Cars for teens

what are the best first cars for teens?

To whom it may concern:

There are many good first cars, but it depends on what you intend to spend for that first car. Once you have a price range that gives one a sense what it is possible. For example if your limit is 5000 dollars you might want to look at a certain type or vintage of car. However if your limit was 20,000 the choices may look different. In general late model Buicks are solid first cars as are Crown Vics/Grand Marquis. In general I would buy a newer car that has all the airbags and ABS if you can afford it.

Our kids were raised on all the same Corollas/Prisms/Novas. They were reliable, efficient, easy to get around with and in the north with snow tires, did well in the winter. I would recommend they or Civics. We preferred the Corollas as they had better ground clearance and handled deeper snow a little better…other than that, flip a coin.

You’re going to get lots of differing opinions on this, but I agree with dagosa; a used Corolla or Prizm would be very hard to beat. The Nova is pretty old now, so I don’t think you’ll find many of them.

Other good choices would be a used Honda Civic, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Sentra, Nissan Altima, Mazda Protege, Mazda3, Hyundai Elantra, etc.

I don’t believe in buying new cars for teen drivers. Find a nice used car, make the teen pay at least some of the expenses, and establish a firm no-cell-phone-use-while-driving rule.

The most recent issue of Consumer Reports has a list of reliable cars organized by price range. You will find lots of useful information there.

I looked for one with good crash ratings and side airbags. Here’s a web site that gives you lots of safety info for cars:

I need to know more about the teens in question. Are they responsible young adults, or do they frequently get into trouble? Do they get good grades? Do they have jobs? Are they in high school or college? Are they in community college or at a university? Do they commute to school?

If we are talking about a good teenager who gets good grades and demonstrates responsible behavior, I would ask the teenager what he or she wants, and as long as it is reasonable, I would consider rewarding the teenager with what he or she wants.

"Are they responsible young adults, or do they frequently get into trouble? "
Good point as when our kids aren’t responsible or get into trouble, they get NO CAR.

The more the teen wants the car the more likely it is a bad choice. For instance a young man might want a Mustang with a V8 motor - not good. Girls may want a cute VW convertible, better but perhaps subpar on safety.

Something mid size offers some protection in a crash, but not too big and unwieldy. Buick Century, Ford Taurus, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry type cars.

No SUV’s, even no to small ones. They are all top heavy and have poor emergency handling. Teens tend to drive fast no matter what car they are driving and SUV’s just handle poorly. Same with Jeep Wranglers, don’t handle well and don’t stop well.

I’m not worried as much about airbags, so older cars are OK but I do think ABS brakes are important. I like older and cheaper cars for teen drivers.

Whatever car the teen driver has I would not put collision insurance on it. If they crash it, it is gone and no car. I’ve seen too many instances where the teen driver is given a nice new (or newer) car to drive and they crash it. Only to have insurance pay for another car, which in a few cases they crashed that one too.

Just maybe if they know the car will not magically reappear good as new if they crash it they will care enough not to get in an accident.

Old, beat-up GM products. They’ll run till the end of time. Or, some asian make too.

Your best bet would be to ask your insurance agent first. Generally cars that aren’t popular with kids(Mustang/Camaro) are the ones that favorites with insurance companies(Taurus/Impala).

An older car that you don’t care too much about. Your kids are inexperienced drivers, and are more likely to get into accidents at this age. If they drive to school, the cars are likely to get banged up on the parking lot. And they aren’t not as apt to take care of it as well as an adult would. My 1998 Buick looked great until I gave it to the kids. They say “it’s so ghetto”, and they made it that way.

thanks. this is just the kind of info we need. we have a chance to get a '91 Honda (one owner, 7000 miles per year) but I think the ABS and airbags are important

If we are going to ascribe to the older car theory, we have to accept that newer cars tend to do better in crash test, tend to have better safety devices, tend to use better steel, which tends to support newer compacts for the best safety/performance bang for the buck. This from companies that have consistently produced products that do well in these areas.
In previous discussions, we have talked about the “myth” that older,heavier cars that were/are safer as a general statement. Though there still may be some fine ones out there in these respects; I’ll still subscribe to the newer is often the safer recommendations and higher mileage, newer cars over low mileage older.

I agree that older cars are less safe, but we need to define “older”. It seems to me that something that is 5 years old is satisfactory, but a 15 year old car is not. It gets gray in the middle, but at least IIHS/HLDI and NHTSA have crash test data to review.

Your right…and my so called “new” cars became old after ten years of handing down from
one kid to another…but as you indicate, starting out with a 15 year old car gives you less flexibility…that’s really all I was speaking to as well. …it just looked like some may fall into the safe old Volvo mind set.

Buy a fwd witha weight ratio of 60/40 or lower . They have a fatlility rate of about 50 per million which is normal. Stay away from any with a weight ratio over 63/37 as the fatality rate is over 150 per million. Check consumer reports

Instead of recommending a specific car model that might be appropriate for teenage drivers, I have another, related suggestion.

After 34 years as an educator, I had to opportunity to work with–literally–thousands of teens and their parents. Based on that extensive experience, I can tell you that a teenager will take far greater care of a car that he or she has paid for, as opposed to one that is “gifted” to them.

Teens frequently have a distorted impression of family finances, and don’t really comprehend how much effort it takes to earn the thousands of dollars that it takes to buy a car and to maintain a car. All too many times, I saw kids abuse and/or wreck a car that was given to them. Even if it is not realistic, they believe innately that if car “A” is destroyed, Mom & Pop will simply buy car “B” (and maybe “C” & “D” also) to replace the first one.

On the other hand, if Johnnie or Janie actually pays for his/her car, he/she is much more likely to be very careful about its maintenance and about how it is driven. Trust me–I have seen this countless times.

The worst example of bad parenting and distorted values that I ever saw was about 10 years ago, and it concerned a very wealthy family and their incredibly spoiled, non-achieving son. This kid consistently earned grades of D and F, despite the ability to be an A/B student. For three years, I counseled both him and his parents regarding how/why to improve his grades. Nothing ever seemed to change, simply because there were no consequences for him when he earned poor grades. His rich rewards continued to shower down upon him, no matter what he did or didn’t do.

Then, as his 17th birthday was approaching, I mentioned to his mother that the absolute best bit of leverage for improving his grades was approaching. Knowing that they would soon be buying him a car, I proposed a contract that would allow him “X” number of hours per week behind the wheel in exchange for improvement in classroom performance.

I would obtain weekly progress reports from all of his teachers, and based on those reports, he might be able to drive his new car right away for a limited number of hours per week, or he might just be able to gaze at it. His father owned a large warehouse, and I proposed parking the car in that space and keeping the car keys in his father’s office safe until such time as Sonny began to earn the grades that he was capable of. If there was slight improvement, then I proposed that Sonny be allowed to drive the car for…maybe an hour per week. The more improvement, the more hours, up to a limit of…maybe 10 hours a week. If there was a drop in his academic performance, the car would go back to the warehouse and the keys would be locked up until such time as there was new improvement.

Mother and father nodded their agreement, and his teachers and I went through a huge amount of effort compiling detailed weekly reports of his academic progress (or lack of same). I assumed that Mom & Dad were keeping their end of the bargain.

About 2 months later, I found out that Sonny had never been restricted at all in his driving, and that he had wrecked his new BMW 2-seater. All of the hours that I and his teachers had spent writing detailed reports had been in vain, as the parents had obviously ignored Sonny’s consistent NON-performance in the classroom.

Despite my anger about all of the wasted effort on the part of school personnel, I called his mother to my office for yet another conference. I told her that this was the time for a new beginning, and that she and Dad should explain to Sonny that because he had already wrecked his new car, he would be on his own regarding a replacement vehicle–at least until such time as he began to become an achiever.

What was Mom’s response?
Are you ready?
She told me, “But I already ordered another BMW for him”!

I will spare you further details of the situation, except to report Sonny failed so many courses in his senior year that he was unable to graduate with his class. For all I know, he may be tearing up the streets with his 8th or 10th BMW by now, sans high school diploma. Yes, this is an extreme example, but it does serve to illustrate my points, namely that:

A car is an excellent leverage point for parents to use regarding the grades and the behavior of their child.
A car that is given to a teenager will never be valued by him/her as much as one that he/she has paid for or earned.

The one item that would make me avoid the vehicle is if it lacks and airbag. That alone would cause me to look elsewhere.

Something tells me this is actually closer to the norm than we’d believe. Only replace BMW with Mustang/Camaro/sporty car or what have you. And I’ll bet he probably lost his license if he wrecked too many more times, and it wouldn’t be the parents taking it from him either.