Teen's first car

I’m 16, looking for a first car (used). It’s gotta have an airbag and ABS. looking to spend between $3000-5000. I want something kinda cool, if not a sports car something a little out of the ordinary, or different. like an older luxury sedan. trucks are fine, or an SUV would be fun too. something rugged like a wrangler. but I also need it to be relatively cheap to insure and pretty reliable. please help with your suggestions. keep in mind that I’m looking to compromise with my parents!

I will let you and the others work on the actual car, but keep in mind that any car is likely to have some problems when you get it. After all they did not want to keep it for some reason. Anyway… Remember to expect some repairs, maybe some expensive ones in the not distant future. Save some of your money to take care of those problems.

Be aware that a truck or SUV is much easier to lose control of than a car. If you think that your teen might be aggressive at all, you should stay away from trucks and SUVs.

Oops, I didn’t notice that it was the teen posting and not the parent. The warning still stands though…

I Think We’re Doing This Backwards. You Must Be Picturing This Kinda Cool, Sporty, Out Of The Ordinary Or Different Luxury Sedan, Truck Or SUV That’s Safe, Has ABS, Is Fun And Is $3,000 To $5,000.

I’m not picturing it. Tell us a couple of cars (or even one) that fit this description and we’ll advise you. If you find two like it in good condition, let me know. I’ll buy one of them.

Give us a starting point, please.


You will first have to compromise with your dreams, the car with all the features you describe does not exist. If I were you, I woulod be looking for a 1/2 ton pick up truck, with basic features and possibly an extended cab, standard bed. 4, cylinder, five speed. Ford has been making such a truck for over 10years now, and with good quality. Try to look for something in the 100k miles range, but not much more. You may be able to find one for around 2.5 thou. and then do a brake job, a clutch job, and replace the timing chain, the water pump, the alternator, the starter, the fuel pump, and the ignition module. you might also need a new cat converter, and a good set of tires. That should make you good for another 100k miles, but before you buy, get a maintenance history and a shop evaluation done to be sure there are no hidden problems with the engine, transmission or rear end. Total cost to you will be under 5 grand, and you will have decent truck in which you can put a good deal of confidence. And make sure it has a radio/mp3 player so you can crank it up and blot out the road noise. Good luck to you on this quest.

Here’s one way to narrow this down - go to cars.com, put in your preferences, and see what’s available, then ask us about the ones you like.

Before anything, think of a few vehicles, then talk to your(or your parent’s) insurance agent and see what they say. The agent will also likely be able to recommend some good cars that are cheap(er) to insure.
Awhile back we had a poster ask about buying something like a Miata or other convertible, though they were never specific on WHO the vehicle was for, for their 16 year old daughter. I went to progressive’s website and put in the info for a 16 y/o girl living in Texas(where the OP was from) and found out a 2000 Miata would cost nearly $600/6 months for MINIMUM liability, double that for fairly good coverage.
Despite wanting something out of the ordinary, you may run into some parts problems should something break on it. That bad part on your car might only cost $40 at NAPA/AutoZone if it was something like a Crown Victoria or Taurus, but might cost $200 from a dealership that MIGHT know what the name of the vehicle is(think VW Sirocco or an Opel that was short lived here in the states).

 When I got my first car, I got blinded by the appearance of the car rather than the features it offered---this was my dilema--I live where there is a lot of snow but I bought my truck in the summer and without realizing it, I had bought a two-wheel drive automatic truck. When the first snow hit, I had to drive my sister's AWD VW Passat to school because I couldn't get my truck out of my driveway, let alone down the side of a mountain to get into town and to school--just consider things wisely.
 Like hinted at before, I would look at a late 90's or early 00's ford ranger or explorer, or possibly an escape if you could work it into your budget. They will be cheaper to insure since they're not considered a sporty brand and the air bags and abs will keep insurance costs down. Also, I would recommend staying away from Nissan--I got a frontier when I turned 16 and my insurance was through the roof--=well over $2000 a year even without any accidents or tickets to this day (knock on wood). apparently nissans are more expensive to insure for some reason. 
 I would also consider something like a montero or trooper. I own a '94 trooper as well now, and it seems to do the job, but I think the monteros are a little more sportier and the price of one is much lower than that of other brands. please please please don't get a kia. I understand that they have advanced a long way in recent years but stupid events like having to change a timing belt at 40,000-60,000 miles is rediculous and expensive, but a common problem on cars like the Rio.--not to mention they make the driver look like a tool!
 anyways, good luck!

At a young age, liability insurance is expensive. I suggest that you talk to your insurance agent for advice on what to drive unless money is not a major consideration. Insurance people can quickly tell you what is cheaper to insure for people at any age.

A Consumer Reports Used Car Buyers’ Guide from the local bookstore will give you a good comparison as well as reliability data on everything on the market. With that you can compare and contrast and then begin your search.

See if you can find a Pontiac Aztec anywhere. They were ugly and therefore fit your “unusual” requirement. Otherwise pretty reliable with many shared GM parts.