It's a huge rite of passage - college students heading off toward independence, or college graduates entering the "real world" needing their own vehicle that's truly "theirs" but lacking the resources to buy new. Many college students don't need a car - they live on campus with plenty of options and it's a luxury. But some do, either because they've chosen off campus housing, or they have a job or internship that requires them to have their own transportation. I remember reluctantly turning down a great position as a nanny for one of my professors because I didn't have a way to get to her house when she needed me there. The summer before my junior year, when I knew I was starting to student teach and needed a way to get to the suburban schools I was placed in, my parents and I went looking.

It's tempting to get a cheap older car, especially for a college student. However, that isn't always the best option for a few reasons:

Even a 5 year old car will be 9 by graduation. While most models will still be running, there will likely be a much higher maintenance cost for a student who may be struggling to start paying off loans and find a job. New car warranties may still be in effect four years later!

When parents are thinking of a good car for their young adult, they want safety. Make sure to have a clear understanding of what safety technologies are included in all the vehicles you consider.

However, as much as parents want to help out, that doesn't mean buying a new car outright. There are some great solutions to getting an affordable (and safe) car.

Finance through the parents. My parents bought my car when I was a college junior and financed it for five years. We did a new, but very basic, model, budgeting based on what I hoped to make as a first year teacher. I contributed to the down payment and paid them monthly based on my part time job (not the full payment, what we deemed I could afford while still in school), with the understanding that I would pay their contribution back when I had a full time job and took over the payments. When I did take over, my parents generously waived the back paid I "owed" them as a graduation gift.

Leasing provides a very affordable monthly payment, as well as flexibility. A student may have certain requirements while in school and different requirements upon graduation, and leasing provides that. The only issue that would need to be addressed is any mileage limitations.

It's always a tough decision for parents at this stage, but with so many new cars priced affordably, it can be a teaching tool as well as an investment in your young adult.

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