First Car Decisions for Parents of Teens - Help!

The Tracker is not a good highway car at all. Same for Jeep Wrangler and other small cars. A used Honda CRV would be much better.

You are paying for a significant part of the costs, insurance for teens is expensive. You have the veto power, its just better if you didn’t have to exercise it.

Is it possible more reseach and test drives of other cars will highlight the problems with the Tracker? Is the Tracker now the focal point of the debate? If she was commuting from home a few miles to the local community college, perhaps the tracker is OK. For a 800 mile round trip to college on interstates it just is a poor choice for that type of driving. 10 hours in a Tracker sounds like a tough trip home and certainly not a safe one.

Sorry Mom, but it’s time to cut the cord…

Thank you. They are going to be looking at other cars now. I am trying to let them find them on their own because anything I say that I have seen on a list of most popular cars for teens gets an " I don’t care!" reaction. The used car dealership now wants to show them a Nissan Sentra - I don’t know anything about it. The mechanic who looked at the Tracker suggested a Honda Accord. I know the Civic is one mentioned, but it seems so small. My daughter feels all sedans look alike. This is somewhat true. Anything you can think of that has an original or hip look to it with a safe frame, without being too boring? It sounds like there are several, but I can’t suggest them. I can only hope they get excited about finding one of the ones that’s a smarter choice.

I think you are mistaking the Tracker for the Samurai. The Tracker/Sidekick is not nearly as prone to rollovers at the Sammy was.

I owned the Sidekick for four years, not the Samarai and I’ll stick with my opinion. The Samauri, which I’ve driven, is down right scary at speed. The Sidekick is much better, and an outstanding off roader, nearly as good as a Jeep. But the steering is extremely vague (good for off roading) and it is the most sensitive car I’ve driven to crosswinds. It could lift a tire easily in sudden direction changes, until I went to low profile 225 wide tires which helped a lot. They were not recommended in manual. but improved handling. Recommended highly for use you would give a Jeep…for a teen and a car load of kids with it’s very unforgiving interior as well ? Not me.

The mechanic that suggested the Accord is right on…a fine handling for FWD car with solid reliability and an interior and control layout that has always been a favorite of nearly all the ladies I know…daughter, wife…all her friends. They tried out each other’s Honda products and kept buying them. They aren’t spectacular, but you seldom hear anyone bad mouth them and have great repeat buy record.
Recommending an Accord is like recommending a hat and gloves on a cold day…it’s a safe no brainer.
Kids are entitled to their own opinions…if they always agreed with their parents growing up, they wouldn’t look forward to getting out on your own and raising your own.

When in a similar situation we opted for a used (2007) Subaru Forester. Top crash ratings, front and side air bags, lots of room. Only disadvantage is the added complication of the AWD, but that’s a plus if they drive in any snow.

Cynical me, it does not matter what you buy because it will probably be totaled within a year. So plan accordingly. Get something inexpensive and safe.

Many say that it is a good car, but no one mentioned safety in the year with the most reviews.

You are right about SUVs and inexperienced drivers, but most young people that age want a fast car or a motorcycle. Maybe since you should pick your battles.

I would buy a car that is easy to drive, not too powerful, and does not tip over easily when making a suddent change of direction on the freeway. Mid size cars with small engines are a good buy for teens.

An overpowered SUV would be the worst thing to buy a new driver.

My neighbor had two girls going to college and bought both of them the cheapest stripped down Honda Civic coupes. But they were in bright colors. The cars were very reliable and the kids never complained.

It’s important kids learn to drive stickshift cars early in life.

The SUV type is prone to loss of control when the right side goes onto the shoulder of the road and the driver tries to get back on the road without losing enough speed. Then it lurches clear across the road and turns on its side. That is, if it doesn’t hit another car going the other way. Somebody, a 44 year old man did it this week on a perfectly good day at 0830.

I had an 03 Saturn Vue that would try to sneak off the road. Never drive one of those when tired or drunk. The only vehicle that went off the highway when I was driving in slush was a Chevy Tahoe. SUV’s and full size vans (the one I saw was a Dodge van) are the worst ones for taking a dirt path right off a perfectly good highway.

No permission because Moms do know best. Choosing a vehicle is like picking your switch (for caning). If you don’t do it right, it can hurt you a lot worse.

I know it’s a little off topic…but I have to agree. As long as our kids are living under our roof and with my financial support, I’m going to encourage and argue for their safety. If it means “driving them away” and out on their own, I hope it’s in a safe car.

Younger daughter (now 26) bought a 2004 Nissan Sentra as her first owned car; paid way over blue book, but condition impeccable. Not for 800 mile trips, but a good around-town car. As for totalling in a year, elder daughter’s first car totalled after three years (Mistubishi Mirage–she loved that car), but it wasn’t her fault and she walked away. My vote is nothing fast or flashy, but reliable.

If your teenagers are really bent on buying a car, now is a great time to make them do their homework so that they get the best value for the dollar. Insist that they read reviews in Consumer Reports and other publications. The research that they do for the car now should pay off later when they are emancipated and making big purchases on their own.

With our son, we didn’t go through the “neat car phase”. Any mode of transportation that gets him where he wants to go is fine with him. However, he is now supporting a family on a teacher’s salary. Every year for the last several years, we have given him a gift subscription to Consumer Reports. He and his wife really read it carefully before making a major purchase. In fact, the two of them can squeeze a nickel so hard that I hear the buffalo screaming 400 miles away.

Back in the late 1950’s when I was a new driver, I had a job that paid 60 cents an hour. I saved my money the entire summer to buy a car. I found my “dream” car–a 1940 LaSalle for $75. My dad said no. He made me figure out how much it would cost to operate the car–insurance, gasoline, repairs, etc. I was told that when I was making my own way, I could purchase any car I wanted. I figured out when I was earning my own money, that I really didn’t want to spend the money on the car that I thought I wanted.

At any rate, if your teen-agers are into buying a car, make it a learning experience to do the research to get the most for their money.

A sedan will not be a safe alternative in my opinion. My 19 year old son’s first car (and still drives it today) is a 3/4 ton Chevy pick up. If anyone runs a light and hits him, he has excellent chances of survival with little to no injuries. To heck with going green, I’d rather have my kids alive. Now the stats are out on fatalities as a result of the auto industry producing “lighter” weight “greener” vehicles, and the direct death toll # is the same as our losses in the Korean War. Reference Michael Savage .com Good luck in keeping your child safe!

Update: My husband said he was leaving the car purchase up to me and would agree on whatever I had researched that was safe - in short, he didn’t care anymore and just wanted to get this whole thing over with. So I did the research and even got my two kids liking Honda Accords, Civics and VW Passats. But where we live, they hadn’d had a chance to test drive them yet, because the price/mileage wasn’t right. I found some very good ones and two days ago, I gave him index cards with the addresses and stats on three different dealers currently selling excellent mileage used Passats or Hondas, with the price they wanted, to go see with the kids. He ended up only going to a different dealer on the way,the first one they looked at, and never looked at the cars we had discussed, and went ahead and bought a 2002 Huyndai Elantra, complete with a recall on its airbag mechanism. He never even had it taken to a mechanic before the purchase. I just learned they bought when they were on their way home with the car. It was Saturday and I was busy getting Easter dinner preparations ready, or I would have gone. The dealer told him they weren’t open on Monday and my daughter said he seemed really eager to sell them the car right away. They each have a different story as to how the salesman reacted to my daughter asking about the recall after seeing it on the carfax report. She said my husband didn’t even look at the carfax report while he was there. We are now stuck with this car, I assume. I just researched its ratings with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and they are P for poor. I guess this sounds more like a post that should be on the Dr. Phil forum. Just thought I would go back to my old thread from a few weeks ago and vent to my friends who supported me then. signed, Feeling Pretty Furious and Sad in PA

I think you are a little overwrought on this. The 2002 Elantra is a pretty reliable car, easily better than a Passat. My daughter is a doctor. She bought the same Elantra when she was in Med School after researching for safety, and it was fairly well rated at the time. She still has the car and has had very little trouble with it. If there was an airbag recall, was it done? In other words, did the dealer apply the fix? If so, then that’s not a problem.

It’s a good basic car. They could easily have done worse.

You are probably right. I would have trusted my med student daughter, especially had she done research for safety. But I am guessing she was probably a more experienced driver. At any rate, against all odds (apparently) they were able to return the car and, for not much more, purchase a 2007 Ford Focus, which is a little heavier and which has a little better crash test results. They had an opportunity for a VW Jetta at the same dealer, but my daughter turned it down because it had a small stripe on the side. (do you get the picture here?) Thank you to anyone who had to witness my angst about this process. In answer to the above question, the Elantra recall on the airbags had not been fixed. Anyway, thanks again - from the mom who loses sleep (but thinks she should now sleep slightly better)

I’m in your club about worrying. I guess that is part of being a parent. When I purchased a $75 15 year old Pontiac to go to graduate school 350 miles away, my mother was quite concerned. This was back in 1962 when we didn’t have a lot of interstate highways. She and my Dad wanted to loan me money to buy a better car, but I had too much pride. I now have a son in his mid thirties who is supporting a family on a teacher’s salary and taking classes for a doctorate. He is also stubborn about accepting help just like I was. He had been driving a 1999 Windstar van that had a former life as a package delivery vehicle. My wife and I thought that this Windstar was pretty rickety. I had a 2000 Windstar that I had purchased new with half the miles that his had. Three years ago, when his Windstar was 7 years old and my Windstar was 6 years old, I checked the book prices. My van was only worth a couple hundred more wholesale than was his. I told him that I was going to purchase a newer van, but he could buy mine and keep whatever he got for his above the wholesale price. He was able to sell his 1999 for more than the wholesale price on 2000–he bought my 2000 and I purchased a 2006 Chevrolet minivan. He didn’t lose his pride and the 2000 Windstar that I owned had half the miles, was in much better condition and has side airbags. I sleep better knowing that he and his family are traveling in a better vehicle.

Well, I’m glad to hear your daughter and son were able to return the car. I would guess that having an unresolved recall may have had something to do with that. The Focus is a good reliable car also. Friends of mine have helped their daughters each buy one. Good bang for the buck in a used Focus. I must say, you dodged a bullet on the VWs. In recent years they have a bad rep for reliability and cost of ownership.

I hope they get great service out of the car they have bought.