First of all, thank you for all the fantastic articles. TTAC is one of only a few daily sites I visit that always successfully generates that “second click” to read an entire article, and unlike any of the technology sites I follow, I’m always delighted in reading and learning from the comments section that follows.
That said, are you regretting your call for articles yet? I can only imagine the volume such a request must generate. Just to add to the noise and hopefully gain some insights here’s mine:
In a few months it will become time to purchase a first car for a teenager. In suburban America, not having a car isn’t really much of an option and fife circumstances are such that borrowing the family car regularly isn’t going to work. So while I appreciate the financial benefits of holding off on a car purchase, and we’ll be talking about whether or not he really needs a car once he goes to college, the practical reality is that I’m happy to take the financial hit in order to give him the leg up on being able to get a good after school and summer job.
He’s a good kid, and when probed his wish list is pretty simple…inexpensive to maintain and drive, holds a fair bit of stuff, looks good. I add in “safe”. There’s no shortage of cars that meet those qualifications, but it’s my right as a dad to also want him to have something “cool”. So he’s not getting anything European. He’s also not getting an econo-box snooze fest because, well because I said so.
In my misspent youth, late sixties Mustang’s, Nova’s, Cougars, and GTO’s were all available for $1500. They were big, ran (sorta), were easy to work on, and looked good (ish) in primer. My natural tendency is to steer him towards modern equivalents.
Fortunately the kid has good taste. He’s equally enamored with Element’s and Mustangs. The budget of about $9000 (out the door) actually covers a lot of ground, from an ’06 Mustang v6 to an Element (even if those aren’t often cross-shopped). Most of the sporty imports I’ve seen seem to have had owners intent on thrashing the life out of them as quickly as possible, but I’m pretty open to FWD as a more winter & new-driver friendly car. What say you? Mustang? Element? Escape?
Okay, yes…I want permission to get the kid a Mustang.
You want my permission? This is The Truth About Cars: I’m gonna fight you just because…but with some valid counterpoints!
I don’t really care how good a kid is! Getting a car (in just about any condition) is adequate payment for not being a PITA. Course, I was lucky that the most readily available ride for me was indeed cool (’65 Galaxie LTD Hardtop, Proto Panther Love FTW), but I didn’t need or deserve that icing on the cake.
I only had that car for a year, as my parents wanted me in a safer car. Ya know, because 3-pt belts and a collapsible steering column isn’t a bad idea in the mid-1990s. My point? Just because you want your kid to have something nice doesn’t mean he deserves it. Or can appreciate it.
He deserves an honest machine that won’t cost much to insure and doesn’t encourage accidents. The dirty little secret: any car is cool, the aftermarket and Internet Message Forums make a nerdy car into a sleeper. Or a mediocre car into an easily scalable performance machine.
- Why spend the insurance money on a Mustang?
- Why increase the risk of him–even if he did nothing wrong–injuring others who might want to sue your pants off?
Get a boring sedan with some potential. A 2000-2006 Taurus (quick as a Duratec, safely slow as a Vulcan V6) with readily available hop-up parts from the 1989-1999 Taurus SHO. Or a W-body General Motors sedan with the same parts potential. Or Honda Accord, but not that insurance nightmare(?) known as the Civic Coupe. Or the “it’s already damn near sorted” Mazda 6. These cars are cheap to buy, cheap to own, very easy to respect. And possibly even love.
And if your son hates you for getting him something not nearly as cool as the vehicles of your youth, well, I guess I didn’t appreciate my first cool car nearly enough. So what the heck do I know? Off to you, Best and Brightest.
Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.