What car can I afford in High School?


Asked by Sep 05, 2017 at 12:58 AM about the 2009 BMW 3 Series 335i Sedan RWD

Question type: Shopping & Pricing

Let me give a little bit of background here.

I am a sixteen year old junior in high school located in Illinois. I am a huge
hockey fan (go Blackhawks!) and play hockey for my high school. I currently
work a part-time job at a local grocery and am trying to get in to the
University of Wisconsin, Madison, for college.

Very soon, I am going to need a car for myself. Being a hockey player, I travel
a lot, and most of my weekends are spent on the road. Last year, my family
put well over 20,000 miles on our GMC (my family's primary car), and I would
say most of those were for sitting in traffic for hockey. But not only for hockey,
I will need a car to commute to school, run errands, commute to work, and for
personal pleasures. I will also need a car to drive my younger brothers in
situations where my parents cannot, as my father already works a full time job
and my mother will be starting a job in the near future.

My question mainly pertains to my first car; what can I afford for a car, is the
car I am currently looking at reasonable, and, if it's unreasonable, what kind of
a car should I be looking at, all of which ties into a bit of personal financing.

Working at my part time job, I make $10.25 an hour (after taxes, closer to
$7.50 or $8.00 per hour), and I am aiming to make at least $200.00 a week,
which I have been able to achieve for the most part. The money I make is
deposited into a checking account that I have access to, but plan on rarely
using, as I want to save for this car. I have worked at my job for around 1
month now, and do not plan on leaving anytime soon. My job is also part of a
union, and from what I understand, I am practically un-fireable (though I
wouldn't be fired anyways because I am more responsible than a typical 16
year old).

Separately, I have around $5,000.00 in a savings account as a child. I am
planning on using this money towards my car; I am unsure, but I believe this
account is separate from a college fund my parents have set up. This,
however, may not be the case, as I have not talked about this with my
parents. If it were not the case, this would also account as my savings for

With this in mind, what kind of car can I afford? My parents, at this moment,
can contribute at most around $2,000.00 to my first car, but it will most likely
be over time (like if they were helping me finance a used car, rather than
giving me the two grand for the downpayment).

With my checking account (and my job), my savings, and my parents
contribution, I am really looking to buy a used BMW 325i, 330i, or 335i (3
series) from around 2006-2012. Ideally, I am looking for one with no more than
80,000 miles on it and the most expensive I have searched for is from
$16,000.00. However, if this is deemed too expensive, the cheapest one that
fits my criteria is around $7,000.00. The BMW would also have to be
automatic (which, for the most part, they all are). I have found several different
kinds of these BMW 3 series' that fit my criteria, including one that was priced
at $8,000.00 with 40,000 miles on it and one that was $16,000.00 with
100,000 miles on it. There are thousands of different kinds of these BMW 3
series' that range in price and mileage, and I am able to find one very easily
that fits my search (under $16,000.00 and under 80,000 miles).

I have not explicitly mentioned this yet, but I am a major auto-fanatic and I
jump at the opportunity to drive. My father owns a Mercedes and I drool over
the thought of it from my bedroom window. While it may seem impractical
and more than I can afford, I understand that I may be spending more than I
should and I would like to devote a larger portion of my money and savings
towards this specific BMW than I should, even though it is a rather upscale
and expensive vehicle for a high school student and teenager. The BMW is a
very good car that perfectly fits my needs, and the drive quality is
unbelievable. The sole problem I might be able to foresee is possible but not
guaranteed maintenance and repairs costs, but that is a risk I would like to
take, if it is still somewhat financially reasonable. When researching, I
commonly see that someone should spend around 10% of their income on
their car (which is part of the reason why I am asking this question, to see if
this applies to me, and how), but can spend up to 30%, 40%, even 50% of
their income on a car if that's something they value above all else and doesn't
spend much on house or isn't in debt. This, I feel, would apply to me, as I am
willing to spend more to have this nicer car.

That said, I'd really like to know if this is a reasonable car for me at this price.
Like I have talked about, I have found this car at $7,000.00 with low mileage.
With that in mind, is this car reasonable for me?

Finally, if the BMW is not reasonable for someone in my situation, what kind
of a car would be? I am a high school student that needs a car, and while it
sounds typical of every other high school teenager, I am not someone who
will be willing to drive a twelve year old used family station wagon every day.
My car will become my most valuable possession, and I would like to own an
upscale car. I understand that by spending more money, I will forfeit spending
money or put myself in more student debt for college, but what is a
reasonable spending price for someone who wants to devote more money
towards a car in my case?

Part of the reason I like the BMW too is because of the drive quality. I am
responsible and a good student, but I want something that if I am in a
situation (such as entering a short on-ramp, which seems to be a lot in
Chicago) that I need to floor it and get some power, that the car will respond
sufficiently. A cheap, fifteen year old American car simply will not do. If there
are any suggestions on what kinds of cars I could look at that are like this,
that would be of great help!

Again, this is all a hypothetical. As much as I would like, I will not be going to
a car dealership tomorrow to buy my car on a whim. All of this is to help me,
and any responses or suggestions to my situation would be greatly
appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to read through my question!

1 Answer


some general rules- don't buy from a dealership- buy from a private owner- buying a used car is a gamble- gambling that your car was cared for and not abused- gambling that it will not break and cost you thousands to get running again- the 21st Century cars are impossible for owners to fix- they need specialist mechanics, and that gets expensive- if you have champagne tastes and just MUST have that 2005 BMW, you have already opened the door to heartache- you might get lucky, but chances are, you will pay to move yourself down the road- this is known in the back (the service dept.) as "the high price of being cool"- there is a way to be cool on a budget but it is hard to do, and there are many guidelines to follow- it was easy in the past- but even now, I have a hard time doing it, and I have had a lifetime of practice- I miss the good old days when an Austin Healey 3000 was $800, a Hudson Commodore was $100, and a used Ferrari 250 was $2500- and I could work on the machine myself and keep it running- good luck- you have many lessons to learn-

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