By on December 12, 2011

Mackenzie writes:

Hello, my name is Mackenzie. I am a 16 year old girl looking to buy her first car. I am looking at Jeep Cherokees (NOT Grand Cherokees). I am trying to find a decent manual transmission one, but I can’t seem to locate any within a reasonable distance from me (Eastern Virginia). My dad says I should look for a 1999-2001 Cherokee, but the few that I have found that are stick shift usually have pretty high mileage or are out of my budget. As car experts, would you guys recommend an older (94-98ish) Cherokee or a newer one with higher mileage? I keep hearing that American-made cars are not as hardy as foreign-made cars, and that over 180,000 miles for a Cherokee is a no-go. My parents have agreed to pay half of the car, but with what I am finding, it’s still going to be a lot of money to pay. At first I was looking at $3500 tops, but I’m thinking I will have to raise that. Any help or advice yall have on this subject would be greatly appreciated.

 

Sajeev Answers (via Email):

Mackenzie, thank you for writing. I know you want a Cherokee and they are pretty cool, but they are a terrible choice for your money (gas, insurance, other things). A boring little compact car is your best choice, you will have more money for other things, and will be better off in the future. If that sounds good to you, what smaller car would you be interested in?

Mackenzie writes back:

Sajeev, you really think it would be a bad idea to get a Cherokee? My older brother got a 1970 Volkswagen camper van for his first car-that was definitely not a good investment, although it is pretty cool. We also have a ’92 Honda Accord, but it has 296,000 miles on it. If not a Jeep Cherokee, I’m not quite sure what I want to get. I know I definitely want a stick-shift car, and I would really like something with room in it-I am in high school and I am always going to sports practices and transporting other kids around. Any advice you have would (again) be helpful.

Thanks,
Mackenzie

Sajeev Answers:
Consider these three things.

  1. Jeeps are more desirable at this age (like every truck) so they cost more to buy than a sedan of the same age/mileage. Which means you
    get a worse vehicle in terms of reliability and upkeep.
  2. They are more expensive to insure. Call around and compare a Corolla to a Jeep.
  3. They guzzle gas, and that’s not cheap right now.

Do NOT raise your budget. Find a sedan in that price range. I was a drummer in high school and I carried plenty of gear and bandmates in it, the Cherokee has a pretty terrible back seat for carrying anything, too. I know you want a Jeep, but you need to get one later, when you have more money.

Steve concludes:

Mackenzie, I would do two things.

  1. Pool your money a bit. If you have the patience, you’ll likely get a compact SUV that is far better at the $5000 to $7000 level.
  2. Broaden the pool a bit. Cherokees became a bit difficult to get as five-speeds as time went on. Personally, I would opt more towards a five-speed Escape. You get a more modern powertrain along with far better fuel economy and less of a price premium.

I have a 95′ Cherokee on my lot right now that has 269k and is still picture perfect. But if I were 16 again and shopping for that big college car, I would want something that I don’t have to think about as much. Go with an Escape.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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72 Comments on “New or Used: More Cash or More Cool for School?...”


  • avatar
    cgraham

    What about a Hyundai Tuscon? You can get those in 5 speed, they get goodish mileage, are more reliable than the Jeep and have a hatch for hauling things.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Didn’t we do this one already?

    • 0 avatar
      Franken-Subie

      Yup. The same question a few months ago.

      I (still) stand by the fact that a Cherokee isn’t a bad choice for a high school kid, but maybe not in her price range. She at least knows enough to only go for the 5pds. I’ve had a few buddies take 98-01 Cherokees up past 300k with minimal repairs.

      Can you flip ‘em? Yea. Do the suck gas? Yea. In the end, they’re a small capable 4×4 that are pretty reliable with a 5spd and the 242. Those motors are like roaches.

      • 0 avatar

        Its the flipping that is the worst, IMO.

        Even CR gets this right. Don’t let new drivers have SUVs or trucks. Its just bad. They are going to screw up, and instead of just sliding into the ditch in their Accord they are going to roll it into the ditch and things will be much worse.

      • 0 avatar
        JJ

        The engines do lose a bit of powah though, or at least this one did:

        http://www.autoweek.nl/video/2637/op-rollenbank-jeep-cherokee-40i

        For those of you who happen to not speak Dutch this is a feature where they put old cars on a dyno to see what’s left of the original HP and torque figures. The Jeep was one of the biggest losers (lost 41 HP).

        A couple of VAG turbodiesels also didn’t do great, whereas an old Porsche 911, a Volvo and a Renault did surprisingly well.

        All anecdotal evenidence of course but still…

    • 0 avatar

      Really? Oh man.

      Sorry about that, my system for new or used submissions is apparently worse than I thought.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    Why’s Mackenzie calling her friends ‘Kids?’

    • 0 avatar
      JCraig

      I have a 25 year old co worker that refers to his friends as ‘kids’. Not sure when this became cool.

    • 0 avatar
      Signal11

      I think I was doing that right through college and grad school as a just a way to refer to other kids my age.

      I started reading this article and the first thought that occurred to me was that an SUV with a high passenger capacity is the WRONG choice for a 16 year old, PERIOD. If I knew the parents, I’d be trying to talk them out of allowing this decision. I’m glad that I’m not the first or only one saying this.

      Mackenzie, every pistonhead here was 16 at some point in their lives. Mentally, most of us are still 16, Trust us. This is a bad idea.

      Get yourself an old Volvo. It’ll be a cooler car when you get to college.

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    How about a first gen Nissan Xterra? Pretty sure you can get those with manual transmissions.

    The money may have to hiked a bit but the rough and tumble looks seems to be what she’s going for.

    And props to you for sticking with the stick!

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Mackenzie has hit on the key Cherokee problem: the affordable ones are beat to the devil, and the really nice ones are way expensive. Also, 5 speeds were never common to begin with.

    C’mon, Sajeev – Mackenzie threw you a big fat Panther Love pitch and you didn’t even swing at it!. Every kid’s best first car is something with AARP and AAA stickers all over the back bumper. When a car is popular with the older crowd, there are always lots of nice, pampered ones out there and the prices are reasonable.

    I recently recounted my college-age son’s first car over at Curbside Classic – an 89 Grand Marquis. 47K miles, leather, and absolutely pristine, inside and out. Right in Mackenzie’s budget too. However, the best value is in the mid to late 90s versions as opposed to the old boxes like my son bought.

    Don’t go on about gas mileage. The car is big and safe, and the worse it is on gas, the less she will volunteer to be out driving it when she should be home studying. Plus, they are cheap to maintain and insure. If she isn’t into Panthers, a nice old Buick or Oldsmobile with the 3800 V6 is a great alternative.

    • 0 avatar

      JP,

      Thanks for my first great laugh of the week!

      Sajeev, did you stay up too late last night?

      Mackensie: Toyota or Honda sedan. Less money to own, more miles. Or listen to Steve.

      And kudos for even being able to drive a stick.

  • avatar
    Turkina

    “I would really like something with room in it-I am in high school and I am always going to sports practices and transporting other kids around.”

    Are you really volunteering yourself for taxi service? You’ll find all sorts of new friends who seem to have empty wallets when it comes time to fill the gas tank. Remember, the car is for you, not your less-mobile friends. I’d suggest getting a little SUV that has a bit more modern technology and fuel efficiency.

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      Even in law school, I used to have to taxi four other guys around in my freaking Honda Prelude. When you’re from New England and it snows in Lawrence Kansas, they make you drive.

      The point is you can fit 3-4 young people in damned near anything, especially for the short drives you’ll be making. Get a small 4 door, 4 cyl sedan with lots of airbags.

  • avatar
    johnhowington

    i am *not* a fan of the cherokee as a DD for multiple reasons:

    rust on the unibody
    terrible gas mileage
    safety (lack of)
    constant idle/electrical/vacuum issues

    I’m sure its great as a project that sits in the driveway for a couple years while being revived back to its former glory, but as a DD, NO THANK YOU.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Mackenzie,

    Why do you want to enter the indentured servitude of car ownership?

    Regards,
    AGrinchWhoIsAlsoAFatherOfFour

    PS: If you absolutely must, Sajeev’s original advice about a compact car is exactly right. Cool is for when you’re financially secure. Works cheap is for everybody else. Your excess cash (if any) should be going into your education or assets that may grow.

    PPS: Sixteen-year-olds should not be transporting the rest of the team around. That is a job for the school bus. The IQ of a carload of teenagers is the nth root of the sum of their IQs where N is the number of teens in the car. Sorry to be blunt, even abrasive, but that’s the way it is.

    PPPS: If your parents want you to get a car because it has become inconvenient to truck you around, you should have gotten better parents. And/or get a job closer to home.

    PPPPS: We did the math, by the way, and a job isn’t worth much to a college-bound kid if it costs grades and it’s totally worthless if most of the money ends up buying, feeding and caring for the car. Drone-dom can be a very good thing. Some colleges bump your financial aid for certain extra-curriculars.

    PPPPPS: And if you absolutely must do the SUV-thing, consider a ten-year-old Kia Sportage. Check CR first (you’ll need to go back to the 2006 or 2007 editions to find ratings for the 2000-2002 models) but the last time I looked they could be had pretty cheap.

    • 0 avatar
      Feds

      Love it. Especially PPS. After reconsidering my post below… if this were a car for MY 16 year old daughter, it would be a Suzuki X-90. With the passenger seat removed. And the empty space filled with razor wire.

      Tracker would then also be acceptable, but that’s a lot more razor wire.

    • 0 avatar

      Mackensie,

      Elaborating on KixStart’s advice (and he’s one of the wiser heads around here), have you considered using a bicycle for basic transportation? I did so for all of my transportation into my early 30s (in Berkeley, then Washington, DC), and for much of it until I was about 40). I probably spent less than 100$ a year (did my own maintenance). It kept me fit. I rode a bicycle across the country after I graduated from college. If you do get a bicycle, get a good helmet (Bell bicycle helmets are good). Pull the strap tight, or it won’t help you if you crash (a lot of people these days wear their helmets way too loose. Wear bright clothes when cycling so you are more visible to cars. If you ride at night, wear lights, and a white shirt over whatever you happen to be wearing, for better visibility.

  • avatar
    Feds

    My love affair with my MPV has become so complete, I am about to recommend a minivan to a 16 year old girl…

    First generation MPV, post refresh (96-98) so you get 4 doors. Spring for the 4×4 if you want to, and learn to love the valvetrain noise.

    Sure, they’re not particularly good dynamically (and you won’t get a 5-speed), but they are comfortable as a living room, and the 4×4 will get you anywhere you really should be going. Plus: box on wheels, lots of room for friends, fix with a hammer, etc.

    http://norfolk.craigslist.org/cto/2703348252.html

    (admittedly, the two-tone sucks. Find a darker colour, or white out the lower half. Or be less fickle.)

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      We have a ’98 that we bought in 2001 when they were coming off of leases. Ours is an ES (leather, dual a/c and heat, moonroof, 4 captain’s chairs) with the 4×4 and “All-Sport” package (alloy wheels and fender flares like in the photo above). We also have the towing package (tranny cooler, automatic rear load leveling air springs, rated to tow 5k). It’s a unibody design with a coil sprung solid axle in the back and a reasonably beefy independent setup up front. Part time 4wd with a central locking diff that allows you to use it on dry pavement (useful on windswept winder roads). No low range.

      Curb weight of 4100lbs is way too much for the 155hp V6 to handle (170ft lb torque) if it weren’t for the short-ish gearing, it moves off the line just fine, but uphill grades are a bear unless you wind it out, at which point gas mileage plummets. Speaking of which, it gets about 15ish around town and 19-21 on the highway at speeds of 70-75mph with E10 gas. Back in the day it consistently got 21-22 on road trips, even with the A/C on. Worse than most minivans, on par with midsize SUVs. It’s also not as roomy as an extended minivan, but as roomy as any fullsize SUV (third row is livable for 3 people although legroom is marginal if tall people are sitting in the second row).

      With close to 140k on the clock (110k of which are ours), ours has been reliable for the most part, but we do perform preventative maintenance. It has a timing belt that needs to be changed every 60k, we did it ourselves at 118k, and it wasn’t too big of a job. The engine bay is roomy compared to just about any modern car, all plugs are easy to access (longitudinal engine). Besides preventative maintenance, here’s a list of things that have been replaced:

      1 Lower balljoint, CV axle boots, unstuck one rear caliper by smoothing out the slave cylinder bore, repaired coolant leak from rear heater tubes (exposed to elements), repaired refrigerant leak from rear a/c tubing (again, aluminum was exposed to salt and corroded) repaired leak in air suspension system near pump, upgraded to the beefier non-tow pack rear springs to compensate for somewhat leaking rear air shocks. We fixed several oil leaks in the engine: we’ve replaced the valve cover gaskets and a few other oil seals in the vicinity that gotten brittle with age and heat. We also replaced the hydraulic lash adjusters to cure an annoying tapping that comes and goes. It seemed to help, but there is still a slight roughness to the idle. Currently it needs a rear driveshaft u-joint. Rust is beginning to rear its ugly head, I’ve had to cut and weld new metal into the front fender bottoms and parts of the rocker panels, the rear quarter panel fender lips are starting to bubble as well, I’ve had to sand and paint these. I sprayed the bottom of the car down with used motor oil, we’ll see how well that works at inhibiting further rust.

      With snow tires, it will barrel through a foot of snow like nobody’s business. With the leveling shocks, I’ve hauled 5 people, 5 30 racks of beer, camping equipment, and a canoe, and the car didn’t complain, and got 18mpg. Haven’t done much severe offroading in it, it’s mainly a people hauler after all, but there’s a solid 8 inches of ground clearance, and not many vulnerable components that are exposed, the gas tank is protected by a sheet of steel.
      Overall a solid car, but much more SUV-like than van, both in a positive and negative sense.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        I should mention that I’m 22 years old, and hauling friends around is exactly what this car excels at. Now, I think if I was 16, driving around that many other 16 year olds would be a bad idea in terms of concentrating on the road. The fellow interns I drove around this summer (19-22 years old) were rowdy enough on our way to Chigaco and the Michigan sand dunes. It’s nice to just take one car on a road trip with friends, especially one with captains chairs where everyone can chat it up and enjoy the ride. As the driver, I’m not much of a talker, I find it to be just as distracting as talking on the phone.

  • avatar
    Jesse

    Volvo 240 wagon with a 5-speed manual! Preferably a 90-93.

    Decent gas mileage, easy to repair (lots of advice on the webs), reliable, and capable of carrying a lot, cheaper than $3500.

    5-speeds aren’t the easiest to find, but they are out there.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    “Hello, my name is Mackenzie. I am a 16 year old girl looking to buy her first car.” Sounds like an intro for a story better assigned to Baruth…..jus’ sayin’!

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    The stats on 16 year olds who contract to carry their friends around are awful. I’ve been driving accident-free for over 35 years and I still drive much worse with company in the car chattering away, especially at me. Please find an medium sized car with good crash ratings and decent mileage and lots of air-bags and let most of your friends find their own way to wherever they need to go. That way you’ll be more likely to be around to enjoy a Jeep when you can actually afford one.

  • avatar
    david42

    Though my 18-year-old self would hate me for giving this advice, I still have to say it: College kids shouldn’t have cool cars. Almost universally, cool cars are expensive, either to buy or maintain. They should be the privilege of people with paychecks. (Feel free to ignore these comments if you’re a college kid with a sufficient paycheck. Still, unless you’re a genius, you should be working less and studying more. It’s a better investment than plowing time/money into a car.)

    Civic, Camry, Taurus… just find one at a good price and with a good maintenance history. The time/money you save is better spent hanging out with friends and/or getting better grades.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    Mackenzie must be attending the redundancy school of redundancy.

    Either that Sajeev is. Either that Sajeev is.

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    Jeeps are great, but at your age and price point you’re better off spending the $3500 on a late 1990s Saturn SL (or SW wagon). There are plenty of Saturns at that price under or around 100,000 miles. The key is finding one that has been cared for. Cheap to fix, run and insure, unlike the Cherokee.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    I can’t think of a worse choice for a 16 year old. Unless you need to hook something to the back of it on a fairly regular basis you have no business owning a truck. Find a car.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    While I agree it’s not the most sensible, she’s a young car enthusiast in a not too communist country and sounds more responsible than most. Even though the money thing may be an issue, I say go for it. At 16, I wanted a ’79 or newer 5.0 Mustang. Problem was this was 1985 and needed at least $4K for a decent one. Solution? Found a crashed ’79 with 80k mi. at a ‘rebuildable wreck’ lot for $800 that drove straight. OK, had the car I wanted but the lowest bodyshop estimate was $3K… Went back to the same ‘lot’ and they had another ’79 Mustang but was a 4cyl that was T-boned. It cost me $600 but had the front clip, misc I needed and my auto shop teacher welded on the ‘new’ core support. Total cost with paint was about $1600.

  • avatar
    B-Rad

    I don’t normally read these columns but was doubly interested in this one because of Cherokees and Eastern Virginia. I’m looking for, basically, the same exact thing Mackenzie is and have kept my eyes on craigslist for more than a year. I haven’t been super-diligent (I’m still in college and already have two vehicles so there are money/time factors at play) but I have yet to see a good option from 1999-2001 with a manual, 4drs, and 4WD in the Hampton Roads area.

  • avatar
    jlight

    First generation CRV, better space than the jeep,a lot less gas, looks cool and she cant get in to much trouble with 127hp.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    The newest lowest mileage version of Grandpa’s Town Car you can afford. Then you’ll learn about RWD handling too.

  • avatar
    Steve65

    Nobody seems to have suggested a first or second generation CRV. Gotta be more practical than any conventional 4×4. I have no idea how common they are in that area, but I found this one…

    http://norfolk.craigslist.org/cto/2699086402.html

  • avatar
    fred schumacher

    16 year-olds should not be hauling other kids around. I seem to remember that the accident rate for a 16 year-old with a group of peers in the car is about 20 times the national average. Drive alone until at least the age of 18. Stay focused, don’t get distracted by loud music, stay safe.

    For staying safe in a reliable vehicle that won’t cost much, the best recommendation in my mind is a minivan. They’re the safest cars next to luxury sedans, you won’t be tempted to hot rod them, because you’ll look like a fool to your peers. They’re reliable, and when you go to college, they’ll easily haul all your stuff.

    If you get really lucky, you can find a 1993 Dodge Caravan with 2.5 liter and 5-speed manual. I had one and I averaged 29 mpg in it overall and 33 on the highway. It handles like a car and will go through deep snow and down logging roads, if that’s what you’re into.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    I agree with most of the above posters.
    I sold my 97 Cherokee to a 16 yr old girl and had pangs of conscience for years. Since the deal was totally vetted by her father, I decided to do it since they offered my asking price.

    Lousy fuel econ (never saw > 17, usually 15s).
    Questionable on road vehicle dynamics.
    1980s crash performance.
    Not many with ABS. I imagine ABS/manual trans is as rare as a Volt.

    Having said that, a Cherokee is a fine machine for the right usage. This isn’t one.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    I agree with Steve – 5-speed Ford Escape. For less money, how about a 5-speed Saturn Vue? The way I understand it, it was the CVT that was the problem in those cars. A 3800-equipped Buick LeSabre would get the same MPG as a compact SUV, but would probably be faster, cheaper and safer.

    I have a 16 year-old daughter, and I wouldn’t let her near a 90′s Jeep Cherokee. They aren’t that safe, and – not that I don’t trust her driving ability, I don’t trust her driving ability, or anyone else’s for that matter.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    A 10-15 year-old Accord or Civic sedan from the original owner, with all maintenance history.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The last place where I’d put a teen driver behind the wheel is something like this. The parents really aren’t thinking this one through.

    Buy a boring Buick sedan or Ford Taurus that was owned by a senior who drove it rarely but who made the effort to maintain it. Their dullness is a plus in this case, and they have adequate crush space without the rollover risk of a used SUV. And don’t make a habit of hauling your friends around, that’s just a recipe for an accident.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Exactly. A car like a Buick or a Taurus has a very steep depreciation curve. You can get a much newer and better condition car like this than you could ever get in an Accord. Any difference in reliability will be more than offset in the much newer/lower mileage of the depreciation machine. Not to mention they can last a long time, too. And they are much safer for a new driver. And should the g-force bug bite, there are plenty of first gen SHO parts available…

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Theres plenty of cheap wagons and hatches that’ll fit the bill of an SUV without sucking gas or rolling over, grab one of those.

    And before anyone says “wagons aren’t sporty” I should note that SUVs aren’t exactly sporty either.

  • avatar

    Unless you plan to offroad the thing I’d pass on a Cherokee. I’ve owned a couple and to be frank they are a bit crap. 5spds are pricey too. Good for an offroad beater but as a daily pavement driver? No thanks. Maybe not as cool but I’d go for a small hatchback in 5spd form – much more fun to drive.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Doing a check of what is available in the East VA area, it looks like the best bets in your price range lean towards Focuses, Saabs, PT Cruisers, Elantra GTs, and Protege5s.

    There are also a huge number of regular cab, base engine, manual transmission pickup trucks available. However, those will limit your passenger-carrying abilities.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    Get a stationwagon. Mazda6, Camry, or Focus, something like that. Much better gas mileage, real room (have you ever tried to get three dudes and their camping gear in a Cherokee? I have, wagons are way better). A Focus Wagon with a stick is very fun car with a decent enthusiast community and it’s dirt cheap.

  • avatar
    MrIncognito

    I would try to find a Subaru. Shouldn’t be too hard to find an impreza or legacy hatch/wagon with a 5-speed in that general price range. AWD for the snow, room for stuff in the back, and will actually be easy to keep on the road and upright (unlike the Jeep).

  • avatar
    Grumpy

    Mackenzie,

    As you may have gathered, there is considerable interest on this site that you not only enjoy your first car, but much more importantly survive it.

    To that end, let me introduce you to a different way to judge cars. First learn to ask what the price/pound is for any car you are interested in. Ask the salesman how much per pound. After he stops laughing tell him you are dead serious. That means he will have to look up the weight of the car–they never know the number especially for used cars. Of course you will have already checked the weight at Cars.com or MSN.com and you will learn about the veracity of your salesman depending on his/her answer. You want one that shows an interest in helping you. Generally, just like buying steak, you want the lowest price/pound where the condition of the vehicle is similar to the others you are looking at.

    The second value you want with an older car, is the weight of the car divided by the height. This will give you the Basal Mass Index, which is very similar to the human equivalent of Basal Metabolic Index except that a good number for humans is a low BMI, but the best number for your first car is always the highest value of the cars you are considering. The reason for the difference is that humans tend to last longer if they are long and slim, but humans in cars last longer if the car is squat and heavy.

    In your price bracket, the cars will be quite old and they are all relatively unsafe in any collision, but you have the best chance if your car is more dense and built low to the ground (high BMI). That makes it is much less likely to roll over, which in an old vehicle is the worst of all wrecks because the roof will usually crush down to the door sills and may crush everybody inside. Or if you or your friends forget to buckle up in your excitement to get to the school dance without getting your duds messed by the old belts, and your car rolls over, you may be tossed out which sounds safer, but is in fact the worst of the worst. If the car as it rolls, doesn’t land on the half of you that is on its way out the window, you will be thrown a long long way by the centripetal force and the high speed landing or impact will likely cause a major hurt. Of course, unfortunately, most commonly you get both, you get crushed by the car first and then whats left of you gets thrown out a long distance.

    There is one bit of information that tow truck drivers that see lots of rollovers will share–the older imports crush down much more than the older domestics, i.e. the domestics must have generally had stronger roofs. I doubt that would be the case with newer cars, as the good news is that roof strength has dramatically increased in newer cars ( by regulation because there are so many dead people around cars that roll over ).
    So if we can keep you from rolling over in your first older car, things will get better when you get a newer car.

    So if you apply this technique you will find that a Sherman tank will top your list and I do believe that some of the early ones might have been standards. If there are no Sherman’s available in your area, then your next best would likely be ( as many folks have already suggested ) a real nice heavy, older sedan with not too many miles, very good brakes and tires, and nice comfy seats. just make sure the numbers above are good.

    Oh and one more thing….no convertibles allowed.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      “you have the best chance if your car is more dense and built low to the ground (high BMI).”

      Buick Roadmaster Estate FTW!

    • 0 avatar

      GRumpy,

      Two quibbles with your otherwise very informative post

      1. You mean “body mass index,” not “basal mass index” (you must have been thinking of basal metabolic rate).

      2. A heavier vehicle does not have an advantage over a lighter vehicle in a crash into a stationary object. What counts in such a crash is crush space (the amount of space between the front of the car and the cockpit) and how that crush space is engineered. My recollection is that pickup trucks and big SUVs don’t have to have it engineered to crush nicely in such a collision, which means that the impact of the collision will not be absorbed by the vehicle, but by the driver. So, don’t get a big SUV or a pickup. Vehicle weight is only an advantage in a collision with another vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      Grumpy, instead of posting such a long page of uneducated guess, why not just refer to the published death rate?

      Toyota Sienna FTW!

  • avatar
    MBella

    A Subaru wagon fit’s the bill perfectly. Here is a 2001 Outback with a manual in Richmond VA, asking $3495
    http://richmond.craigslist.org/ctd/2749266348.html
    You can likely find a lower mileage one for not much more if you do some searching.

  • avatar

    Jeep Liberty manual? That might do the trick if you need a Jeep.
    I agree with Steve about the Escape as well.
    Another pick..Ford Ranger.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Another vote for a Ranger, 5 spds are quite common and they are cheap.

  • avatar
    Nick

    I was thinking getting something really small to avoid being the designated driver all the time.

    However, if you want something a bit roomier, a Protege5…if you keep your eyes peeled you should be able to find one with reasonably mileage at your price point.

    Oh, and when you get to college, don’t trust the boys.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      My best friend had a 1978 or 1979 Impala wagon with a 350 V8. Everyone in our circle of friends loved it except him. With three rows of seats, he was called on to drive a hoard of drunken teenagers around every weekend. He was the only one that was thrilled when he replaced it with a GLC sedan.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    How about a 1997-2002 Subaru Forester? It should be in your price range, and they last forever.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I was a teenager when these Cherokees were new cars. I knew three teenagers who had Cherokees. I don’t believe any of them were ever injured in a wreck, and two of the drivers were young men. One of them actually had the Wagoneer version with a GM V6. It was too slow to get into much trouble with, and it supposedly had the ability to run in AWD on dry pavement. The reality was that the Selectrac lever did nothing. It was RWD all the time, as we discovered when it snowed. Another one of the teenagers was what some might consider spoiled. He got a new Cherokee every year, loaded and with the best drivetrain each time. He didn’t race around in it though, his parental budget also allowing him to road race Yamaha FZRs and drive a 928S when he didn’t need the Cherokee’s room. Perhaps racing motorcycles taught him valuable lessons about driving responsibly, but I don’t recall him doing any of the dumb stuff involving cars that many of us were, even in his sports car for that matter. The third Cherokee driver was a girl I dated. She had one accident with it, but that involved it rolling down a hill while parked with a non-functioning parking brake and a gearbox that didn’t hold. It also stranded her almost as often as her Saabs did. Except for the ones that belonged to the kid that got a new one every year, the main problem with the Cherokees was their lack of reliability. Considering the oldest ones were 4 years old at the time, I shudder to think what they’re like in daily driver use today.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    I always thought a Gen 1 Miata would be a great car for a teenager. Yeah, if you get hit by a Hummer you won’t be happy but they handle well, are dead-on reliable, fuel efficient, and will lead to a life-long appreciation of fun little sports cars. Plus, they are cheap to buy and insure and with only two seats you won’t have to drive all of your friends around and can’t take more than one person with you, which in my book is a big plus. You can always add a roll bar if you are paranoid about flipping one over, but they are so low to the ground it would be pretty difficult to do so.

    Along the two-seater lines, I like the idea of a Ford Ranger… I used to have an S10 pickup with a 5-speed. I never topped 20 mpg, but it was roomy for two inside and hauled all of my stuff around. The downside is that you’ll end up helping all of your friends move their stuff for college… another plus to the Miata.

    My first car was a 1978 Buick Electra Wagon which was a hand-me-down from my parents which I shared with my twin sister. My parents reasoned that it was heavy and safe. However, in Michigan in the winter it was immobile even with sand bags in the rear for weight. It didn’t help that the tires were bald. I swear I once had 11 friends in that car going to school, which gives me shivers now that I’m a dad. If I was lucky I would get 8 mpg given the three-speed auto and 4-barrel 350 V8. It also had so much frame and body rust (it was an 8-year-old Buick in Detroit and they all rusted through by that point) that it likely would have disintegrated in any accident.

    Oh yeah, there are things that one can do in a Buick wagon that would be nearly impossible in a Miata unless you were a contortionist. As a father, one more plus to the little Mazda.

  • avatar
    kkt

    So Sajeev, if you’re going to post repeat questions, how about following up with Mackenzie and asking what she bought and how she likes it?

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      Mackenzie already wrote in the last time and gave us the story of what she bought… IIRC her and her dad flew down to Ft. Lauderdale and bought a cherry high mileage Cherokee off a retiree who had babied it for its entire life. And I think she got it under her original budget too. She wrote a nice clear and concise answer to all the original comments, which is why I remembered… she sounds like she had a good head on her shoulders, nice change from the typical teen!

  • avatar
    mopar4wd

    Well could be worse (I answered in the last one that I thought the XJ would be fine)

    Could be worse here is what my friends drove in high school
    93 Dodge Stealth RT twin turbo
    79 Ford f100 6 inch lift flatbed painted General Lee orange
    83 F350 flatbed 400 v8 4 speed
    89 F250 6 inch lift cut fenders 42″ tires
    Brand new F350 power stroke (this was around 1998)
    90 f150 302 5 speed
    3 different variations of 300 six f150′s
    88 Dodge Ramcharger (my ride)
    Ford Contour SVT
    Lifted first gen 4-runner
    Lifted 94 Ram
    88 v6 Camaro
    1993 mitsu eclipse GSX turbo
    Plymouth laser turbo
    Various Ford Rangers
    And believe it or not this was in a CT suburb

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      Must be Manchester. My friend Pete had a ’65 Thunderbird with a 390. But he also drove his Mom’s 340 Javelin. Great burnout car. I drove our ’77 Cougar XR7 or our ’80 Accord. Several people had very fast cars though. 396 Chevelles, GTOs, a 70 Cuda with a 340 etc. My friend Andrew had the perfect car (in hindsight), an ugly brown Buick Century with bad lifters. You could hear it half a mile away. Couldn’t spin the rears even in the sand.

  • avatar
    Firestorm 500

    It’s a Jeep. You all wouldn’t understand.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    My family owned the very first model of this generation of Cherokee/Wagoneers (1984) with a 5-speed and the 2.5 liter 4-cylinder (no longer available)for 8 years. With that engine, the car got about 24 mpg on the highway at about 60 mph (the 55 speed limit was still in place)and about 18 around town. The optional engine was a GM sourced 2.8 liter V-6. At some point, both engines were dropped and replaced with a 4 liter OHV, fuel-injected 6-cylinder. That engine was more powerful than either, but much more thirsty.

    My bigger objection to this car was its rather vicious handling characteristics. With its ox-cart suspension (solid axles front and rear), trying to hustle around a curve got real intersting if the road wasn’t perfectly smooth . . . not recommended for an inexperienced driver.

    If you want to haul a bunch of people and their stuff, then buy a used minivan — subject to the comments of others hear about the dangers of you and 6 of your best friends going somewhere together.

  • avatar
    bus-man1

    Simple, Volvo 240 wagon. Hard to kill, easy to fix and in time you will appreciate the style.

  • avatar
    bobby b

    Anyone considering a used Jeep is strongly – very strongly – urged to go to YouTube and type in “jeep death shudder” and watch some of the videos.

    And remember that, if they got videos of it, they survived it – meaning you won’t see videos of the really severe cases of the shudder.

    Ever push a grocery cart with a bent front wheel which causes the wheel to start vibrating rapidly back and forth, enough so that the wheel feels as if strong braking pressure is being applied?

    Imagine that feeling coming from both front wheels. At 65 mph. Suddenly and unexpectedly. On a curve. Next to a speeding logging truck.

    It’s a more common problem than you might think. Given that it causes near-total loss of control, it amazes me that the manufacturer would never touch the problem at all – in fact, IIRC, they mostly denied any issue. No surprise, I guess, as the fix involves replacing nearly every piece of steering linkage and suspension connection in the front end.

  • avatar
    DHS

    If she likes the Jeep and has driven one and is comfortable with it, then she should get it. Go for a 90′s model for the 4.0HO engine, take good care of it, drive responsibly, and the car will last forever. I’ve seen plenty of 4.0L and 4.2L Jeeps at 250k running just fine. My sister is 17 and drives a Grand Wagoneer on mud tires, and she’s hasn’t rolled into any ditches or anything stupid. She carries equipment for her cross country team and NJROTC in it too. I know if some idiot hits her she’ll be safer, and she won’t slide off the road in the rain or snow.

  • avatar

    I recently had an older 1989 Cherokee Laredo that I paid 75$, at this price, it was ugly, needed some work and it didn’t have a manual transmission! I did some work on it and I have driven it daily for more than 2 years. When I decided to get rid of it (it had some floor cancer, oil leaks, had an occasional “death wobble” with the 100% stock suspension and small tires which I tried to fix with more or less success and I had just too many vehicles to justify keeping it). I decided to sell it. I got 1000$ for it (but even with an extra 25,000 miles, it was in nicer shape than when I got it). If I had not done any work by myself on it, it wouldn’t have been a good choice but it turned out to be an inexpensive daily driver. Still not as inexpensive as a Corolla however!

    I had another 1988 Cherokee Limited that I got for parts a few years ago but I never took any part from it and sold my other Jeep! In fact, I did (very unwisely) spend some money on the parts Jeep just to keep it running and I didn’t drive it at all! I finally gave it to someone I know who had just scrapped his ’95 Mazda pickup and asked if I could sell him the Jeep as he needed a vehicle. I told him I didn’t think it was a good thing for him to get that but he insisted and I finally gave it to him. I’m surprised that he’s still able to drive it a few months later because it’s in bad shape and I know he can’t afford to fix it!

    If you don’t care too much about spending some time and money, and if you think you’ll have some help repairing it and spending 500$ on repairs every few months doesn’t scare you, I say go for it! It’s not a wise financial decision but some people spend way too much money on their dress, expensive new cars, vacation, others spend a lot on alcohol/drugs, others keep replacing their computers, TV sets and buy every new gadget… And those with very low income can’t spend on anything but basics so they can survive.

    Last year, someone offered me a 1997 Cherokee Sport for 500$ but I didn’t buy it. It had a small front end collision and needed a new grille, had some rust in the rocker panels and floors, it’s transfer case was noisy and it had a few other issues (like the automatic transmission overflowing occasionally on hot days, probably due to a faulty transmission cooler in the newly replaced rad). I remember it also had a broken flasher switch and the flashers wouldn’t stay on. All this was too much for me (I wouldn’t drive it without fixing these things!) so I didn’t buy it. I still see it on the road one year later and it has been left as it was when I saw it. I wouldn’t want it in this condition but apparently, others do!

  • avatar
    theninja2k

    A Jeep Cherokee with an inline 6 is virtually unstoppable. I have owned my current (91) for almost 10 years. I bought it as a get me through for a year until I could get something better, with 232k on the clock. It now has 296k. Yes, I’ve had to do a little work, like starter, alternator, etc. However, I would drive it anywhere. Tomorrow. No hesitation. Its the one vehicle in my life that has been not only a constant, but very dependable. My son is going to turn 16 in 3 years. He will get it as his first car. Its a shame really, because I’ve always wanted to see just how long and how many miles it will go. I suspect it’s death will happen in his hands, but I also have little doubt that it will save his life, and ALWAYS get him to where he wants to go.
    Bottom line – parts are cheap, its the easiest thing I’ve owned to work on, and it is absolutely the most reliable vehicle I have ever owned…


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