Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Best Car for a new teenage driver

alp8alp8 Posts: 656
So what would you folks put your 16-year old teen (female) into?

I am not all that concerned about mpg, as she will not be driving it much - just back and forth to school, and to soccer practice (local). I guess it's possible she could put 20 miles/day on it, but that is on the high side. And it's likely that in a year or so, she will be shuttling her younger sister around, a bit.

I would like it to have AWD, as we have a place in the mountains and she may need to drive it up there in the winter.

I am leaning toward a small wagon, but I want it to be safe, as we live in California which means a fair share of freeway driving.

Yes, I am willing to buy used, and I don't necessarily expect her to take this vehicle to college. I can hand this one down to her younger sister and get her a different, higher MPG vehicle for college, if she even needs a car for college. (I didn't have one, and it wasn't a disaster.)

Oh, and let's keep the dollar limit at $20k.

Used Volvo V50?
Really used Volvo V70?

Am curious if any of you would recommend an SUV, as I believe teens should not drive SUVs as I don't believe they are likely to know how to handle them. I think the rollover risk is less in a convertible. We use a particularly dangerous section of freeway, notorious for overturns, so I'd like to miminize the potential for that.


  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    Impreza wagon, if you can find one. Or an AWD Toyota Matrix or Pontiac Vibe. Any of those would be good, not prone to tipping, and modest enough to keep her out of trouble.
  • prosaprosa Posts: 280
    I second the vote for an Impreza wagon (more commonly called the Outback Sport). It has Subaru's proven AWD system, excellent IIHS crash-test ratings, and you can get one for under $20K out the door.
  • odie6lodie6l Hershey, PaPosts: 1,172
    I would say a '97-'00 Jeep Wrangler with both tops. This way you are looking at a vehicle that can take a little punishment and has 4WD. If I was going for a vehicle that was not 4WD I would go for a Del Sol or something along the line with only 2 seats.

    Odie's Carspace
  • alp8alp8 Posts: 656
    odie: Please give your reasoning behind a two-seater (I think I agree with it, by the way)

    I was thinking of an old Volvo V70 (XC70?) wagon, with the rear seats taken out.

    "Why?" people might ask.

    I am guessing Odie has the answer.
  • odie6lodie6l Hershey, PaPosts: 1,172
    The reason for the 2 seater would be less people you could put into the car = less people hurt in an accident.
    Also most of the 2 seaters from the late 90's you could get with-out much power to it = less chance of speeding + better MPG.

    Odie's Carspace
  • alp8alp8 Posts: 656
    no, that's not the reason

    come on, odie!!!

    teenagers are tremendously impaired by having more passengers in the car. Hell, I can barely drive when I have 4 teenagers in the car. Teens are actually very safe drivers when they are in the car, alone.

    but thank you for your ideas!!!

    My daughter is a pretty sensible kid, so I think she'll be a fairly conservative driver. We'll see once we really get out there.
  • alp8alp8 Posts: 656
    I like the Impreza suggestion
  • mirthmirth Posts: 1,212
    Basically a Toyota but cheaper and a lot of cargo room.
  • michaellnomichaellno Posts: 4,300
    Hmm, interesting question. I've got an 18 year old daughter who is heading off to college next week and we bought her a Saturn ION 2 equipped with ABS and traction control.

    Not sure that you need AWD if you only head to the mountains a few times a year. We live in Colorado and probably see more days of bad weather in a single winter than she will experience in several years - traction control, coupled with plowed roads, should be more than enough. That way, the other 360 days a year, you don't have the weight penalty of the AWD dragging down mileage.

    But, I do like the idea of the Vibe .. test drove one with some friends a few years ago and was pleasantly surprised with how much room there was inside.
  • alp8alp8 Posts: 656
    Michaell: I agree re the AWD, but the driveway of our place in Tahoe is north facing and steep. Unless it is absolutely clear, making it up is tough. I've made it over Donner Pass and then been unable to get up the driveway.


    I'll take the decreased fuel economy, given how few miles she will be driving.

    I feel differently about the car she takes to college, however, as she's likely to drive more in college, especially if college is within a day's drive of home. Making a few hundred mile drive once a month is a lot of gas, and I'd go for something more fuel-wise. But I doubt she'll put 10 miles/day on her high school car. Yeah, I've been wrong before.

    Of course, we could just sell our place in Tahoe and buy one with a better driveway.....but it makes such an EXCELLENT sleddling run!!!


    Best wishes to your daughter in her college adventure.
  • m1miatam1miata Posts: 4,556
    The Subaru line of AWD is hard to beat. That's what they do. With intelligent AWD, and the boxer engine, they are good little cars.

    When I was her age, I bought a motorcycle, which of course I would not do today. With so many cars on the road, it would be going from risky in my time, to out and out crazy these days to challenge the cars on the road. But I did buy every bike, motorcycle, and car myself. Should have kept a used car called the Mustang, bought for $1,100 back around 1970.
  • michaellnomichaellno Posts: 4,300
    Sorry, for some reason I thought we were talking about the mountains in Southern California (Big Bear Lake, Arrowhead) .. must be because I grew up in Ventura County.


    I have some friends who owned a house with a driveway like yours and I totally understand where you're coming from. Given that the Tahoe area gets snow measured in the dozens or scores of inches it makes perfect sense that AWD is a necessity.

    Since I'm such a Saturn nut, how about a VUE with AWD? You might be able to get into a new one right around your $20K price limit. Lots of space; decent gas mileage (we average about 22-23 MPG with the Honda-sourced V6 and AWD) and the polymer panels, IMO, will allow the car to look great years down the road.
  • rockyleerockylee Wyoming, MichiganPosts: 13,993
    I'd look for a 93-94' range AWD Audi S4-Quattro. My god some of you guys are "boring" his poor daughter. :surprise:

    alp8, I doubt she wants to drive a station wagon. Why not get her at least a sedan ? The Audi S4's of the early 90's came with "bullet-proof" turbo 5-cylinders. Yes they are hard to find, but seem to make good practical cars that are safe.

    Just my 2-cents. ;)

  • john500john500 Posts: 409
    Pontiac Vibe or Toyota Matrix

    AWD for safety
    under $20K for price
    mpg 25-31 or thereabouts even with AWD

    You just need to make sure it's OK with teenagers.
  • mirthmirth Posts: 1,212
    You just need to make sure it's OK with teenagers.

    Ha! My kid will get what I give them. :P If that means mom's old minivan, then so be it.
  • alp8alp8 Posts: 656
    nice idea - I like it when people think outside the box
  • rockyleerockylee Wyoming, MichiganPosts: 13,993
    Thanks. I'm trying to help out. I remember when I was 16, I wouldn't want to drive a wagon. A sedan like a Audi Quattro would have plenty of pep and would give her a safe AWD vehicle that get's good gas mileage out of one of the best 5-cylinder engines in the world. ;)

  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    How is a 12- to 13-year-old Audi supposed to be reliable, especially a sport model that could very likely have been thrashed?

    Also, it seems like too much importance is being placed on that very last part of the drive -- the very steep driveway.

    Is it possible to park at the bottom and walk up if necessary? Then, awd wouldn't be needed.

    Also, 2-seaters and SUVs of any kind should be dismissed as out of hand. You need a larger car with more predictable handling for a teenager. I think the evidence is pretty clear now that side curtain airbags and stability control are much more likely to save your backside than awd.
  • rockyleerockylee Wyoming, MichiganPosts: 13,993
    I think the evidence is pretty clear now that side curtain airbags and stability control are much more likely to save your backside than awd.

    AWD, IMHO in slippery conditions is still better than any stability, or curtain airbag devices. Cars without such devices in the early 90's were pretty darn safe. Their are cars today such as a Toyota Yaris, that have those devices and still are unsafe. ;)

  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    Stability control will probably keep you from losing it better than awd or 4wd in dry, wet, or slippery conditions.

    Side curtain airbags are far superior to not having them if you do get hit in the side.

    Still, as I said, I wouldn't recommend a small car like a Yaris for a teenager. My son wanted a Mini Cooper when he went to L.A. last year -- he got our 2004 Camry with side airbags instead.
  • rockyleerockylee Wyoming, MichiganPosts: 13,993
    Well basically all cars today have those features. If one is rich enough they can just buy their son or daughter A Acura RDX, RL, with SH-AWD and it has all the features you just mentioned plus many more. the SH-AWD not only has stability control from losing it, but it also send torque to the tire with most grip, keeping you safe. ;) These Acura's will make very nice used cars for my kids generation. ;)

  • alp8alp8 Posts: 656
    210: In snow country, you are not allowed to leave your car parked on the street (lest it impede the snowplows, and you DON'T want to impede the snowplows)

    The car must get up a steep driveway. Another alternative is that she just doesn't get to take her car to Tahoe in the winter. Not that big a loss.

    Of course, if she wants to go, and I like the friends she is going with, I might let her take my XC90

    and I'm REALLY not sure I want her to do that

    on a separate note, why do you need a larger car for a teen? I am guessing it's more likely that a teen will hit something, rather than be hit. (can someone find me the facts on that?)

    I completely agree that a car with predictable handling is important for a teen, thus eliminating all the truck-based SUVs, at least.

    There is data that shows that teens are as safe as you or I when driving along. But that if you add even one teen passenger, they become much less safe (thus the California law that new teen drivers can't be the driver of a vehicle with only other teens or kids, until they are 16 1/2 or so)

    Thus my comment about removing all the seats but the driver seat
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    I'm thinking a decent choice for her needs might be a lightly used CRV, Element or Rav4 with AWD.

    Fairly inexpensive, dependable, useful for hauling stuff (we all remember college, right?), and not terrible on the gas mileage.
  • ghuletghulet Posts: 2,628
    No offense, but some of you people are out of your minds. An Audi S4 for a teenage girl? Since when does a car need to be overpowered to keep a young driver out of trouble? Or is the notion that it'll be in the shop so often that she'll never get a chance to crash it? What else now--a Jeep Wrangler?! Yeah, that's smart...what, do we want the kid to tip over, or just have his friends romping around with the top down? I don't think I could even get behind the idea of a Volvo, unless the kid has unlimited funds for repairs. Why not keep it simple? And why does every parent in the United States suddenly feel like they have to buy their kid a brand-new car, or at least one that costs twenty thousand bucks (and where were these parents when I was a kid) to keep them 'safe'? What ever happened to Tauruses, Prisms, Cavaliers and Sentras? Seriously, you don't have to be an open checkbook to keep your kid from being killed on the road...I mean, aren't their chances of injury reduced if they don't have a vehicle constantly at their disposal?

    OK, enough of my sermon, we've had this discussion ad nauseam already. Of the vehicles mentioned earlier, I like the idea of the Vibe/Matrix the best....reasonbly nice, not expensive, fairly safe, not fast enough for them to do any stupid kid tricks.
  • alp8alp8 Posts: 656
    ghulet: so give us some of your ideas. Do you really want to stop at The Vibe/Matrix?

    Please keep my parameters in mind. I realize that not all parents will use the same parameters as I am.

    Maybe my logic is flawed, that she'lldrive the car for two years, til she heads to college, at which time she'll hand it down to her younger sister, and the college-bound one MAY get something to take to college. She won't need or want a car if she is at NYU, for example.

    also, my kids are girls - far less likely to engage in stupid pet tricks than are boys

    I like the Subaru Impreza the best, so far, but this party has only just started. I am sure other folks have good ideas and reasons. Heck, some of my reasoning may be very flawed and I am willing to examine it.
  • 210delray210delray Posts: 4,722
    ...if you can do without the awd, take a look at the first 11 or so of these, although personally I'd skip the VW/Audi products because of reliability issues. You can even go back a few years to 2004 and still get cars with good front and side safety ratings, IF you can find examples with side airbags. I wouldn't worry as much about less than stellar rear (whiplash) ratings.

    Secondly, a larger car is helpful whether you hit something, or someone else hits you. This is also true for single-vehicle crashes, which account for almost half of vehicle occupant fatalities.

    And for a given size/weight, cars and minivans have lower death rates than SUVS, which in turn have lower death rates than pickups. Check this out.

    A snippet:

    Driver deaths per million registered passenger vehicles 1-3 years old, in calendar 2004:
    Vehicle size / Rate
    Mini 117
    Small 98
    Midsize 68
    Large 67
    Very large 50

    Small 118
    Large 100
    Very large 104

    Small 68
    Midsize 65
    Large 56
    Very large *

    *Insufficient exposure for estimating reliable death rates

    IMO, nothing should be more important than your child's safety.
  • jlawrence01jlawrence01 Posts: 1,828
    also, my kids are girls - far less likely to engage in stupid pet tricks than are boys

    When I was working at a Virginia hospital, we had three young ladies come into the emergency room and they had to be med evaced to hospitals in Richmond and Norfolk. Seems like a 17 yo girl and her two friends were driving a Volvo (old style "the safest car on the market"). The driver was passing a car while heading up a hill on a two-lane rural road. Ran splat into a dump truck.

    Any young driver is capable of making driving errors due to INEXPERIENCE and poor judgment. For a CLASSIC example, see link title which should be required reading for all parents with driving age children.

    Personally, I agree with ghulet - it should older and midsized and generally unattractive. And if it is paid for (that is, no payments) you can self insure (no collisiona nd comprehensive) and save substantially on insurance premiums.
  • jlawrence01jlawrence01 Posts: 1,828
    And why does every parent in the United States suddenly feel like they have to buy their kid a brand-new car, or at least one that costs twenty thousand bucks (and where were these parents when I was a kid) to keep them 'safe'? What ever happened to Tauruses, Prisms, Cavaliers and Sentras?

    I remember the "good old days" when the car was a Ford LTD muffler optional or maybe a Chevette. And both were a HUGE improvement over the city bus or the "SLE" (shoe leather express).

    Ghulet, I have sold about 15 USED cars from my fleet. Five or six of them have been to parents buying them for children. At least two of them never made it to the child as "they wouldn't be caught dead in them." (A three year old car is "not good enough" for a teenager.) Egads.

    I like the Vibe/Matrix.

  • ghuletghulet Posts: 2,628 the risk of sounding like an 'old guy' here (at 37!), I bought my first car, an ugly tank '71 Buick, in 1985, for $450 of my own money and was ELATED to have second car was a $1700 '77 Caprice that my mom bought for my twin and I because we weren't insurable on her new car at the time (a new Porsche 944); it wasn't like my family couldn't buy us cars, it just wasn't an option, people just didn't do that back then, at least not in my town. I wouldn't have dreamt of turning down ANY free car. Apparently things have changed a LOT in twenty years. God, I do sound old.

    Anywho, back to reality: I understand everyone wants their kids to be in a safe, reliable car. I still say that's perfectly do-able for a lot less than $20k, and without AWD or 4WD (in fact, I think those are more a bad idea unless your climate absolutely dictates), and without paying half a million dollars a year in insurance.

    Basic rules of thumb, IMO: should be reliable, low-maintenance, safe, economical (good MPG; remember your kid will likely pay for at least SOME of the gas out-of-pocket), something not so nice that you'd freak out if it gets knocked around a bit, nothing fast or fancy (unless you want an egomaniac junior, I'd advise against hand-me-down BMWs, Audis, Mercedes, etc.). By all means, CHECK THE INSURANCE RATES before you buy anything for a teenager.

    My short list:

    03-06 Honda Accord (all have ABS, side airbags); they're 'big enough' to have some metal, small enough to be managable, and four-cylinders (don't get a V6) get great gas mileage. Used under $20k, 03-04s are sometimes under $15k if they can live with a DX or LX.

    Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable '01-05 (most are under $10k): get good safety ratings, are cheap used, reliable and cheap to fix.

    Toyota Corolla/Chevrolet-Geo Prism: reliable, economical, newer Corollas (03-06) have good safety ratings.

    Nissan Sentra, Altima: again, reliable, managable size, reasonably safe, not expensive, good MPG, not too fast.

    No Civics or Integras, insurance is insane.

    I think Subarus are fine, though they're not cheap to buy or fix, and do you have a dealer within 50 miles? Same goes for Volvos, and you will never convince me that a sixteen year-old needs a used AWD Volvo that retailed for $40k new.
  • jlawrence01jlawrence01 Posts: 1,828
    I would add in the following:

    Post 2000 Ford Escorts
    00-05 Buicks, especially with the 3.8 engine

    I strongly advise a face to face meeting with your insurance agent LONG before looking at the 1st car.

    Egads. Volvos. See some of my fleet repair bills on those beasts!
Sign In or Register to comment.