Car recomendations for a first time teenage driver

China Bambina is going to learn how to drive and 16th birthday coming this summer. Grandma has taken some of her China stock market winnings and set aside the cash for a new car. (Me, personally, would lean toward used coming off a 3 year lease but whatever).

So, need to narrow the field. There are multiple sites with suggestions but as always also want to hear what the teeming millions think.

It should be safe, on the smaller side, reliable, minimal upkeep, low insurance, last my daughter through high school, university and the first couple years out in the working world. Would like it under $20k out the door but could go higher. We don’t have an all wheel drive in the family, but it snows rarely in Seattle and we almost never go to the snow, so not sure if there is any reason to get a AWD with my daughter needing it rarely if at all.

Honda Civic is a good plan B. Subaru might be good. Thoughts?

Good old volvo 240 series. Cheap. Safe. Runs forever.

I remember an old Click and Clack where they revcommended a manual transmission for a 16 year old girl.

The rationale was there would not be a hand free for a latte or cell phone.

Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla.

We are looking at both of these for MayGirl. Dependable and good safety ratings. They look pretty good, too.

You can cram more stuff into a hatchback for moving to college, so I’m going to say Honda Fit or Mazda 3.

You might want to have a talk with your insurance agent, certainly at least before you make a final decision. Insuring a teenager is a brand-new car is going to be expensive in any event, but some cars are better than others and it’s not always totally obvious which is which.

A Subaru Impreza wouldn’t be a bad choice though. It used to be that Subarus had a pretty big fuel economy disadvantage versus comparable 2WD cars, but it’s a lot less these days (the current Impreza gets 31 MPG combined versus 33 for the similar-sized Civic.) One of the major complaints about them is they’re kinda slow by today’s standards, but that’s not a terrible thing here. They’re also pretty darn good safety-rating wise for a small car. Also at least in places like Seattle with outdoorsy folks, they tend to hold their value about as well as a Honda or Toyota.

I generally agree with Click and Clack’s idea re: a stick shift, but I happen to be in the process of teaching a teenager to drive with only manuals in my fleet and will admit it’s been a little taxing. Maybe it would have been easier if we’d started with a stick, but she drove an automatic a bunch for the school driver’s ed course, so having to start over from scratch when she’s not really all that comfortable driving in general has been kind of rough. I think if I had an automatic at my disposal, I might say I’d let her drive it all through the learner’s permit stage, but make her learn stick once she gets her license.

Honda Civic. The most reliable car I’ve ever owned. I had one that I drove for 10 years. I sold it because my wife can’t drive a manual transmission.

Another vote for the Civic.

Yeah - Honda or Toyota. DEFINITELY not a manual for a new driver in Seattle! :eek:

(Sorry to toss this in unasked, but are you thrilled with the idea of your 16 y.o getting a new car of her own?)

IIRC, they also recommended a tank, or since the U.S. Army probably doesn’t sell surplus, a Volvo.

I’ve also driven a Honda Civic and find them very reliable, but again, a small car isn’t as sturdy as a larger one. (And I didn’t drive until my twenties, long story.)

Tell me about it! I got my license at 29 and the Civic was my first car. It was a learning experience – I must have had the passenger front corner fixed three times because I am a klutz. Any sturdiness it may have had was no match for me. :frowning:

The Corolla never needed any work done on it. I think it was just dumb luck though because my third car, the Impreza hatchback, has already had cosmetic work done at six months. :smack:

First generation Honda Fit would get my vote. Good visibility and a tight turning radius. Don’t spend 20 grand on a car for a 16 year old, it’s going to get destroyed and cheap cars build character.

If you absolutely must get a new car, get a Mazda 2.

I’d also vote for a manual transmission.

Definitely not a manual for Seattle and a first time driver.

Me, I would prefer to get a standard 3 year old car coming off lease. Grandma has never had a car and wants to buy it for her first grandchild. Assuming my daughter doesn’t wreck it, the car will easily last through university and a few years of work. The same is probably true of a decent 2nd hand 2-3 year old vehicle as well.

Just thought of this wrinkle - maybe you could convince grandma to buy you what YOU want, and you can give the kid whatever old boring thing you are driving! :cool:

How is college being paid for? I’d rather have a $10k used car and $10k to put toward school. Depending on where she goes, she may not have much use for a car while she’s at college anyway.

Yes, use the money for her college fund and the insurance and buy her an old banger with big crumple zones. She WILL be involved in an accident. I understand that pick-up trucks are cheap in America, so how about one of those?

And having manual transmission will help make her a better driver. Many if not most drivers in the U.K. learn on cars with manual gearboxes. Over here, if memory serves, if you take the driving test in an automatic, you’re not licensed to drive manual.

It’s not just your daughter but other drivers.

Do spend some time with her watching car crashes on Youtube. Tell her to pay particular attention to how drivers can be completely blindsided, even those not directly involved. She should have something big and safe at least until she develops sufficient situational awareness.

This answer makes me so happy. :slight_smile:

My first car was a black '91 Volvo 240. Great little car, built like a tank. But good luck finding one in decent condition (that the owner is willing to part with ;)).

I’ll second these two. Another low priced choice would be a Chevy Cruz, though there’s no hatchback option for it.

Edit: forgot to mention – I have a Mazda3 sedan and I love it.

I have teenagers driving an ancient Honda Pilot for the last six months. So far, the taillight has been broken (likely by someone doing mindless vandalism at school since there was no other damage or marks on the bumper) and my daughter was rear ended (she stopped for the yellow light, the guy behind her didn’t - and then didn’t stop so hit and run).

And even without collision insurance on it, we are paying a ton for insurance on a car worth $3k.

Try and talk Grandma into the car as a graduation gift if you can and get a decent running beater.

I would recommend, as was said above, a tank or something else built for safety. The Pilot is a tank, the other car they drive is mine - its a Volvo (that has only had its rearview mirror clipped a bit on the garage :)).