students here for some reason also seem to have an inordinate amount of money to spend on cars - one guy comes to school in a bright yellow Lamborghini Urus. Other times you see heavily tuned Mercedes C63 AMG’s (one guy painted it pink with anime designs on it; cannot believe this guy had the money to do that). I see other kids driving newer model Toyota FJ Cruisers and Jeeps, as well as plenty of BMW 4 series (many times tuned to some extent), Audi A4’s, and Range Rovers. International kids also seem to be big fans of Maserati Ghibli’s which I hear are ridiculous to insure for people my age (not to mention all the mechanical issues).

I feel like a limit of around $15,000 for a first car is definitely a bit below average for the first car of a student at my school. Particularly since I saved my parents a lot of money by paying in-state tuition which is a small fraction of the price a lot of the kids from my hometown are paying for tuition (going to school in Colorado, the Ivy Leagues, USC, etc.). I talked to my mom yesterday and she agreed that $15,000 ish is an okay limit, since she knows I’ve been responsible in school with almost getting a 4.0 GPA over 3 years and that I have multiple internship opportunities lined up for the summer I’m trying to choose from. Only step left is to get permission from my dad, who doesn’t like risk (but also knows I have loved cars since I was a little kid).
I always try to stay out of trouble and I know that I have the capacity to be very responsible, so I wouldn’t say I’m like a thrillseeker.

Gosh, I still can’t wrap my head around why that one kid (a year younger than me, by the way!) is driving a Lamborghini Urus to school. That is what I would call irresponsible on the parent’s behalf.

It is none of your business what the other people drive or how they afford it . It sounds like you just jealous and not thinking of your parents actual ability to help you with a vehicle . When you get out of school and land a good job then you can do what ever you want in a vehicle.


It is none of our business what vehicles your parents drive.


That’s really none of our business.

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I apologize if I came across as jealous, I’m just trying to say that people seem to have a lot of money to spend on cars here and my point is that I’m trying to spend a fraction of that. People in the thread are assuming I want a car more expensive/nice than my parents’ car which is not true.
I should’ve pointed out earlier that my parents are able to meet me over halfway, so if the car I choose is $15,000, they’ll cover up to 70% of that cost plus insurance.

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I remember when I was in high school, and my junior year (1996) many of the other kids received brand new cars and SUV’s for their 16th birthday. And most of these kids received fairly expensive models, such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo, Ford Probe, Honda Accord, etc.

Far from being jealous, I was thankful to have a beat-up 1988 Toyota Corolla, which I shared with my sister. How these other parents were able to afford new vehicles for their kids, and/or whether gifting such a fancy car was good for the child was not my business or concern.

Now, I have a decent job, and own my home, and continue to drive old economy cars. A car is a machine which takes me where I need to go, not a fashion statement, or a status symbol. A smart person wants to keep costs down, not spend money trying to show off.

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I can absolutely appreciate that. What you say definitely makes sense, it’s just that I’m trying to figure out what my spending limit should be on a first car if people are saying it is not a good idea to compare myself to others around me.

The civic you mentioned earlier would be a great choice, also look at the Mazda 3.

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For crying out loud . I don’t know what you are taking for classes but economics should be one of them . You decide what a budget is based on what you can afford and what your parents can afford or are willing to spend .


My recommendation would be to spend no more than half of your current savings account total.


Trying to decipher your info.
You live on campus?
How do you get around?

Yeah I live on campus. I get to class/around the school through walking/running across campus.

The idea of a car would be for general use, particularly to get back and forth from my internships if they’re in person. also to go see all the places in southern california i’ve always wanted to see without paying a fortune for uber. in addition to have a form of transportation for dates when I get a girlfriend. and of course go to the beach on weekends!

Never thought about it that way. no more than half is a good landmark.

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A car is an excuse to spend money. Insurance. Repairs. Parking. A nondescript car is less likely to be targeted. Park in garage? Good. Park in ramp at work? Good. A car hit a light pole next to me at work. Chunks fell on car next to me. Funny story.

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My oldest daughter is the only one who needed a vehicle for college her last 2 years at MIT because of field work. I gave her my 1998 Nissan Pathfinder with well over 300k miles. My middle son bought a car (with our help) his second year of college back home because for work. It was a 5yo Mazda 3.

I say just get what you want at this point in order to avoid the lectures that your parents shouldn’t be helping you, you’re jealous of what other people drive, you don’t really need a car, etc. Not sure what parents could spend their money on that would be more enjoyable or worthwhile than helping their kids.

I’d pass on the Miata or any other 2 seater, personally. It just guarantees you have to get something else immediately when you start a family. Probably not planning on starting a family soon, but life sometimes happens while you’re making other plans. If I’m buying a vehicle, I’d rather get something I could use indefinitely and a 2 seater or convertible would be at the bottom of the list. That’s just me.

Funny story there…by the time my wife and I started having kids, I was missing my 01 Solara, simply for the ease of getting the car seat into the back easier by putting the top down

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Here is my oldtimer’s recommendation. Since this is your first car, and you need help paying for it (nothing wrong with that at age 20, a lot wrong at age 40)…get the minimum. Buy something like an older Civic or Mazda3, in good shape after inspection. Don’t look at the crazy rich guys. This way, you will meet down-to-earth ladies with a head on their shoulders, and you might even skip collision insurance. Save your pennies. Then, after your first job is established, plan on getting that dream car from childhood, even better than the list you provided us. That is, plan ahead for a long life. Cutting the money flow from your parents provides one of the best lessons in life.