Having a car all their own to drive is a dream and a so-called rite of passage for most American teens. It’s also often an issue that causes serious family dissension. Naturally, teens want a car that’s cool, so they can impress their friends and feel great driving it. Parents, on the other hand, worry about their teen’s safety, about other drivers, about – well, pretty much everything once their son or daughter starts driving.
There are numerous lists of best cars for teens. And, as you might imagine, there are pros and cons for all kinds of vehicles. This isn’t that kind of list. Instead, Family Car Guide is devoting this two-part series to the worst cars for teens. It isn’t so much about particular makes and models as it is about what goes into those vehicles, how they operate, and other factors.
Before you consider buying or handing down any vehicle for your teen to drive – or approving a purchase they make using their own money – check out that the vehicle isn’t any of these.
While it may seem counter-intuitive, having a car that’s too new – as in brand-new, never-before driven, first-time model debut – might not be the best vehicle for a teen driver. Why? Yes, the fact that a car hasn’t had any previous owners is a good thing from the standpoint that you know what you’re getting: a new, unused vehicle. But consider that brand-new cars are like magnets attracting a flurry of scrapes and chips and dents and scratches – and not all of them that minor. Why add unnecessary repair or worry to what should be an exciting part of your teen’s life – the opportunity to show how responsible they can be driving wheels all their own?
In addition, when a car has just been debuted from a manufacturer, there isn’t any reliability report available yet. That takes at least one model year to accumulate and is published by various consumer publications and organizations such as Consumer Reports (for new and used cars), J.D. Power and Associates, CarFax (for used cars), and others.
1997 Ford ThunderbirdEnlarge Photo
How can you go wrong buying an older vehicle for your teen to drive? In most cases, buying used is a wise decision. If you do your homework and shop carefully, you can get a reasonably-priced, safe vehicle in good working condition. But be sure you’re not looking at a car that’s more than 10 years old. That’s about the time when things really start to fall apart. In typical parlance, those are the clunkers that should really most likely be off the road for good. While this is not always the case, it is often enough that you don’t want your teen driving a beater.
There’s another area where a too-old car isn’t a good choice for a teen driver. Maybe you own a classic car, say, a 1960s or 1970s sports car, sedan or other highly-collectible car. Muscle cars from the 1980s also fall into this arena. They may be cool, and kept in pristine condition, but they’re anything but a good choice for a teen driver. Number one, they’re likely too valuable – and they’re very costly to insure. Number two, your teen can’t possibly realize the ramifications of driving such a vehicle – it may be too powerful, have mechanical problems, or other quirks that are difficult to get used to.
1997 Geo MetroEnlarge Photo
If someone offers you a car for $100, your natural instinct is that this is too cheap, that it must be a scam, or the car is hot. While this is an exaggeration, the point is that buying a car that’s too cheap is something to be wary of.