In This Issue:
At the end of July, Dan Drake, a rising senior at Montgomery High School in Skillman, started his day like any other. He was driving to work at the Rec-N-Crew day camp in Montgomery when he experienced every driver’s nightmare: the flashing red lights of a police car in his rear-view mirror. “The weird thing about being pulled over is that you know everything that you have to do, but you just forget when it happens because you’re nervous,” says Dan, who is 17. “I immediately got my license out and I took a while finding the registration and insurance. When he started talking to me, I thought he was going to be [angry] because maybe I was speeding. But then when he mentioned the failed inspection sticker on my windshield, I knew I had papers in the back that said I had 14 days to pass. So he let me go.”
Inspection stickers, registrations, insurance cards: they are but a few of the responsibilities thrust upon new car owners. In June, Dan bought his first car, a 1997 Nissan Pathfinder with 104,000 miles that fit into his family’s $5,000 purchasing budget. Dan drained his bank account to buy the car, contributing $1,900 to the total price, and now has to carefully monitor his spending in order to regularly fill his $60 gas tank. Still, he loves his freedom. “It’s been different knowing I can go where I want easily,” says Dan, who also works a second job at Thomas Sweet Café in Montgomery. “I hope to hang on to this car at least through college.”
Dan has yet to discuss maintenance costs with his parents, like tune-ups and, yes, repairs that will get him that passing inspection sticker. He anticipates sharing all of these costs with them. He advises other teens to plan financially for their first cars—and not to let their excitement over buying a new car eclipse their good sense. “Don’t rush into buying a car just because you see a car you like. Look for more options and compare,” he says. “It’s not always smart to buy the first car you see.”
Reality check: a nice ride will cost you. Yes, buying a car is expensive. And keeping it puts a continual strain on your wallet. Consider annual registration, which is $35.50 to $84.00 alone. So whether you’re responsible for these car-related costs now or later, buyers beware.
Car insurance is a pricy place to start. Your insurance costs depend on whose car you drive—yours or your parents, and whether or not you have a loan or lease or pay cash. If you drive your parents’ car, you get put on their insurance policy for an extra $600 to $800. If you buy the vehicle, you get your own policy for $2,400 to $2,500 because then the car is your possession and responsibility.
If you have a loan or lease, you must buy additional insurance: comprehensive that covers damage to your car and collision covering damage to another car. Banks and lease companies demand it! If you pay cash for your car with no loan or lease, you can buy just liability that covers bodily injury and property damage to others when an accident is your fault. You and your vehicle are not covered.
Insure yourself with adequate limits (the amount of money awarded to a person injured in an accident), advises Steve Tague, president of Van Den Heuvel & Fountain, Inc. insurance brokers in Branchville. “We like to sell $500,000/person, $500,000/accident and $500,000 property damage. If you injure three people in an accident and a court of law decides on a $250,000 award and you only have $100,000 limits, daddy and mommy have to come up with the rest.”
So how much cash will you have to put out to keep your car on the road? “It all depends on how far you drive every day, how you drive and roadway conditions,” says Pete Baker, chief mechanic at Tire King’s after-market repair shop in Sussex. “Everything wears out.” A heavy foot works a transmission harder and wears out brakes and tires faster. Some roads murder front ends.
Maintenance is not covered by a new car warranty. Warranties cover servicing the power train. Some manufacturers of newer cars don’t even want transmissions serviced. Instead, sealed transmission units are replaced after 30,000-150,000 miles. At low mileage, that can cost $400-500.
Baker remembers: “Owning a car is your first responsibility in life because you have a driver’s license and you have to pay for insurance, gas and the tickets you get. It’s the first stepping stone to independence. If you depend on other people, you’ll be struggling through life. It’s a good healthy way to learn to manage money. You don’t have to drive a BMW. You can drive a Taurus at half the cost. You don’t have to drive a car for prestige.”
Read an expanded version of this article by visiting http://www.njnextstop.org, clicking on the Advice 101 column’s “View All” feature and selecting “The True Cost of Car Ownership.”
Whatever the status of your political favor, few can deny that the government bailout of the automobile industry in 2009 has improved employment prospects for workers in the motor vehicles and parts manufacturing sector. Big-name carmakers like Chrysler have been adding shifts and hiring staff to meet demand.
What type of job might you expect to get at a large automaker? The list is probably more varied than you think—and doesn’t always involve an assembly line. Tool and die makers are highly skilled employees who produce tools, dies and specialized parts and devices used on manufacturing machines in an automotive manufacturing plant. Manufacturing specialists supervise production in the factory and oversee the work of people in the skilled trades, such as pipefitters. A paint process engineer works with the manufacturing team to resolve paint issues and maintain quality on the plant floor. And the environmental, health & safety specialist manages health and safety compliance issues in the manufacturing plant.
Careers in the auto industry do not have to be inside the manufacturing plant. Take, for instance, Tia Montalto, an Old Bridge resident who was named the 2012 Outstanding Senior in the Department of Engineering Technology at the Newark College of Engineering, a division of the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Tia, whose father is a mechanic and auto-part store owner, has an internship this summer at the AMETEK Materials Analysis Division in Mahwah as a manufacturing engineer. Featured in July as a Middlesex County Student of the Week on MyCentralJersey.com, Tia said she likes thermodynamics and fluid mechanics and hopes to design engines for cars. “Electrical engines are going to be prevalent in the future,” she said. “I’d like to be developing the next wave of engines.”
Are you considering a career that taps into your interest in cars? If so, check out some automotive service careers and schools in New Jersey offering degrees and certifications for general automotive technology or specific courses. Go to http://www.educationportal.com/auto_mechanicscourses_nj.html and http://www.automechanicschools.com/new-jersey.html.
Car salesmen are notorious for being pushy and abrasive—you see one coming and you have the urge to run in the other direction. But when it comes to a career in sales, they do know a thing or two. After all, they’re selling big-ticket items to a steady flow of customers on a daily basis. Here are a few lessons from car salesmen everywhere that might help you in your career—and in life: