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Saab 900 Convertible Safety

My son is turning 16 in 3 months and he and my husband have been discussing giving my husband’s 20 year old Saab Convertible to him to drive around town. The car is a straight drive, has 200,000 miles on it and is in the shop at least 4 times per year. My husband has been waiting for the milage to get to 200,000 before finding something else to drive. Now, sensing an opportunity, my boy is talking abut taking the Saab off his hands. I’ve been thinking of getting Our son a slightly used Honda or other mid sized sedan with all the air bags and newer technology. The Saab has one driver side air bag.

Which is going to be safer for my teenager? A heavier, steel Saab or a newer lighter sedan with more air bags? My thoughts are that the newer car will be safer although much more expensive. Is the difference in the safety enough to justify the additional cost or are their risks similar overall?

Thank you!

Without question, a newer car will be far safer.

Additionally, a newer car is likely to be much more reliable.
In case you hadn’t thought about it, breaking down on the side of the road is frequently a negative in terms of safety. It seems that no matter how carefully people park on road shoulders, some drunk/high or distracted people manage to crash into broken-down vehicles.

IMHO–if safety is a major concern, you shouldn’t be putting your son behind the wheel of a 20 year old car.

No question, a newer car is MUCH MUCH safer than a 20 year old Saab, ESPECIALLY a convertible. The body integrity of any convertible is much poorer than a hard top, and the safety of any 20 year old car is much less than an equivalent size newer car.

Here’s a good web site with safety information on most all recent cars:

Driving a car as a teenager is one of the most dangerous thing you boy will ever do. It’s worth getting a safe one.

Any late model vehicle will be safer than any 20 year old car. Energy absorption technology and passive safety technology have evolved in the past 20 years. And a Saab convertible adds even another variable. It is much more likely to collapse in a serious front ender or collision with a fixed object than any hardtop… even a 20 year old one.

Whether the difference justifies the added cost is dependent upon your son, his attitude, his driving environment, how well you/your hubby trains him (DO NOT rely solely on a driving school), and how he’ll be using the car. And your budget. If cost is no object, check out some of the new, inexpensive subcompacts. You can get a lot for a little now. Your local bookstore will have a Consumer Reports New Car Buyers’ Guide that should help.

Thank you. What slightly used cars do you like for new drivers?

Back in 1992, I let my son take our 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon to college–the college was 50 miles away from home. He is a very careful driver. However, the next fall, he went on an internship and had to do interstate driving. We put him in a newer vehicle–a 1988 Ford Taurus. He protested about changing cars–he said that he and the old Oldsmobile understood each other. The first day after he left for his 350 mile trip to his internship site, I was going drive the old Oldsmobile on an errand and the ignition lock failed–it wouldn’t unlock. If my son had the car, he might still be sitting at a rest stop on the interstate waiting for help. A 20 year old Saab convertible might be a good father-son project to keep going as a hobby car, but I don’t think the Saab would be reliable transportation because parts may be very difficult to obtain.

A mid-sized four door with a 4-cylinder, with side air bags. Check that web site for top rated ones.

+1 to texases suggestion.

But I DO suggest getting the Consumers Report. You may be able to buy a brand new econobuggy for less than many late model used cars. With the airbags today and the other passive safety technology, a new eceonbox is be perfectly safe. Certainly much safer than the 20 year old Saab you’re considering giving him.

It’s more about how you think your son will handle having a car at his disposal. If you think that he will be a reasonably reliable driver, then the Saab might be OK for a few years. One advantage of an older car is that if he wrecks it, you won’t be nearly as concerned as if it is a new car. My daughters drove my old Buick Regal to high school after I bought a new car. It got dinged and they got in minor accidents with it. But it was old enough that I wasn’t too concerned. All new drivers are a risk for accidents.

OTOH, if you think that your son will drive recklessly and is a rollover risk, maybe he shouldn’t have a car at all. It’s really all about him and how mature he will be in having a car at his disposal.

I would not recommend that Saab to the safest teen driver on the road.

Thank you all. We will be selling the Saab.

A newer car will be safer. And a hard-top will be safer than a convertible. Reliability, well, nothing need be mentioned about reliability, that’s obvious. That all said, I think an older convertible Saab would be a fun drive for a teenager to have to tool about town in, drive to class, stop for a hamburger, go out on dates, etc. I was a safe driver as a teenager, so for me a car like that wouldn’t have been a problem. In fact a car like that would have been safer, as the car I drove didn’t have a very good suspension system, and the only driving experience I had where I thought my life was on the line involved the wind shifting when I was making a turn on the freeway at about 60 mph. The car’s suspension system wasn’t up to the task and the car started to weave on me. Fortunately I was able to pull it out of the weave and back on a straight track. It’s a compromise, but I think the Saab is a reasonable choice if your son is the responsible type.

The safest vehicle for your son would be a newer, larger car, not a newer, small car as your first post suggests you want. A full size car would do the trick. Something like a Toyota Avalon, Chevrolet Impala, or Ford Crown Victoria would allow you to buy a used car, but not too old, to replace the Saab. As a young driver, he likely won’t drive more than a few thousand miles per year on his own. Gas won’t cost too much for a car that gets 25 mpg with low mileage. He probably won’t be tempted to race cars his grandparents would drive, either.

The issue really isn’t about the cars safety, but should be about the teen’s responsibility. You can’t put a protective bubble around your kid. Giving them a new or newer car for safety reasons won’t keep an irresponsible teen from driving it at 100+ mph and having a severe accident. Evan a Prius can go 100 mph. Give the kid an old car, tell them it has no collision insurance and if they crash it, then they are walking and taking the school bus again - period. If they handle an old car responsibly then in a few years, like when they graduate from college, you can think about giving them a decent car. The Saab sounds like a good car to me, make sure the brakes are in good shape, and pray a lot. That’s what all parents of new drivers do, pray and see if they have really raised a responsible kid. Driving is really a big test on the teen’s character and your parenting up to that point.

My kids are in their 40’s now and started out driving in 1988 in a '73 VW bus. I knew it was about the least safe vehicle on the road at that time. They survived. Later a step son was given a 4 year old Taurus with ABS brakes because his mom wanted him in a safe car. He totaled it, and then almost totaled an Accord. He fixed the Accord himself and the body parts were different colors but that was his last mishap. Some kids just have to learn the hard way, you do your best and hope they survive. As a parent, you just have to let go, and if you did your job it will be OK.

Thanks for the follow-up post. I think you definitely made the right decision.

Hey Magay, you husband survived 20 years in the Saab, it can’t be THAT bad…It almost sounds like you are planning for your son to be involved in a serious car accident…Driving skill is the key, not air-bags…

I support their planning for an accident. Plan for the worst and hope it never happens.
I wholeheartedly agree that skill and attitude are the most critical components. But airbags are great if the worst should happen.

Nope. Why use a car with a much higher chance of injury? Teens are inherently accident-prone, the fact that the Saab didn’t have one in 20 years means nothing. I drove a rustbucket '65 Mustang that would have easily killed me in a moderate crash. The fact that it didn’t has nothing to do with it being safe, just me being lucky.

Airbags have a HUGE effect on the severity of injuries.

“Driving skill is the key, not air-bags.”

While that may be true in some instances, that doesn’t account for the distracted/intoxicated/high-on-drugs drivers who are–unfortunately–present on our roads.
When one of those not-in-control people veers into your lane and hits you head-on, or runs a stop sign and T-bones you, airbags are much more likely to save you, as compared to driving skills.

I think back to the '60s, when my father had seatbelts installed in our family car.
My uncle asked my father, "What’s the problem Bernie? Don’t you trust your driving?"
My father replied, “I trust my driving, but I don’t trust many of the other drivers on the road.”

My uncle shut his mouth at that point, as my father had clearly trumped my uncle’s ridiculous statement.

Exactly. If, say, half the crashes are caused by the “other guy” why not have a safe car, given the choice?

And for a teen driver the majority of accidents are their fault.