Mercedes for a 16-year old?!?!


We WERE looking at a 2012-ish Toyota Corolla for our new teenage driver (safe, reliable, inexpensive), but have stumbled upon a 2003 Mercedes C240 with ONLY 33,700 miles. Price is $11,000. Opinions? Are we just buying $11,000 worth of trouble and maintenance hassles or could this be a really neat deal? What would you do?

Low mile cars like that MB can have lots of problems. I’d pass. I’d also go up one size to a used 4 cyl Camry.

Yeah I’d pass on that too but to editorialize, our kids only got to use one of ours until they bought their own. Same with me. My first car was a $125 Morris. Pretty safe because it didn’t run very well.

That’s what we feared. I really don’t want to buy a $2000+ extended warranty (that may or may not be any good!!) on an $11,000 car and have to continually go back an forth to the shop. DARN IT! I really wanted to be the “cool” parent by giving my kid a Mercedes (even though we will likely spend a bit more on a recent model Corolla or Camry)

Thank you!

Older luxury cars tend to take a lot of money to keep them on the road. This is one reason they’re so cheap compared to their new price.

If you want to get her a cool luxo-car in that price range that’s also very reliable, consider an Acura TSX. the TL is also very good, especially '07 and '08, but it’s also a lot more power than I’d want to give a new driver. But then my philosophy for what vehicle I’d give to my 16 year old kid if I had one has always been a 90hp 4-cylinder, and I’m removing one of the spark plug wires to slow it down further :wink:

Thank you! I will look at the Acura TSX. There are SO many used cars available in my area, it makes it hard to focus and narrow down our search.

Narrow down your budget untill the teen displays proper attitude toward vehicle ownership.
Perhaps they already are since you’re even considering dropping 12 grand on a teen’s first car.
Maybe not. Stop and think. If it’s just because you are finacially able to do that, consider several other factors.
Does the teen deserve a really nice car ( grades , attitude, lifestyle ) or just basic transpotation. ?
Do you really need for them to have a separate vehicle for School/work scheduling and activities logistisics ?
Insurance rates both for the teen driver and the vehicle.

There’s more to a teens first car than purchase price.

As a teen’s first car…I’d go for just basic transpotaion. When the teen wants more they’ll need to work toward that goal and not just be given their dream machine.
My daughter’s first vehicle was a GSA motor pool used Ranger pickup. Talk about basic transportation.
She gasps ; ‘‘But dad, it’s a stick shift !!! , I never learned that !’’
’‘YET’’ I said confidently.
And off we went to learn the stick shift…

Every one of my children had at least one small accident before they were 21. Most of them were in an old car so I really didn’t care too much. And if your daughter drives the car to school, she will be on a parking lot with dozens (hundreds?) of other new drivers who also have a lot to learn and will make mistakes. If you have enough money that none of this bothers you, then you might consider the C240. Whatever you buy, get a pre-purchase inspection so that you know problems you are buying.

For a 16yr old you would be better off for the first couple years giving them something basic and reasonably inexpensive so when (not if) the first little fender bender happens it won’t be quite as big a deal as it would with a Mercedes. Our neighbor’s bought each of their boys new vehicles at 16 but they were basic fords. One learned the hard way about 2wd pickups and icy roads (slid around the corner into the ditch, then left the vehicle there for his parents to pull out) My parents kept the old but functional vehicles for teen driving. If you want to go for something nicer in a couple years there’s always Lexus or Infiniti.

You’re not just buying $11,000 worth of trouble and maintenance hassles. The $11,000 will be just the beginning of the endless thousands of dollars worth of trouble and maintenance hassles.

Go for the Corolla.

I don’t have any children, but think my parents’ approach (not then, but now) was a very sound one. Rule 1, we could not get a driver’s permit until we were 16 (though it was legal at 15) which requires a licensed adult to be in the car with the permitted driver. Rule 2, we could not get our license until we could afford to buy and maintain our own vehicle…purchase, insurance, maintenance, gas, etc. Consequently, I didn’t get my first car until my first year of college and it was no charmer! These rules did teach me to appreciate what I had once I finally got it and what it took to get it. My friends that were handed new cars at 16 with all the bills paid, couldn’t have cared less. There were a lot of sense in my parents forethought.

My kids drove the family hand-me-downs or walked. They weren’t very exotic either, let me tell you. They also had to show me they could check all of the fluids, change a tire using the tools in the car, and most important of all, put gas in them!

The two youngest don’t know all that much about cars, but they can take care of themselves. The oldest, on the other hand, has become an excellent mechanic who’s not afraid to tackle anything.

Like I said before, none of my friends were handed a new car. One of my friend’s dad owned the Ford garage. The car that he was given to drive to school was a 1954 Ford in 1965. Everything pretty much worked but it was no beauty. He’s a banker now and a republican.

DARN IT! I really wanted to be the "cool" parent by giving my kid a Mercedes

Even if your kid is great in school, some of those other kids will see that emblem on the hood and decide to turn it into a rolling piece of art…by using sharp metal objects on the paint and tires.

Focus less on the “cool” part, and more on the “parent” part. Instead of buying a new car for the kid, buy yourself the new car and give the kid your old one to drive.

I wouldn’t, because even if the car has average reliability it will still cost you more. German luxury cars have more scheduled maintenance than most cars, and it is expensive. Any wrecks, however minor, will cost more to fix. It will almost certainly require premium gas and the gas mileage won’t be outstanding.

An 11 year old car with that few miles was probably owned by someone elderly and may have been driven hardly at all for some years. Most of those miles were likely short trips around town. Though the low mileage sounds good, hundreds or thousands of very short trips and possibly long periods where it wasn’t driven is very hard on a car. It never gets properly warmed up so every one of those miles is like several miles of freeway driving. The car owned by a little old lady may look great, but trips to the supermarket and doctor’s office is not what cars are made for.

I have an 85 yo mother and that is all she uses her car for. Whenever my sister visits (every few weeks) they try to do longer errands or just go for a drive. It gets my mom away from home and it gives the car a chance to get warmed up and run at freeway speeds. I doubt anyone was doing the same with that Mercedes or it would have a few more miles on it. From what I remember of high school a C240 equivalent would be thought rather odd and not envied much. It would be less unusual for a girl to want one. Guys who were into cars wanted more performance than that offers. Though I did know one fellow from a wealthy Bombay family who had been told he could choose a car when he was 16 (within reason.) From when he was about ten what he always wanted, and eventually got, was a mid-sized Mercedes wagon. It was brown, but it was what he liked.

I’d get your kid involved in this. Make it clear what your budget is and that you’re not buying anything sporty or especially powerful. Personally, I would recommend a hatchback or small SUV. Chances are good he’ll have this car for some years and being able to carry big/awkwardly shaped stuff is always handy, especially if he goes away to college. That limits your choices a bit, but with the number of small utes on the road, not much. Many are quite reliable, being close relatives of economy cars.

Boxy cars like the Kia Soul and Scion xB are also practical choices, as are the now discontinued Toyota Matrix and Honda Element. There are various other good hatchbacks (like the Honda Fit), but those I listed are unusually roomy.

If you live in an area with really bad winter weather, awd is nice to have, but winter tires are even more of one, but only if the winters are cold, with sub-40 temperatures common during the days and evenings (or whenever he will be driving.) If it’s warmer than that most of the time winter tires will be no help and wear out quickly.

I have a neighbor who inherited an older BMW which was the car for his teen age daughter who had recently obtained her license. The car was swapped for a Pontiac Vibe. The daughter was an honors student in high school and is now an honors student in college. I know she drove the BMW conservatively, but the BMW was not a good fit.
I didn’t own a car until I graduated from college. I bought a 15 year old 1947 Pontiac for $75. It did get me to my destination (graduate school) 350 miles away. However, had I had more money, I would have taken the advice of a mechanic I knew who said to “stick with your Fords and Chevys. The parts are more readily available and everyone knows how to deal with the problems in these cars”, and purchased a newer Ford or Chevy. I think today’s wisdom would be to stick with a Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic if possible.

I agree that a Vibe/Matrix is a good car for a college student

I really wish Toyota had kept the Matrix in their lineup. It was such a great combination of Corolla reliability with small wagon practicality. Even the back seat was reasonably comfortable. my only grumble was the ugly dash. It looked like a big silver boombox. Not an accident, I’m sure, as they were targeting younger buyers.

The Scion xB has some of the same good properties. It is massively roomy in back and cheap to buy and keep running. The dash is a bit funky, with the stupid speedometer position, but the materials are a hair better than what they used in the Matrix. I found the Matrix a little nicer overall, but the xB would also be an excellent car for a student. Being branded a Scion rather than a Toyota probably keeps the used prices down a bit. In the same way a Pontiac Vibe usually costs less than an essentially identical Matrix.

Every situation is different, but often “giving cars to new teenage drivers” will cost more in non-monetary ways. The more the teenager is invested in the cost of acquiring and maintaining the car, the better the long term outcome.

“giving cars to new teenage drivers will cost more in non-monetary ways. The more the teenager is invested in the cost of acquiring and maintaining the car, the better the long term outcome.”

After 35 years as both a teacher and a counselor for adolescents, I can tell you that kids who are “given” cars rarely if ever take as much care with those cars as do kids who have paid at least part of the price of that car. That lack of care includes both failure to pay attention to mechanical problems as they develop and failure to exercise caution when driving their car.

Even if they don’t express it verbally, the mindset of an adolescent is…If I destroy this one, my parents will just get me another one. There is really no incentive for an adolescent to take good care of a car or to drive it carefully if he/she is not “invested in it”.