Jan 11

Embarrassed to Drive a Used “Beater” Car? I’m Not!

student debt survivor

My first car was exactly like this one. Fancy, no?

As a follow up to the post I wrote about my formerly frugal parents buying a new car, I figured I’d write a little something about why I don’t mind driving a used, “beater” car.

My First Car: My first car was a 1992, baby blue, 4-door Cutlass Calais Oldsmobile. My parents let me buy the car from them when I turned 16 and they bought another car. That poor old car was a wreck waiting to happen. The car had a strange electrical problem no mechanic could ever figure out. You’d be driving, then all of the sudden the engine would shut down and the whole car would die. It was scary as hell to drive, because you never knew where it would happen, bridges, steep hills, you name it it died on me. Strangely, I told my parents about this repeatedly and they drove it around to see if it would happen to them, and it never did! I think they thought I was making up stories because I didn’t want to drive the car. Sadly,  I wasn’t.

My Sister’s First Car: My sister’s first car was a Dodge Aries K-car (I have no idea what year, let’s just say it was old-see the vintage photo below). I’m pretty confident that the car was held together with 7 screws and about 15 rolls of duct tape. It was older than death and practical required antique car insurance. The passenger side door didn’t open, so if you wanted to ride shot-gun you’d have to crawl across the driver’s seat to get to the passenger seat. The windshield wipers didn’t work so when she needed to clean the windshield my other sister would hang out the passenger side window with a bottle of windex. We always joke that if that car was any more ghetto-sketch-tacular, we’d have to cut holes in the floorboards and drive it “Flintstone style”. A hope and a prayer were all that kept us from killing ourselves in that death wagon.

This vintage photo is legitimately exactly what my sister's car looked like only her's was gold!

This vintage photo is legitimately exactly what my sister’s car looked like only her’s was gold!

That being said, here are the reasons I’m not embarrassed to drive a beater:

  1. Not much can be worse than driving our first cars.
  2. It’s paid for!-Err it was. Unfortunately our car flooded and was declared a total loss after Hurricane Sandy. So we’re currently without a car.
  3. Cops feel bad for you if they pull you over…”Shit, if this poor girl has to drive a wreck like this, she won’t be able to feed her kids if I give her a ticket”. (They don’t need to know I don’t have kids)
  4. Old car = lower insurance bills.
  5. I don’t care about impressing people. If you judge me based on my car I probably don’t want to be your friend anyway.

    Proud to Drive a Beater? Care to Share Experiences With Your First Car?

Image: Hugo90 and IFCAR



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  1. DC @ Young Adult Money

    My car is a 2001 so it’s not super old, but I paid CASH for it when I was in college which was awesome! I am up to 205k miles and I am praying it lasts until 225k….maybe 250k? :0

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      Crossing my fingers for you. We always try to drive them until they die. Awesome you paid cash in college! Most college students wouldn’t have had that kind of cash reserves.

  2. Brian

    My first car was as super sweet 1974 Oldsmobile Omega. It was the classic little old lady car. When we purchased it (for $3000) it had 14,000 miles on it! When my dad finally sold it (hadn’t been drive in 3 years) he was able to get $6K for it since it still only had 50,000 miles on it!

    I loved that car, but when you were only getting 10 MPG downhill with a tail wind, it had to go. Since then I had a lovely 98 Nissan Maxima that was totally and I got my old ever new car a 2006 Acura TSX which I am still driving and probably will for the next 3-4 years before I buy my dad;s current car (he likes to buy a new car every 3 – 4 years and since he is debt free and saved a ton of money who am I to judge?)

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      I have a soft spot in my heart for the olds 😉 Nothing says “cool” at 16 like driving a little old lady car. I wouldn’t buy a new car at this point in my life, but If was in a really good financially spot and had lots of money saved, maybe I would. That’s a pretty sweet deal for you! I wouldn’t judge dad either, I’d just be really happy to get a nice car a good price. Plus you know he’s taking good care of it for you.

  3. Grayson @ Debt Roundup

    I have an old beater and a new car. I use my beater to run errands when I am working in the yard or garage. I also use it to increase my mechanics skills. I enjoy working on cars and there is nothing better than working on an old car.

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      It’s really smart to learn some mechanics so you can do things on your own. I’m sure that saves you a lot of money.. My dad used to change oil etc. but now that it’s so relatively cheap and quick to have the oil change places do it, he’s let them take over.

  4. John S @ Frugal Rules

    As long as it gets you from point A to point B, then it’s fine in my book. That does sound like a weird electrical problem though, I’d imagine that was no fun when it would happen. My first car was a fire engine red 1976 Firebird. I loved that car and it had only 70,000 miles on it at the time. The only owner was a grandma who used it to drive to church, buy groceries and go out for dinner. It was awesome.

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      That’s a pretty sweet car for a grandma, and I bet she drove it easy and took good care of it. Double bonus.

  5. Mackenzie

    My first car was a Ford Escort and I drove it into the ground. By the time the car met its demise, everything and anything was wrong with it. And all the paint was coming off of it. Good times 🙂

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      Right on! I think most people have fond memories of their first cars. Who cares if it doesn’t have paint, as long as it drives.

  6. krantcents

    My former car was 17 year old Honda Accord, but it was in excellent condition. I still own a 97 Honda Prelude and it is in good condition. I drive cars a long time because it makes sense. I don’t need the newest and greatest because I maintain my cars well.

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      The first car I actually chose for myself and wasn’t a hand me down was a honda civic. That car was a dream to drive compared to my previous rides. Honda last a long time, bf is thinking about getting a pilot to replace our jeep.

      1. SZQ

        I had a 1994 Honda Accord – bought it new and drove it for 15 years before giving it to a friend who needed a car…….and it’s STILL going! I would recommend a Honda to anyone – just do your regular maintenance and that car will go FOREVER!!! And I truly don’t care what my car looks like – as long as it’s dependable and safe. And ya know what – most of the people who drive the expensive cars really CAN’T afford them (like, they don’t have squat in the bank because they are spending so much money on “stuff!”). And while I’m driving around my beater Honda, I know we could afford to buy the WHOLE DAMN CAR LOT if we so desired!! What a great feeling!!

        1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

          Right on! I certainly can’t afford the lot, but I was more than pleased with my purchase and drove that car a good long time before giving it to my dad who’s still driving it.

  7. Marie at FamilyMoneyValues

    My first car (bought in 1969) was a ’63 Buick special V6, white with red interior. You could see pavement through the floor board and it came complete with a stick shift on the steering column and bench seats! $400 bucks. I drove it until around 1978.

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      White with red interior, fancy 😉 Bench seats, even better. Sounds like you got some good mileage out of it and that’s all that would have mattered for me.

  8. Ian

    My first car was an 88 Chevy Celebrity, man I loved that car, I am a big fan of the bench seat! My relationship with her ended when it took a whole green light to cross an intersection. All the pickup was gone and ended up giving to my cousin.

    I roll a 2000 Altima now. Right around 163,000 and still going strong. I intend on keeping it until the wheels fall off. By then the Honda Fits will probably be cheap on the used market. I dig those cars. Tiny, but pretty well designed so they take advantage of the space available. I have two friends that are drummers and both have Fits and can easily take their drums with them.

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      Oh sweet ride 🙂 I love it that the car barely moved and you still passed it along to your cousin to keep driving. We really like hondas, my grandparents just bought a nice little 4 door civic, my grandfather has never purchased a non-chevy in his whole life (he’s 80!), so it was a huge move for them. He loves it.

  9. femmefrugality

    Throw a used car seat in the back of that bad boy and spread some cheerios around. Max out the sympathy. :p

    My first 3 were total beaters. Now I’m glad to have one that has little maintenance. I do have a monthly payment, but it’s less than what I used to spend on repairs.

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      Hadn’t thought of that, you’re so right. Funny side story, my old babysitter used to have a huge old boat of a car and 4 kids (plus she watched me). One day we got pulled over by the police (local cops with nothing better to do in the middle of no where Maine). They found a ziploc with some powdered sugar (likely from muddy buddy chex mix, or powdered donuts) and thought she was a coke dealer. It was pretty ridiculous.

      Sometimes it’s better to just have the payment then keep putting money into something that’s costing you an arm and a leg.

  10. Brick By Brick Investing | Marvin

    I drive a 2003 Honda Civic that has been pay off since the day I bought it! My wife and I have a game we play when we drive… we try to guess how much a car cost and if the person has it paid off. We see a lot of BMW SUVs and Land Rovers around our area. We can’t even imagine the car payments on those!

    1. SZQ

      Not only the payments…………..THE INSURANCE…………..THE GAS………………THE MAINTENANCE!!!! Just like a house, the bigger & better, the MORE expensive to maintain!!! Am I jealous/envious of those folks??? HELL NO!!!

      1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

        Yup, the insurance payments are much higher and the gas to drive around those big SUV sure adds up quick at $3-$4 a gallon.

  11. Daisy @ Add Vodka

    HAHA! This made me giggle. I used to have a beater, and I found that cops would actually target me more because of it. I think they figured I was a beginner driver because only a young driver could afford it. It wasn’t as bad as yours sounds like, though!

    I drive a newer car now and I love it. But I could have been perfectly content continuing to drive in a beater if I didn’t know what it was like to drive in a car with actual heat.

    Also, I have to drive my colleagues places for work sometimes and I am always grateful I don’t drive a lemon when I do.

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      I hadn’t thought about that, cops probably think I’m 16 with grandma’s hand me down. We live in the city so everybody (most everybody) takes public transportation. Luckily I don’t have to drive around colleagues. But even if I did I wouldn’t care, as long as I didn’t break down, ekk. 😉

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