So last week I talked a bit about my middle daughter’s dead MINI Cooper. Here’s the rest of that story, some of which I only found out this weekend...

As far as I’m concerned this car has always been a little bit of a problem. Or, my ex-wife’s attitude about cars has been. To best explain all of this I’m going to rewind about 4 and a half years to when Taylor (my Mini driving daughter) was 15.

For reasons unknown to me, my perennially underemployed ex-wife decided that the kids each needed to get a car when they were 15, to learn how to drive and then become “their car” once they got a license. Had either of us been independently wealthy I would have had little problem with this. Unfortunately I work for the state and she doesn’t have a full time job at all, so there’s some issues there. I will say that unlike what I’ve seen other parents do (which might have been my move) she let the girls pick out their new (used) cars. Taylor wanted a red Mini Cooper.

Since my ex-wife couldn’t afford to foot the bill on it herself, she went to her mom for financial assistance. Her mom isn’t wealthy either. At the time of the purchase of this car, they spent a long time sitting at the dealer lot awaiting financing, ending up with an 18% interest rate and payments of $380 a month, on a 2010 Mini Cooper. Not an S, not a Cooper Works, not a clubman, just a regular mini. At no time has the total purchase price of this car been discussed in my presence, but they still owe seven grand on it. Yes, this car with a dead engine has a seven grand lien on it likely by some fly-by-night dealer financing at a terrible interest rate. All I knew at the time is that I was making those payments through my child support.

When the time came for our youngest daughter to go through this same process (she wanted a VW New Beetle), the ex came to me and asked if I would co-sign. My answer was no. I proposed that the two girls, being only two years apart, share the Mini. This was apparently the wrong answer and they found some way to get her that VW. (It was a total mess of a car, and is already gone.)

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My ex-wife and her mother go through long periods of time where they piss each other off and then don’t talk to each other. Over the years this has been about various personal issues as well as financial ones. Neither one of them is any good at managing money. They always feel like there’s more money coming in next month, so why not borrow against that, even when that money is already earmarked for existing expenses. When this car blew up, they’re on the outs and my ex-wife has no qualms whatsoever about throwing her mom’s admittedly already screwed up credit under the wheels of the dead car.

I went and talked to my mechanics about the car, despite the fact that it’s in Houston where I am not. When I showed them the photos and described the situation they immediately went to the engine replacement at over $5k. With the car itself not being worth that, let alone the $7K on the note, there’s no way I’d be willing to go find that kind of cash to fix it. Unfortunately Taylor is in a position where she really needs some reliable transportation, she’s a college junior, with all of the things that go with that, and will be living with me for the next semester, so will go from living on campus (with outrageous rent) to becoming a commuter student.

We talked about what she needs in a car and came up with a list of criteria. I spent a good chunk of Friday test driving various things that would fit her needs and landed on an oddly familiar car in the end.

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A 2009 Mini Cooper S.

Her criteria? Inexpensive, small and manual transmission. I did consent this time to co-signing for it on financing if necessary to get a better interest rate, since I’ll be actually able to keep track of the maintenance and condition of the car myself. This car has 10,000 fewer miles than her 2010 did, and everything is tighter all around. The clutch, brakes, suspension, everything seems to be in better shape than the dead one. There are a few little things it needs, but she can scrounge those off the old car before it gets repo’d.

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Saturday morning I picked her up and took her to the Credit Union. “Good morning, my daughter would like to apply for a used car loan.” I had them put it through with only her to start with and the result was tentative approval for more than she needs at 3.98% interest. The payment on that is half what she had been paying. We should have final approval on the loan today, and we went back by the car lot and got all of the paperwork filled out and sent over to the credit union already, so once approved we can just go pick up the car.

I’ve already made her rehearse what she’s going to tell her mom, “No, I will not co-sign a loan for you.”