He’s 16, and uses phrases like; “pimpin”, “hit me up bro”, “let’s mob” and “word.” According to the state of California, he is eligible for a driver’s license. According to his mom…well…let’s just say I partially agree with the state of California but I am also stacking the safety features of his first car heavily in his favor.
Curtis is a good kid, his GPA is decent; he plays Varsity Basketball for the high school and plays on a club team in the off season. He is a gifted electric guitarist too; although he doesn’t like playing for an audience. As he approached his 16th birthday last June, I committed to giving him $5,000 for his first car. We shopped endlessly on line for as much luxury and safety as possible within that meager budget. One day Joe got an alert for a new listing on Auto Trader and it was for a 2002 black Mercedes-Benz S600 with a Brabus after-market package on it. Translation: a 16-year-old boy’s wet dream of a first car.
Gigi is the woman who owns “the only car in the entire world” that my offspring wants, and she lives 4.5 hours from us. Curtis informed me that if we don’t get this car he would rather just walk. I just love teen rationale, it’s so irrational…Fortunately for us, Joe’s brother lives in Riverside where Gigi lives so we asked him if he would be willing to view the car and take it for a test drive, he agreed. Gigi was asking $5,500 for the car so we were getting excited that it met our criteria; pimped-out for Curtis, enough airbags and metal for me to feel like he has some training wheels, size (Curtis is 6’3 and still growing), and the price. We ordered the on-line car history fact sheet, and everything checked out; clean title, no accidents, mileage was correct, and so on.
The first inspection by Joe’s brother, Rick went well, albeit it is a 10-year-old car and needs a few interior cosmetic details replaced. But it is a solid car that will run forever if maintained properly. From there, I requested a mechanic’s inspection to see exactly what shape this car was in. I found a mechanic near Gigi’s house that specialized in Mercedes-Benz and paid him $140 to tell me everything that is wrong with the car; let’s just say it isn’t a short list.
“I don’t know,” I told Curtis. “This could turn into a money pit for us.”
“Come on mom, I have to get this car, I will get a job and pay for the repairs.” He pleaded.
“Well, I want you to focus on school and basketball right now, but by this summer, it will be time for you to have a job and contribute to your car expenses.” I replied. “I will offer Gigi $4000 for the car, which will give us some room for the essential safety repairs, and I think your dad will kick in the rest,” I offered.
I sent Gigi the offer specifying why it was $1500 below her asking price and $5000 below low Blue Book for the car. She didn’t respond. Days went by, no response. Curtis grew quiet and moody.
I sent her another message telling her that we were moving on to the next car if we didn’t hear back from her. She responded and said that she would take $4500 for the car but that was as low as she could go. I was ready to walk away from the deal and wanted to offer to split the $500 difference in opinion with her, but some of the men in my life cautioned me that $4500 was an extremely good price for a car that once retailed for $125,000! (Yes…I said it…$125,000; who in the world pays that much for a car anyway?!).
I told Gigi that I would take the car for $4500, and she accepted. Curtis instantly perked up. After a couple of days of faxing contracts back and forth, transferring money and title, Joe and I were on our way to pick up the car of my son’s dreams. When we pulled up and saw this bat-mobile with our own eyes, I knew that Curtis would declare it the finest car that had ever existed. I asked Joe if he would drive it home, I was a little worried after the mechanic’s report but Joe just laughed and jumped into the driver’s seat with a grin and a sparkle that he must have possessed as a teenager.
Our first stop was the gas station. This Mercedes S600 is equipped with a V12 engine. The car feels more like a jet taking off into the blue sky, rather than a car pulling onto a quiet suburban street. Thankfully the price of gas has come down significantly compared to last summer, so the total price of a tankful didn’t break my heart as much as I was anticipating. I mentally calculated the distance between our house and the high school by the price of a gallon of gas and the mpg. I figured since we lived ¾ of a mile from the high school it would pencil out okay and what I was losing in the cost of gas I was more than making up for in safety features. I know 3 teens that are close to me that have already totaled their first cars, so I’m very sensitive to the fact that teens are incredibly inexperienced drivers even though they don’t think they are.
Joe and I followed each other back up the coast and as we pulled back into our neighborhood, Curtis was waiting for us in the driveway. The look of pure joy on my child’s face is forever captured in my heart. And to top it off, I got to buy him an expensive car for a mere $4,500, which made me mother of the flippin year in his eyes. I taught him to be patient and find the right deal, the art of negotiating, buying luxury items used for pennies on the dollar and the seriousness of driving in general. As for Curtis’ contribution; he has been saving birthday and Christmas money for years to pay for the insurance on this rite of passage.
I’m off to find a cheap mechanic and teach my son the magical wonders of a salvage yard.