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Help! College daughter's 1st car choices focuses on "cute!"

My husband & I are trying to help our daughter find a reliable good-looking 1st car (obviously used). Since we are a VW family, that’s all she wants to look at because she thinks they’re “cute” and “fun t drive”. Even though we agree (we do drive them), we don’t believe the older models (Years of 1998-2001 in her price range) are reliable. We’re trying to steer her toward a Civic, Corolla, or Ford Focus. Any advice to help us in this car struggle? Are we off base here? Thanks in advance! We need all the help we can get.

It’s the Golden Rule…He who has the Gold makes the rules.

Whose money is being spent? Yours or hers? When she spends her own money she can buy anything cute she wants. If it’s your money, buy what YOU want…

You Focus On “VW”. She Focuses On “Cute”. Focus On “Safe”. The Struggle Will Be “Moot”.

So, you wanted an opinion, . . . Parents should do everything they can to keep their children safe. She will be healtier and you will sleep better. Trust me. I’ve been there. Young people generally are not safety conscious. They feel vibrant, strong and invincible. Choose “safe” first and the “VW” vs. “Cute” will be “Moot”.
Look for something safe first, and cute and fun to drive, next.


It’s the Golden Rule…He who has the Gold makes the rules.

I like that…another saying that succinctly tells it all. I agree that the Corolla/Civic provides better value in a car appropriate for a college student’s needs. As a parent, you’re concerned with value, she’s concerned with attributes she can’t afford. Let her buy her “own” car choice when she’s supporting herself. Keep up the good work.

The tough argument to make is to ask her to do something you don’t…buy a non VW in this case. Kids sometimes look past the real reasons and only at their perception of “fairness”. You’ll have a bit of a chore, but I’d stay the course or trade your own VWs for Toyota/Hondas,

This is a “struggle” of your own making. Stick to the golden rule; once your daughter starts making lots of money with a high paying summer job, she can buy what she wants. In the meantime, a good used Hyundai Accent, Mazda Protege, Corolla, or Civic will see her through school with the least fuss. Avoid a VW at all cost; they require special care which you daughter may not have the “time” for in college.

Good luck

Avoid a VW at all cost; they require special care

I don’t really buy that. I have owned VW since 1970 and I own one today. I have yet to see information that indicates they they are bad. Note: I am not saying they are better than other cars, although I have never had a problem with one that was related to VW, I am saying I have not seen any solid data that would suggest they they are in reality significantly less reliable than other cars. The difference is not that large. All cars today are really very good. If you compare any car made today to the best made in 1960, you will see how good modern cars are.

Now to the original question:

If she is mature enough to go to college, she is mature enough to make her own decision.  Offer her your advice and only offer it once.  It should not become an argument.  She is going to drive it, she should decide.  If you are paying for it, then it is your choice, but if it were my daughter, I would pay attention to her.   BTW my daughter got an old Toyota for going to college and was very happy with it.  My son had the car he bought with the money he made delivering pizzas in it while he was in high school.   They both have graduated, one with a PHD and the other is close to getting her PHD.

Here’s some real world data about safety:

As you can see, VW tends to be safer than Honda or Toyota. If you count Audi as VW, they are safer than just about everything. This data is not just about the cars, it is influenced heavily by the drivers since it is based on real crash and injury data.

This doesn’t answer your question about reliability. But if you are looking at 10 year old cars, you need to be concerned about how a particular car was maintained, not a model. Find the best car of any type. It could be a VW; it might be something else.

If you’re a “VW family” I assume this means you have a relationship with a good VW mechanic? If so, this will go a VERY long way towards mitigating the occasional reliability hiccups with VW’s. If you have a trusted VW specialist who can do pre-purchase inspections for you that will greatly reduce your chances of getting a basket case VW.

Perhaps the focus of the discussion should shift to what services are available in the college town and how far away from your trusted mechanic her college is.

My kids went to college 150 miles from home. We made sure required car maintenance was kept up, and I armed them with AAA plus (125 free tow miles from pick up), so the car could be towed back to my trusted mechanic if a major problem occurred. Neither had an issue that required my intervention. At breaks, I checked over the cars fairly thoroughly, to avoid any potential issues.

While my kids were OK with my car choices for them, allowing a range of choice and preference is not really that bad, particularly if you have had successful experiences with VW.

The biggest issue with VW’s years '98 to '01 is the cost to replace an auto transmission that gives out. So, buy a 5 speed and you avoid that problem.

Joseph; you are not a 19 year old girl going off to college. Agree that VWs can be good when cared for, but if not maintained as described in the manual they can be extremely expensive to keep running. I’m trying to spare her the hassle of owning a historically troublesome car for no good reason.

Also don’t assume everyone going off to college is mature.

In a situation like this parents have to tread the fine line between parental love, parental authority, and parental responsibility.

If my daughter was going off to college I would not dream of saddling her with an old Volkswagen.

If you haven’t seen solid data on less reliability for VW, you haven’t read Consumers Report annual poll of members, because there is a distinct difference.

However, as pointed out, if you are used to VW, which means you don’t have a lot of experience with more reliable cars, then you won’t notice anything wrong with a VW in any case. Such is life. You can’t miss what you’ve never had.

Also, you are correct, even a VW today is a zillion times more reliable than the cars many of us drove in the 60’s and 70’s, and we survived.

And, if you get her a dog, it was your decision and your money, thus all is well.

I say, go for it.