My teenage grandson–a good kid, hard worker, athlete, good grades–is due to get a car of his own after he gets his license this spring. After visiting the Philadelphia Auto Show, he’s become enthused about an Audi. There are many used ones available in the Philadelphia area in his price range (under $7000), but I’m concerned about reliability and safety. What other makes which would be 1) safe, 2) reliable, 3) cool might he look for–Mercedes? Volvo? (very uncool). Advice would be much appreciated
Good grades…good kid or NOT…Teenager and sports car do NOT make a good combination.
Audi is also NOT a very reliable vehicle.
How about something like a Scion?? Kids seem to love them…very reliable…and while not as safe as a tank…they do have all modern safety features.
Adolescents usually develop the driving style that matches their vehicle. A toaster would evoke a much more tranquil driving kharma I would think.
“My teenage grandson–a good kid, hard worker, athlete, good grades–is due to get a car of his own after he gets his license this spring.”
You GIVE a teenager a car and all of the above are likely to change…The CAR becomes the Tin God…
Used European cars tend to be maintenance nightmares…Coolness?? The girls don’t care what you take them home in, they really don’t…An Audi TT or a Toyota pick-up, fine with them…
If YOU are paying…buy what you want.
After that it’s up to him to work toward any vehiclular goal he might want.
Put him in a Camry or Taurus…any thing with four wheels .
If HE’S paying…outline with him the total cost of ownership, not just the purchase price.
Maintainence ( tires, oil and fluid changes, tune ups, timing and fan belts etc ) and is any of that something he can do himself.
The brand you buy will dictate a major difference in those categories.
If a shop will be doing the annual work on the vehicle…
pick a brand that is easy and cost effective to have in a local shop.
Do YOU have a regular shop and mechanic you use ? Buy a brand that coordinates well with your already in place service structure.
My daughter first vehicle ? A used ranger from the gsa motor pool.
Her first personal purchase ? A used mustang.
Audi has a number of models. In general a $7000 Audi is going to be expensive when it needs repairs and repairs are to be expected in such a car. Someone needs to sit down with the grandson and discuss who is paying for the car, who is paying for the insurance, who is paying for the repairs, who is paying for maintenance, who is paying for gas?
If all or most are being paid by parents and/or grandparents then the decision about what car is not his. My son did get a car in HS for his senior year and now has same car in his jr year at college. His mother likes Camry’s for reliability and that’s what he is driving (a 2000). It is a very good car and in 4 years has been a typical Camry, very reliable. We paid about $6,800 for the car with about 70K miles 4.5 years ago.
A co-worker of my wife bought their HS son the car he wanted; a new high powered Mustang. Before he wrecked it he got several speeding tickets and finally crashed for a total loss driving on a suspended license. These are not easy issues, I’d stay out of it and leave this decision up to the parents and the young driver and hope for the best. .
My wife’s boss passed the family’s Pontiac TranSport minivan down to his teenage son. The boy needed a car since the family lives out in the country. The son was told that if he improved his grades, the TranSport would be traded for something more “cool” for a teen-age driver. Well, the grades didn’t improve, so he drove the Pontiac minivan all through high school.
I didn’t have a car until I graduated from college and went to graduate school. My parents had a 1954 Buick–it was “cool” because it had a V-8 engine and a manual transmission. The other car they owned was a 1952 green Dodge club coupe with an anemic 6 cylinder engine and Chrysler’s “lift and clunk” semi-automatic transmission. The car I had to drive most of the time was the Dodge. I complained about the car to my dad and called it “the Green Turtle”. My dad told me that I was more privileged than my classmates because none of them had a “Green Turtle” to drive. Many of my classmates came from more affluent homes and had nicer cars to drive. One of my classmates heard the discussion between my dad and me and the name for the car spread around. Suddenly, the “Green Turtle” became cool. Girls loved it and I took the Green Turtle on dates in preference to the Buick. The “lift and clunk” semi-automatic transmission and the bench seat was much better on a date. One of the rich kids in my class had a 1956 Ford Thunderbird with the bucket seats and floor shift transmission. The Thunderbird may have looked more sporty, but the Green Turtle had it beat thumbs down on a date.
Here is a suggestion for a teenager’s first car:A Honda Element. The colors are funky, but the vehicle is unique. The Honda Element is durable and not too expensive to maintain.
Your son has expensive tastes and high end cars, especially used ones, will often require a fatter checkbook to maintain.
For a first car I would suggest something a bit more common and always keep in mind that many people can develop a Jekyll and Hyde personality when it comes to automobiles. Docile little kitten one minute and maniacal foot through the floor tiger the next. Turbochargers can enhance this feeling…
If I were footing the bills there’s no way I’d go for a used Audi as the first car for a newly licensed driver.
Before you or anyone buys a car for your teen grandson, consult Consumer Reports on suggestions. Used Audis are plentiful used at a cheaper price for a reason. Reliable used cars generally cost more.
Remember you are buying a commitment that can cost a lot in repairs later especially if used, especially if an Audi. Let CR steer you toward more reliable makes.
Speaking as someone who counseled…literally thousands…of adolescents over the space of a 35 year career in the field of education, I want to share my experiences with the OP.
When a car is given to an adolescent (and likely to an adult, as well), the car is not valued in the same way that a car would be if it was bought with the person’s own hard-earned money. What goes on in the adolescent’s mind is something along the lines of…if I destroy this one, “they” will get me another one. Even if that type of thought process is not realistic, that is the mental attitude that is spurred by GIVING a youth a valuable possession, such as a car.
The result of that mindset may include some or all of the following–failing to check fluid levels on a regular basis or other acts of lax maintenance, racing, and otherwise abusing the vehicle. Please don’t say…“not my grandson”…because that is undoubtedly what all of the parents and grandparents with whom I worked also said before their son/grandson/daughter/granddaughter wound up seriously abusing or destroying the gift vehicle.
Believe it or not, an extremely wealthy (ignoramus) parent with whom I dealt gave her son a brand-new BMW when he reached his 17th birthday, despite his grades of entirely Ds & Fs for at least two years. Previously, I had counseled that a car (presumably an older, used one) would be a great leverage point for academic improvement, and I actually drew-up a behavioral contract for her, stating that the boy would get 1/2 hour per week of driving privileges for every report card grade of at least a C. When he was not driving it, the car would be locked up in their commercial warehouse where he would not have access to it–or at least that is what I advised them to do.
As it turned out, they did not utilize the behavioral contract that I devised, and gave their wastrel son full and unfettered access to his new Beemer. Sonny decided to go joy-riding one day while cutting classes, and proceeded to wreck the car. When I learned that Mommy Dearest had not utilized the behavioral contract that I had spent so much time writing, I brought her in, and counseled that we could now draw up a new behavioral contract, with the purchase of a replacement (used) car contingent upon at least 2 report cards with grades of nothing below Bs & Cs, and that we would add provisos regarding weekly drive-time, based on ongoing academic performance. Mommy’s response? “But I already ordered his replacement BMW!” At that point, I belatedly realized that these folks were beyond my help and I asked her to leave my office.
(Footnote: The boy in question never did graduate from high school, despite his mother’s attempt to bribe me to change his grades!)
While the above case is an extreme example, I can tell you that the student who maintains the same GPA after getting his “wheels” is a rare one. The norm is that much more time is devoted to aimless “cruising” with friends, and much less time is devoted to anything of an academic nature.
Speaking from the perspective of someone who knows a bit about cars, I can tell you that European luxury cars are wonderful–while they are under warranty. Once the warranty ends, folks soon tire of the VERY frequent visits to a mechanic and the VERY high bills for maintenance, repair, and insurance. In other words, these cars are much less reliable than lower-priced cars from The US, Japan, and Korea. This applies equally to Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover, and other European marques.
If you went back about 20 years, those marques did have an edge in safety. However, at this point, American and Japanese manufacturers have equalled them in safety, and possibly exceeded their levels of safety.
So–in truth–I can think of few plans worse than buying your grandson a used European luxury car.
If you really care about his future, you might want to offer him a loan to help him buy a car, and you might even want to stipulate that he cannot buy a luxury or performance car with the loaned money.
Thank you all for your helpful comments–I’ll relay them to my grandson’s parents so they can carry out necessary supervision.
A 2005/2006 Chevy Cobalt LT coupe or sedan is in the price range. It’s fun to drive, and not too fast. We bought a 2009 for the kids, and they love it. Cobalt is reliable and pars are not at all expensive. Other possibilities are a Ford Focus ZX5 SE hatchback or ST sedan, Hyundai Elantra sedan, or Kia Rio sedan; all around 2005/2006. These will be much newer than a similarly priced Audi, or even an equivalent Honda or Toyota. I would stay away from Honda and Toyota as used cars. There’s nothing wrong with the cars, but the are priced a lot higher than the ones I mentioned above. IMO, your family will never make up the difference in purchase price with repairs. BTW, I drive a Honda Accord and think that it is a great car. But I bought it new, when it actually cost less than the other cars I compared it to.
When my son headed off for college in 1992, I reluctantly let him take the 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass that I had owned since it was new. The college was 50 miles away and he lived on campus. He drove it carefully and had no problems. His second year, he took an internship about 380 miles from home. To get to the intership, he had to drive a busy interstate. I insisted that he should have a better car. He argued that he and the old Oldsmobile “understood each other” and he would be just fine. The car had been in the family from the time he was 4 years old. I won that battle and we had him take the 1988 Ford Taurus that my wife had been driving and then upgraded her car.
I think that if the parents/grandparents are providing the car, they choose the car. If the son/daughter doesn’t like the car, he/she can walk.
I am guessing there is a budget since you mentioned his price range is under 7K. I would like to advise that the price of the car itself might pale in comparison to the astronomical insurance premium needed to insure a teenage male in a european car. If I had a kid, they would NOT be getting an Audi or Mercedes (will he be paying the insurance? repairs? etc). I’d suggest something cheaper to insure. Maybe something oldish, plain and japanese. The premium on my '88 camry was NOTHING.
No matter the price of the car itself, remember insurance is essentially part of the price of the car.
At the risk of drawing the ire of the forum, I think I’m going to disagree with the above folks.
Your grandson, while he may one day become some sort of super over payed executive who drives exotic sports cars, he is more likely to end up a working man (of some sort) with a mini-van or SUV in the drive way. Maybe a station wagon, whatever the family car of choice happens to be at that point. I say you’re only young once, and while I had a Plymouth Reliant back in the day, it would have been so cool to have a sports car. The high-school sporty luxury car dream is one you only get the chance to live once, and even if it does throw his finances or priorities off for a bit he is young and has time to burn learning from his mistakes. In fact, it might be better to let him do it while he still lives at home and doesn’t have to “depend” on the vehicle in the sense that the working adult does.
Is it the most sensible choice for a teen driver? No, but if you spend your whole life trying to play it safe you end up wondering exactly what you’re living for at some point.
On a separate note, Audi doesn’t exactly make the most reliable vehicles, but they aren’t awful either. I owned a TT that despite a hiccup with the electrical system was a pretty good car. Just make sure you’re on track or planning for the timing belt replacement. It’s about $200 worth of parts that cost about $1000 to put on, and it’s not exactly a beginner’s repair.
So I say, let him buy the car he wants. Cars aren’t just about transportation, they should be fun too. Let him find his own way, but do try to guide him into something that won’t ruin him completely and make sure he isn’t blind to obvious issues when he falls in love with the first used TT he finds with rear tires that are bald on the inside and grey smoke shooting out the tailpipe when the turbo kicks in.
So I say, let him buy the car he wants. Cars aren’t just about transportation, they should be fun too.
I agree 100%…HOWEVER Only when he can fully pay for the consequences for his actions. Since Mommy and Daddy are PAYING for this…he has no responsibility what-so-ever.
My nephew needed a car for school. My sister was willing to buy him one but he had to pay for the insurance. When he found out insurance for a sportier car was TRIPLE then a Honda Civic…He choose the Civic.
Buick LeSabre or Mercury Grand Marquis. End of discussion.
I like VDC’s story, and can testify to having gone to school with similar “students”.
My son was allowed to drive one of the family cars in high school, and when he went off to university I gave him our 1988 Chevy Impala, which was 9 years old at the time but in very good condition. He drove this car till 2004, when he had a good paying job and got himself a new Mazda 3.
I should also add that between a scholarship and working in the summer in a warehouse and part time on weekends, he earned all his college expenses and even took holiday trips to ski resorts. He now has 2 Master’s Degrees and works for a large energy firm.
A colleague, on the other hand, has a very intelligent, but unfocussed son, who dropped out of college and travelled the world while taking local jobs. He finally married and settled down in a steady job. He must often think when he sees the chief engineer or the plant manager of his company: “That could have been me!”.
After all these years and raising 2 children, I am still not sure where and when the stick or the carrot applies. My upbringing was mostly about discipline and rewards for work well done. Some kids don’t need a lot of discipline while others might be a constant source of worry.
I didn’t own a car until I graduated from college and was headed to graduate school. My dad traded with a DeSoto/Plymouth dealer who also was the franchised dealer for several different imported cars. My dad was talking with the owner and I was drooling over a Porsche on the used car lot. The owner came over to me and said “That is the last car you should buy. It will take your graduate assistantship and then some just to keep it running”. I really didn’t have the money to buy the car anyway. In fact, I bought a 1947 Pontiac for $75 instead. However, the message from the owner of the dealership was clear: “Don’t buy a car that will be expensive to maintain unless you have the money”.
There is a dark blue Jaguar sedan that is for sale down the street from where I live. I really like the looks of the car. I could now afford to buy the car, but the words of the owner of the DeSoto/Plymouth dealer still come back and haunt me, even though that was 50 years ago. I’m only 70, so I am too young for a car like that. Maybe when I am 80, I would consider it. If a teenager needs a car, it should be a transportation car that is inexpensive to maintain.