Thanks again to all for the replies and opinions. Accept my apologies in advance for the "omnibus reply."
What we ended up doing: We had a little talk pretty much along the lines Nords had proposed. "We're happy that you are diligently working toward a goal. . . we want you to have a safe, reliable car . . . we want to work with you if you want our help.
Here are our interests/goals:
a) Understand how having a car fits into your larger plans
b) If you need a car, that you get a safe one
c) If you need a car, that you get a reliable one.
What we proposed:
1) No strings attached: Our expertise/opinions/travel with you to look at cars. A 30 day subscription to Carfax.
2) If you buy a car with a side-curtain airbag, we'll pay $500 of the cost.
3) If you'll go farther to help meet our concerns a-c above, we'll help more with the purchase price. We'll pitch in $2 (up to $2500) for every dollar you pay for the car if you'll do the following (highlights):
- Build projected monthly budgets for the next 12 months . Why: See Interest A above. Truthfully, I think she's living in the moment and hasn't taken the time to look ahead at what her living costs are going to be in her apartment and with a car. Is there room for her to save for tuition?
- Schools: Research the available cosmetology schools/courses and explore their payment plans. Include these costs in you budget. (We left open the possibility of our financial assistance, but based on our previous experience we want her to share in the costs and we want to pay as we go--no big up-front scam-school fees, thank you).
- "A Teenager's Guide To The Real World:" Two copies are on order, we'll be reading and discussing selected bits.
- Car: Matching funds are available for purchase of cars rated "green" or "blue" in the "weight" and "overall safety" columns of the crashtest.com charts. This equates to a car weighing 3000#+ and which has good crash performance. The car also has to be reliable: Do the Consumer reports research and let us go with you to look at it. We'll pay for a mechanic to look it over if we agree that it is a good candidate.
- Other costs: We'll pay for 50% of the first 6 mos insurance. Aside from this, all costs are hers.
I think things are going well. She was planning to spend $700 to $900 on the car. She's been looking at the ads for awhile, so she appreciates the fact that she can now pitch in $1250 and buy a car worth up to $4250 (after the airbag $$ and the matching funds). She knows that this will be a better car, and she expressed her appreciation for the offer. The ball is in her court now. Based on my scan of Craigs List and the classified, I think she can find a good candidate car if she shops carefully. I'm hoping for a hailstorm to increase the number of safe, reliable cars in her price range.
Want2retire: We're concerned, too, that she might try to get by without insurance, that's why we're involving ourself in that cost, at least in the beginning. If DD had a year of solid college grades under her belt and was working part time, we'd buy her an inexpensive but safe car outright (as you did). Unfortunately, that's not where we are.
Patrick: The late-model Volvos are pricey, but older ones can be had for a reasonable price. They are definitely safe cars, though I do wonder about maintenance costs. Looking at the crash test site for Fords Ford Crash-Test Results, Ford Safety Information, Ford Insurance Data, NHTSA, IIHS, NCAP, Mustang, Crown Victoria, Focus, Escort, Contour, Aspire, Tempo, LTD, Thunderbird, Probe, Festiva, ZX2
, I was surprised that the Crown Vic doesn't come out better--nice and heavy, but those built before '04 only rated "marginal" overall. It's a little hard to see why '92-'03 didn't score better.
Leonidas: Thanks. I hope your son decides to make the most of his educational opportunities, it sounds like he's on the right vector. This whole experience has been very tough on DW and I (there's lots
of stuff not germane to the present car situation I didn't include, you should all be thankful!). We've learned that much is out of our hands or even our influence and that DD has now enrolled herself in the real-world action--> consequence curriculum. The tuition can be very expensive.
Caroline: We're trying to encourage the purchase of a safe car while also retaining the other valuable lessons that will be lost if we just make it a gift. I hope we're doing the right thing-thanks for the best wishes.
TexasProud--You can see our course is similar to the one you'd take.
Chinaco and T-Al: She's impulsive. She already signed a lease for an apartment without kicking the idea around with us, and she bought one car on her own (used money she'd saved for college) without allowing us to help. That car was totaled in a wreck within three months (not solely her fault, but . . .). So, if we'd waited to engage, I'm fairly sure I'd come home to find she'd bought an '86 Yugo one afternoon.
Nords: I bought the Marshall Brain books--The tone may turn her off, but I'll feel better for having exposed her to his ideas. I did a little digging around for an appropriate non-parental mentoring opportunity, haven't found one yet. What I'd love to find is someone to take her deliberately and non-emotionally through most of the big choices and the real-world ramifications. A life-skills mentor and coach. Surely there's a market for this service. Maybe parents could just swap kids once the progeny stop listening to the set of parents they were originally issued.
Again, thanks everyone. I'll check back in with updates as the saga continues.