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Teen driver ... 1994 Volvo or something a little newer

I’ve got a budding teen driver who turns 15 1/2 in six months. I’ve got a 1994 Volvo wagon in good mechanical condition. I’m pretty confident that the Volvo’s an excellent choice for my teen, but should I consider a slightly newer vehicle? My concern is mostly about safety features that these newer cars may have that the Volvo is lacking. For what it’s worth, the Volvo has anti-lock brakes and dual front air-bags.

I learned to drive in 1993 in a 1976 Volvo 265 wagon. 4 speed manual on the floor. Wish I still had it. There is no better first car than the 1994 sitting in your driveway.

The best safety feature is the nut behind the steering wheel!!!

I agree. Go with the Volvo.

I’d say the Volvo is OK. There are much improved safety features on newer cars, but I don’t like the idea of a new driver behind the wheel of a new car. Let them learn on an older car that a few more dings and dents won’t matter much.

Have the ABS brakes checked and serviced to be sure they function properly. ABS brakes should have the fluid exchanged every 3 years. If that hasn’t been done go to a good mechanic (not a quickie lube place) for this and a general check up of the brakes, steering, and suspension systems on the car.

The airbags are old and really can’t be depended on to function properly, but I’d still be ok with the Volvo. My deal with my kids when they were new drivers was “if you crash it and trash it you walk until you can buy your own car”. They also had to kick in for the extra insurance costs of adding a young driver and the gas. These measures seemed to work since all the cars survived, the kids survived, and lots of their friends crashed cars multiple times that mom and dad either fixed or replaced.

Good luck.

Search YouTube for “Volvo 940 vs Renault Modus” and watch the video.

If I were in your situation I’d teach my teenager to drive in whatever vehicle was handy, but the video is an eye-opener, and well worth watching.

Dings and dents … that’s just about it. This car’s been through the ringer and a little more wear may not even be noticeable.

In terms of “new” car, that’s not on the table. I’m thinking of a vintage between 2000 and 2004 perhaps - this may be what you meant but I wasn’t sure. Cars of this era are all high mileage but then so is the Volvo (207K). Maintenance wise the Volvo’s been reliable for the past 5 years and I have a sense that it will continue to be solid.

The insurance cost was also something I considered and as far as that goes, the Volvo’s a steal. My insurance Co. obviously likes “teen-driver” + “old Volvo”.

The ABS just kicked in the other day as I hit some wet leaves so it’s behaving - but that’s good advice in any event. I’ve got a reliable mechanic who loves German engineering and who’s been a critical component in keeping this car on the road. I’ll mention the fluid exchange to him.

I really appreciate all of your feedback - I’d never forgive myself if something happened to my teen that I could have prevented or foreseen.

Yup … saw that one. I am an engineer so I was already willing to be skeptical about the 940. For my sake, the critical question to pose in response to that video would be “how would the Camry fare in the same accident”. I’d be willing to bet that the Renault would trash the Camry as well, but it would certainly be a different accident. In the case of the Volvo, the driver would certainly have been mangled and perhaps killed. We’ll not know about the Camry unless somebody elected to run the same experiment. I’d like to think that the Camry would fare better in this frontal offset scenario. But perhaps the Volvo might fare better than the Camry in a side-impact scenario, and the Volvo will most certainly going to hold up better in a rear-ending accident. This is all a balancing act, and I understand that it can’t be anything but a best-guess choice. I’m just trying to arm myself with whatever information I can gather. As I mentioned before, I’d hate for something to happen that I could have predicted or prevented.

I really like the adage that the first responder put in “The best safety feature is the nut behind the wheel.” I’m going to start drilling that into the kids right now.

I taught my son to drive in a '83 VW Quantum Coupe, and my daughter learned to drive in a first-generation Camry. Both cars had manual transmissions. This was all many years ago, as the youngest is now 30.

Neither car was damaged in a crash, nor has either child ever been hurt in a traffic accident. So far.

I don’t think the vehicle in which they learn to drive is as important as HOW they learn to drive.

Safety first and NO CELL PHONE USE WHILE DRIVING. This was not an issue back then, but it is a huge issue today.

Teach them to drive properly and safely and they will be safe in any vehicle, old or new.

On the other hand, if that semi crosses the line and hits you head on, it makes no difference what you’re in. Driving is dangerous, and there are no guarantees.

I have an '03 Civic that I purchased new and selected one with a manual trans and side airbags which were an option in the '03. It is rated as a very safe small car, for an '03. Now I’m sure newer models have surpassed it.

An '03 to '04 car with side airbags should be relatively safe and affordable for new drivers. My son learned on my '98 Volvo wagon and we got him a 2000 Camry that he is driving. The Camry seems very safe to me. The Volvo was too expensive to maintain and repair so it was sold.

We have told him no texting and no cell phones while driving, but he is away at college and who knows. My guess is he cheats. If he crashes the car there is no budget to replace it, it will be on him to figure it out and he is aware of that.

As a new driver, he’s a lot more likely to hit something. You won’t mind as much if he is in your old Volvo. Also, if he drives it to school, it will likely get door dings or bumper taps from other novice drivers.