Kind of car

I am leaning toward purchasing a 08 Sebring AWD for my 16 yr son. We live in NW Missouri and I am looking for safety and winter driveability. Could you comment on my choice or offer some alternatives?

The Sebring convertible has the worst reliability of any car. The sedan isn’t much better.

Snow tires should help you in winter. The alternatives are the Camry, Accord, and Altima. None are available with AWD, but as mentioned earlier, snow tires may be more beneficial.

AWD helps you get out of the ditch after you slid in. Winter tyres help you keep out of the ditch to begin with. AWD can give a driver (especially a new one) an unrealistic sense of control.

Motor Trend magazine, whose income stems mainly from glossy car ads, normally likes everything that they test. After all, why alienate companies that pay for all of those glossy ads? However, when MT tested the 2008 Sebring AWD, they gave it one star out of a possible five stars. Their summary comment on this car was, “this is why Chrysler went bankrupt”.

If you are looking for a reliable car, the Sebring is not it.
If you are looking for a car with good driving dynamics, the Sebring is not it.

I suggest that you keep looking.

The only model with AWD available is the one with the 3.5L V6, and Edmunds lists it as just over $18k without options. If you’re looking for an AWD vehicle, you can’t beat Subaru. However, the system is quite picky when it comes to tires and such, which almost require you to buy 4 new ones if one goes bad(though you can buy one and have it shaved down if the others are fairly new).
Your son needs 3 things for winter driving; [i]practice, practice, practice[/i]. No matter what you get him, it can’t save him from himself.
Besides, how much will your INSURANCE go up if you buy you 16 year old son a V6 powered sedan?

Reliability is actually not bad for this car. Repairs will on average cost about 15% more than a Toyota Camry over 5 years. See Edmunds True Cost To Own. Why do you want AWD? FWD is fine in most conditions. I’ll bet that you wouldn’t let him drive if the weather is so bad that he would need AWD anyway.

BTW, the prices above are for the FWD version. With AWD, the Sebring is 25% more than the Camry. That’s another reason to avoid AWD.

Sebrings are throw away cars my opinion. AWD would be an unneeded added expense IMO, esp in Missouri.
There are other reasons for non winter traction use of awd vs fwd like high power distribution, handling and better towing, but I don’t think you want your teen driving the car this way which is more of a temptation in AWD. I would look for a low power, fwd compact.
Neighbor’s wife “bragged” about taking over her daughter’s Sebring after she moved. She kept it for 2 months and traded it.
Suggest you reconsider.

Giving a car to a 16 year old is ALWAYS a bad decision, regardless of what kind of car it is. But if you must do this, ask your insurance agent what kind of vehicle HE recommends, since over time, the insurance will cost more than the car…My choice would be a 4-cylinder stick shift pick-up truck…

The Sebring is the worst American car in all respects. It has been almost the entire time since its original introduction. You do not need AWD for winter if you don’t live in a hilly area. Winter tires are far more important, and if you’ve got a light enough touch on the gas and brake pedals, you don’t even need those. (Note: It is highly unlikely your son has this gift. Get snow tires, studded ones if they’re legal in your area.)

Any FWD car should be fine. IMO, they’re not as capable as RWD or AWD cars in winter, but they’re easier to drive than all RWD cars, and in some cases AWD cars (ones with rear-bias). And some AWD systems are essentially worthless. Crappy AWD Decent AWD.

Shop based on reliability, driving dynamics, and running costs. If you must have AWD, the best option is Subaru. Otherwise, just about anything else will be better than that Sebring. If you’re doing it because it depreciates fast and is therefore cheap, well, the 10+ grand you’re spending on this could buy one hell of a Subaru Legacy or Impreza. (Or Civic or Corolla or any of a hundred other models) Never buy a Chrysler unless you know exactly what you’re doing.

Pickup trucks are about the most unsafe thing you can drive short of a motorcycle. They handle poorly, particularly in cold weather, and most do not crash well. Not a good first car.

The Sebring is not a hot selling car, so perhaps you can get a good price. It is newer and should have safety features like ABS, traction control, and airbags. I’d stay away from AWD, and recommend 4 winter tires instead. The AWD could be more money to maintain and repair over the years you own the car.

Don’t expect a Sebring to last a long time. If you get 10 years out of it you’ll do well. There will be repair bills along the way too. I’d sell it at 10 years old or 100K miles whichever comes first as repair bills will pile up as the car ages. Is there still any factory warranty on an '08 Sebring?

I would recommend a Subaru if you really need AWD, and understand the possible issues with tires. Add snow tire package for around $600-700 if needed.

When I checked for used Subarus for my daughter a few years ago, I found that many were not kept up to standard with tires, and very few were available in the Kansas City marketing area. She settled for a FWD car instead. I would recommend looking a something like an older Ford Focus or Fusion. I would also recommend a Malibu, but tire rack didn’t have wheel for the snow tires. A winter tire package from Tire Rack for a 2003 Focus runs about $600.

My kids learned to drive in NE Kansas with midsized cars and things worked out well for them. Practice with some good supervision in winter conditions has made them good and cautious winter drivers.

Insurance agents might have a different viewpoint, since they get to PAY for the inevitable carnage…

“Insurance agents might have a different viewpoint…”

I disagree. Look at the crash IIHS statistics for payout on pick-up trucks. All small pick-ups fall into the average range; most large and very large pick-ups do, too. This is not good, considering that the weight of these trucks is much higher than cars in the same categories. The problem is that the frame is the only thing that keeps structural integrity. SUVs fare much better in the same size groupings because the have a roof that extend to the rear of the vehicle. Pick-up trucks tend to fold where the cab and bed meet.

I agree with idea of pickup truck. But I would go full-sized for added safety and the fact that they aren’t very frugal at the pump. So if the kid wants to go somewhere you’ll know he really wants to go. It would cost allot to joyride in such a vehicle.
My first car was a 1974 Ford F-100 2WD which my loving parents bought me for $800 (this is in 1994) I didn’t run, it had a bad clutch, and looked like hit had been to hell and back. No AC, no power anything, 3 on the tree. It was basic transportation. The 302 2bbl is came with was deemed not worth rebuilding, so dad and myself found a junkyard 390 4bbl which was more appropriate. So we rebuilt that, it was slightly warmed over, we went with a cam that was just a little more aggressive than stock, had the heads ported, and went with a 750 cfm carb, which was a little more than the engine needed , and a set of headers. As an added bonus we found a complete Ford 9 inch rear with 4.11 gears. It took a few months to get everything fixed up, but when we were done it was magnificent. Had it painted at the body shop where I would end up working a few years later, new tires, new wheels, had the seat reupholstered. We probably spent close to $6k restoring it.

But it had voracious appetite for fuel, I got about 7-9 MPG on premium, and due to the gearing it pretty much maxed out at around 85-90 MPH. I was also difficult to drive compared to most cars, manual steering and brakes, and 3 on three saw to that. If you could master that truck you can drive anything.

I never wrecked it, though I did manage to slide off the road once during the blizzard of 96.


They also have less weight over the rear wheels, so it’s easy to break the rear wheels loose. You can put weight over the rear wheels, but unless you secure it firmly in place, it’ll be moving around, making handling a little bit unpredictable…more so even than having things bouncing around in the trunk of a RWD car, because they have more room to move, and probably less traction on the bed than they would on the carpet of a trunk.

And if you DO put it into a spin, a pickup is less likely to remain upright than anything save the most top-heavy SUVs, AND if it rolls and lands on its roof, it’s putting more weight on a smaller area than any other type of vehicle except a convertible. (I have seen caved-in pickup roofs.)

They’re not quite the worst in every possible area, but they’re bad in more areas than anything else. Throw in a powerful engine, and you might as well be giving the kid a mustang with a knife sticking out of the middle of the steering wheel.

Bigger does not equal safer. It’s more weight to stop and turn, on top of all the problems inherent to pickup trucks. And until recently, trucks, including full sized trucks, were not engineered with crash performance in mind. Some of them do okay now, but if you ARE getting a truck and you’re worried about safety, get the newest one you can.

Here’s the classic F150 (previous generation) crash test:

For comparison, the contemporary Mini:

The newer ones are much better. But safety is still the WRONG reason to buy a pickup truck. Pickups are designed to carry THINGS, not PEOPLE.

The fact that YOU never wrecked doesn’t mean anything. If you’d won the lottery, telling people they should put all their retirement savings into lottery tickets would still be bad advice. I learned to drive in a RWD Nova with bald tires, in winter. I wouldn’t recommend it for most people, though.

You are right about the fuel economy, though. I had a friend who lived 45 miles from school, so he rarely drove his Scout to school.


Whether it’s the time or the place to bring this rant up, I don’t know. I know too many people, I think otherwise are very intelligent, who bought awd or 4 wd for winter safety as an excuse not to be bothered with the inconvenience, poor ride, loss of handling and noise of using winter tires.

If you are considering buying an AWD car w/o winter tires in snow for a teenager, you are begging for an accident. Especially true in an area that can get occasional treacherous driving, but bare roads as the norm in the winter. We only have and enjoy the safety of, our AWD and 4wd, cars and trucks in the winter; but with inappropriate tires for their expanded use, they can be accidents waiting to happen.

With winter tires and safe driving habits, awd cars can be the safest winter vehicles you can buy. Again, reconsider any awd car w/o this in mind. It’s not a substitute and if you treat it this way, you’re asking for trouble. It’s true where we live with an average yearly snow fall of 80-90 inches, it’s true where you are with less than 30. That’s why the continual reference to winter tires here.

Sorry again for the rant.

Note they running into stationary objects,the F-150 is an offset crash as well, in a head on colision, with these two examples,I would take my chances in the F-150.

If you feel you need AWD for peace of mind, check out any Subaru or the Fusion AWD.