For background, our oldest son is finishing his freshman year at college. The school banned Freshman from having cars, and his original instinct was he wouldn't need one anyway. Prior to that the precedent we set with him in high school when he became old enough to drive was that I converted my 8-year-old SUV into the "family" car and bought a new one for my daily use. He was allowed to drive it to school (which was 20 minutes way and otherwise required bussing or rides from us) and in general, but we retained ownership. He paid for gas, we paid for insurance and major maintenance. And he had to help drive his siblings places.
Now he's lobbying to take the car when he goes back sophomore year, even buying it from us if necessary. The college is small and he often finds himself dependent on getting rides from other students to do anything recreational off-campus, which often means just not doing it. Also, while freshman dorms were in the heart of the campus, his sophomore housing (while still run by the college) is off-campus. He has worked summer jobs since freshman year in high school and works part-time at college now and has a full-time summer internship for two months, so he has built up a small four-figure nest egg, perhaps cracking five-figure by the end of Summer. But even with its age the KBB value on the SUV is thousands more than his savings.
The problem for us is as the first of three kids, everything we do both sets precedent and affects the other siblings. Our daughter, the middle, just got her learner's permit and will be able to drive without us by next April. If we let our son take the "family car" to college, we will both need to similarly retire one of our two primary cars and create a second family car or buy a used one for that purpose. Where the SUV was already ready to be replaced, we were not otherwise inclined to buy a new car this time. Our kids have a laser focus on "fairness" amongst them, so there's no way not to give our daughter the same option our son had, besides which we would want to.
Curious if anyone has insights from their own experiences. We appreciate our son's desire of the independence a car gives him and willingness to try and pay for it. Had he been the only child, I would have worked out some solution where we let him buy it at a discounted value from us, with a down payment now and no interest "loan" to gradually pay off the rest. But we're not sure we're ready to get yet another car or be locked into that precedent with the other kids down the road. We're also not in love with him instead just getting a super cheap clunker on his own. Also, we have paid his insurance until now and despite a perfect record and good student discount, him being away at college dropped our premium by $1,200 a year. If he takes it with him either we're paying that again or he's taking on a massive expense relative to his part-time income.