• From Consumer Reports: BEST CARS FOR TEEN DRIVERS Our tips can help you choose a set of wheels for a first-time driver When buying any vehicle, safety, reliability, and value are always important. But when the car buyer is a first time driver, these considerations are even more significant since young drivers usually do not have a lot of driving experience or money. A used car is usually the best bet for a first vehicle. It's cheaper to buy and insure, and will depreciate more slowly than a new car. Here are some other things to keep in mind. SAFETY. Look for vehicles with advanced safety features and good crash-test results. Look for safety equipment, such as air bags and ABS. Also check out Consumer Reports vehicle profiles, which give offset, frontal, and side-impact crash-test results when available. As a rule of thumb, the bigger and heavier vehicles perform better in crash tests. Among sedans, big cruisers like the Ford Crown Victoria or Buick LeSabre do well in crash tests. But larger vehicles tend to be unwieldy and offer poor fuel economy. Large pickups and SUVs are not recommended for young, inexperienced drivers because the high centers of gravity on these vehicles make them more prone to rollover than other vehicles. Sports cars are also often a poor choice for young drivers. They beg to be driven too fast and have a higher rate of accidents than other cars. If sportiness is a priority, instead consider an agile, fun-to-drive small car like the late-90s versions of the Acura Integra, Honda Civic, or Subaru Impreza. While many young drivers may be responsible and attentive, driving skills are acquired through experience. These drivers should consider enrolling in a driver-education or advanced-driving course to build confidence and skills. Many adult-education programs, car clubs, and professional racing schools offer these courses, which can run from $125 for classroom lessons to more than $1,000 for in-car tutoring. RELIABILITY. An inexpensive car isn't so inexpensive if you end up paying for major repairs later. Even vehicles deemed reliable in Consumer Reports profiles could be lemons if they were poorly maintained. So, it's very important that you thoroughly examine the condition of any car you're considering and have it inspected by a certified mechanic that regularly performs diagnostic testing. Cars that offer both good reliability and a moderate price include most models from Honda, Nissan, Subaru, Mazda, or Toyota. A six- or seven-year-old midsized car is a good choice. So is a small, car-based SUV such as the Subaru Forester or Toyota RAV4. If a new driver's family has done a good job of maintaining a car over the years, they may consider handing it down and buying a newer car for themselves. This helps ensure the young driver inherits a reliable car. VALUE. If you're on a budget, you may want to consider a car that is reliable but has depreciated considerably because it was a discontinued or not a very popular model. Vehicles such as the Buick Regal, Lincoln Town Car, or Mazda Millenia fit this billing. You should also consider the base model of a vehicle, or one that has very few luxury options, to get the most car for your dollar. However, you should never be too frugal when considering safety options. Some vehicles, especially sports cars, are quite expensive to insure because they are involved in a higher than average amount of accidents or do a poor job of protecting their occupants. Vehicles that have a high rate of auto theft are also often costly to insure. Call an auto insurer and ask if they keep a list of used cars they recommend based on their own safety and theft records. If not, just give them the names of several models that you are considering and ask to get insurance premium quotes for them.
  • Andersen777 has, as usual, given a great and thorough answer. Let me just supplement it by adding personal observation: Teenagers are typically the most irresponsible and egocentric people around, no matter how well you raise them. That said, there are certain things you should know when it comes time to get him/her that first car: DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, GET THEM A FAST CAR! Kids are always tempted to show off their speed, usually completely oblivious to the world around them. The faster the car, the more dangerous that the teenager will be. This especially includes sports cars! Often times, kids in possession of fast cars will speed in excess of 40+ mph over the limit if they can. They will be more prone to cutting people off, blasting through stop signs and traffic lights, and posing a danger to other people. In one grisly case that I really wish I didn't have to share with you, a 4 year old child in my local area was hit by an 18 year old driver who was speeding through a residential street at 115 mph (yes, 115 mph!!) about 6 years ago. Needless to say, the child didn't survive, and the most disturbing part of it was that they only found about 1/4 of the child's body after several days of searching for the remains. Even worse is the fact that most of what they found was in the grill of the speeder's car. Hence, you should know that teens, since they are prone to showing off, will be more likely to get involved in a very high-speed accident, usually resulting in fatalities. If the car goes from 0-60 in less than a minute, that's definitely not good. If it goes 0-60 in 3 and a half minutes, then that's probably a better car for a teen to have. Get them a USED car! Do NOT spring for a new car, since a new car will, of course, be a trophy for the teen to show off. The flashier the car, the more likely the teen will be to show it off to his/her friends. Make sur eyou get them a safe car if you will be buying it used, and know everything you can about the previous owners and get a history of the car before you buy it, so you can know if it was in any accidents. Teens are less likely to show off used cars because they are typically no where near as nice looking, as fast, or as 'high-performance' as a new car. Get them the UGLIEST car you can get! This is more of a matter of choice, but as the same reason above, teens are less likely to want to show off an ugly car. If the teen is embarassed to be driving it and hates you for getting it for them, then you're doing something right. Well, they won't hate you, but if they're embarassed to drive it, then they won't be as likely to show it off. DO NOT get them an SUV! Teens like SUV's, and many SUV accidents involve teen drivers. SUV's are not safe, especially in the hands of a teen driver who may not observe the laws of the road with alot of care. Given the way teens are predisposed to drive, i.e. showing off and speeding, and SUV is very dangerous in the hands of a teen driver. DON'T give in to demands! Don't let your teen pressure you into buying them that new or fast car. Sit down with your child and research but do not let the teen sway you in any one direction. YOU must look out for the safety of your teen and make sure you are getting them a safe car, both for themself and for other people on the road. DO NOT put them on your insurance! It may be costly for the teen, but you shouldn't put him/her on your insurance. If the teen knows that they are covered under YOUR insurance, they are more likely to be irresponsible and have a carefree attitude. Having a car is a privilege, not a right, so the teen should take responsibility by getting a job to pay for their own insurance. Plus, if the teen gets into a serious car accident, then you will receive the brunt of the blame. Having a job will help the teen develop a sense of responsibility and privilege, if they do not already have such ideals. Make them complete Driver's Ed AND Defensive Driving! Do not allow your teen to drive by him/herself until he/she has completed driver's ed and sat through the 6-hour defensive driving course. DO NOT allow them to have friends in the car for a while! Teens are more likely to be distracted by friends being in the car with them, so you should not allow them to have their friends in the car with them until several months after they've been driving steadily. WIthout the distraction of having friends in the car, the teenw will be more likely to pay attention to their surroundings and learn more road responsibility. Not until the child shows considerable driving etiquette and respect for the laws of the road should you allow them to have friends in the car. Despite this, they probably won't listen, but its a rule you should set. Hopefully this helps you!
  • Some very valid points are made about getting a car that is safe, reliable, and economical. I will not repeat the excellent info posted in their answers, nor do I have anything to add. However, there is one obvious (to me) thing that should also be looked for; some responsible behavior on the part of the young driver. When I learned to drive, cars didn't have airbags, ABS, and stuff. There were no SUVs. And, in my price range, I had a choice between small, reliable cars or big, breakdown-prone ones. That meant that if I wanted to drive, I had to shed any delusions of immortality quickly. When I first drove, I wasn't out to impress anybody, and racing was out of the question. The only thing I was worried about was not getting killed by the less attentive drivers in larger and/or faster vehicles I shared the road with. I was paranoid because I knew that if I got stupid, I'd be just a greasy smear on the road and a statistic... if I was lucky! If your child isn't that responsible, doesn't grasp the possible consequences of their actions on the road, and/or has an "It'll never happen to me" attitude, then look at getting them a bicycle.
  • I would say probably an 80's or late 90's car. Reliable and not fast (depending on the driver, as you should know at least an area of how responsible your teen driver is) get them a small car, that gets good gas mileage. Get them a car that is not cosmetically perfect, and unless they are paying for it, get a car that you don't care if its replaced after an accident (as liability alone is 100-150 dollars a month) and would not require full coverage. My first car was a BMW 535is with 239k miles. It handled well, and was fast (they have a 528E model that only has a top speed of 118 miles an hour) one of the best cars would have to be either a 80's BMW 318 (around 1200 dollars) or a late 80's to early 90's toyota sedan (camry or corolla). don't buy them an american car if you can avoid it, as most american cars get worse mileage and break down more. A VW Golf or rabbit is also a good first car. Get a little imput from them into what they want, but realize its probably you paying for it, so you get most of the decision. BMW's are also extremely safe.

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