Ford Explorer (1997-1999): Am I nuts?

I will soon be shopping for a vehicle for my teenage daughter. She is starting to like Ford Explorers. I have about $3,000 to spend. Should I even think about such a vehicle for her? What has been your experience? (Whatever we buy, we know to have a mechanic check it out first.) Thanks CarTalk Community!

See if you can get her to start liking Crown Victorias or Grand Marquis. They are less likely to roll over than an SUV. They are inexpensive and reliable.

Who’s going to pay for the gas? You?

Who’s going to pay the insurance? You?

Who’s going to pay for the maintenance? You?

The list goes on but I’ll stop there.

The more room for passengers, the more driver distraction.

SUVs such as the Explorer (and others) are semi-prone to roll-over. I say semi-prone because those without driving experience in full sized SUVs can have a roll-over much easier than those with SUV driving experience.

There are many pros and cons about this subject.

IMHO, I would suggest you look around for a small to mid-sized sedan with a 4 cylinder engine which will limit passengers and give better mileage per gallon.

Check out Consumer Reports to get an idea which is best for your needs. Mind you, this book is only a guide.

Also, check out the vehicle listings in your area for value prices.

$3k will open doors to many vehicles, BUT you will find they will likely be high mileage ones. (This is not always a bad thing though)

I would not want my daughter driving one. SUVs in general become trecherous in exactly the kind of errors that new drivers make; entering curves (like highway off ramps) or turns too quickly, sudden evasive maneuvers due to surprize events (new drivers often lack the road experience to be able to anticipate the way an experienced driver does), and losing traction due to poor weather.

I’d want her in something much more tolerant of new-driver errors.

Maybe not. Before you start pricing them, talk to your insurer about the annual cost for the Explorer. If you have other vehicles on the list, ask about those, too. Then go to and get the new EPA estimates for fuel economy. They have the new estimates for older cars, too. You could get repair estimates to be complete. When you have enough background information, you can determine how much it costs to run the cars and trucks on your list. Then see how much of a cost difference there needs to be for the Explorer to go to the top of the list.

IMOO, I would not put my 3 teenage drivers in an SUV.

  1. SUV’s are not evil killers but they are easier to roll than a lot of other vehicles. As a former insurance appraiser I remember inspecting about 1 dozen Explorers for rollovers in a 3 month period.
  2. SUV’s are gas hogs. Money is tight, times are hard, give for Christmas a gas card.
  3. IMOO, they are to much vehicle for a kid. I think new drivers need to start with a small car or at the most a midsized. I will not own a small car so my 3 started out in Taurus’s. Big enough to get them into traffic but not to overpowered.

Hope this helps in your search.

Yes, you are nuts! This is the last (almost) vehicle I’d get for my teenage son - there are so many other options, why pick a gas hog that is near the top of the easy-to-roll list? Course it’s cheap, nobody wants one!!

SUV’s are NOT a good vehicle for an inexperienced driver. They do have a tendency to roll over in a PANIC situation…especially for an inexperienced driver who has no idea what to do in an emergency situation. My daughter drives my old SUV…but she’s 21 and doesn’t put a lot of miles on it while she’s in college. I also made sure she could handle it…she’s a good driver and I feel confident she can handle it.

Thank you very much for your insights. My daughter hated reading your comments because they for the most part mirror my comments. My inclination is certainly toward a smaller 4-cylinder or larger 6-cylinder car. I just may be putting in work to battle daughter (and perhaps Mom) in the comming months. Most importantly, the Golden Rule applies here: The person w/ the gold makes the rules. Thanks Y’all!!!

Three thousand will not buy much of an explorer but at least the loss will be limited to about four thousand.

Unless your teenage daughter has plans to start a family right away, I don’t see the need for an SUV. Any SUV is more prone to roll over than the average car. I would look at fuel-efficient economy cars. The idea that SUVs are inherently safer is an illusion.

If your daughter insists on an SUV, I would look at a Toyota Rav-4 and a Honda CR-V. Otherwise, I would limit the prospects to cars.

One other to consider - Subaru Forester, we just got one based on practicality and safety ratings.

I just sold my 99 Explorer for 3K (it was very clean) and while I loved it but in recent months it had become a true F.O.R.D. (you know Fix Or Repair Daily). A new tranny last Jan. ball joints in July and a sticking valve as well (I fixed that w/$5 worth of Gumout- Dealer wanted to replace the engine!) And of course it was a gas guzzler.

As you must already know it’s one of those vehicles that easily tips over. My good friend’s son who felt invincible in it, flipped it at 75 mph and miraculously was unhurt! So I wouldn’t recommend it for a young, inexperienced driver.