3 Lessons I Learned Owning a Beater Car

Jordan Mendiola

Photo by Cameron Venti on Unsplash

Owning a beater car as your first car is probably one of the best things anyone can do. It sets the tone for your expectations in maintaining a car and cutting out bad habits on the road early.

When I turned 18, I purchased my first car. I bought a 2005 Mitsubishi Lancer from a family friend for $3,000. It ran well until it didn’t.

There were a lot of repairs that needed to be done, but I’d rather have paid extra back then instead of starting with a brand new car right out the gate.

Here are 3 lessons I learned about owning a beater car: 

1. Maintenance is super important.

As someone who isn’t a gearhead or obsessed with cars, I never thought about doing performance checks and maintenance with my vehicle.

I paid for it a few times with a flat tire or breaking down on the side of the road, or overheating because of a long-overdue oil change. 

Regardless of the situation, I was faced with issues because of a lack of maintenance. Now that I own my 2020 Nissan Sentra SV, I treat it well and make sure everything’s checked out before hitting the road.

2. Don’t drive like a maniac unless you don’t want your car to last a long time. 

I drove my 05' Mitsubishi into the ground. I drove over curbs, sped a little too much, scraped it a few times, and made a lot of new-driver mistakes. But I’m glad I did with that particular car.

It’s best to get all of the driving mistakes out of the way with a beater car because all of the lessons you learn carry over into your first upgraded car.

When you drive crazy, your car is bound to last a shorter amount of time rather than if you’d driven normal and safe. The longevity of your vehicle is based on the way you drive — so don’t treat a beater car like you’re in Fast and Furious. 

3. If you buy used tires, replace them often. 

As a broke college student, I would head over to the lowkey auto shop that always gave me great deals on tires (all less than $100 for almost new tires). 

When you purchase used tires, you have to expect to change them out about every 2–3 thousand miles. If you don’t, you’ll be on the side of a road calling triple-A for a tow truck. 

It’s worth upgrading to brand new tires if you don’t want to replace them often, but just make sure you don’t get ripped off. Tire maintenance should carry over into you owning a new car. 

Final Thoughts

Beater cars are a great first investment into a vehicle. You get to make all the mistakes on this piece of junk before purchasing a 15–25k vehicle that you need to take good care of.

Without owning my 05' Mitsubishi Lancer, I wouldn’t have cared as much about my 2020 Nissan Sentra SV. 

To anyone who’s eyeing a brand new vehicle for their first car, I’d say to consider a beater. Do your time, learn the lessons, and it’ll all be worth it. 

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Creative entrepreneur, U.S. Army Engineer, and dedicated runner. Committed to sharing ideas that lead to more fulfillment in all areas of life. Email: mendiola1829@gmail.com

Chicago, IL

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