By on January 28, 2016

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Ask Bark? is picking up steam like a train on the island of Sodor, man! Thanks for all of your questions after last week’s installment, as well as the great advice you gave our friend, Josh.

However, be warned — Bark will not be punked like the author of “Ask Amy” was this week. Don’t write in with any questions about buying a Saab convertible, okay? I’m not gonna fall for it.

Now, on to this week’s question from youthful reader Greg:

Hi Bark,

I’m about to turn 16 and will be looking for a car soon. Being a car guy, I’ve been looking at sportier cars that won’t break the bank. My total spending budget is about $11,000.

So far I was thinking about getting one of the following:

– 2003-2008 Mustang GT
– 2002-2011 Subaru WRX
– 1990s Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4
– 2002-2008 Audi A4 Quattro
– 2003-2008 Nissan 350Z

My first instinct was to go for the Subaru WRX, because I like Japanese cars and Subaru is one of my favorite brands. Subaru’s all-wheel drive is also great for snowy Michigan roads. However, the problem I encounter is the high mileage in these WRXs. Most of the Subarus I look at are either rebuilt, or have 150,000+ miles. Then I look at Mustang GTs, which have relatively low miles, but are rear-wheel drive. The Mitsubishi and Audi A4 have the same problem as the Subaru, and the 350Z is great except it has the same rear-wheel drive problem as the Mustang.

So I ask you this: with snowy Michigan roads and my budget of roughly $11,000, what sporty first cars would you recommend that don’t have super high miles?

Thanks!

-Greg

Greg, let me start out by saying this: Thanks for being a great kid. Your desire for a JDM YO! car or a red-blooded V-8 Mustang restores my faith in the youth of today. When I was your age, I wanted nothing more than a Jetta III GL for my 16th birthday — which I ultimately got. My poor father spent $199/month leasing that car for me, which I promptly burned the front tires off of in less than 10,000 miles. We’ll come back to that in a bit.

Now, as far as your question goes, well, I wish that I had good news for you. I don’t know what your technical proficiency is, but it’s going to have to be somewhere in the neighborhood of “ASE Master Technician” to keep most of the cars on your list running. There are some members of the B&B who will, undoubtedly, say that it’s a great thing for a kid your age to learn how to work on his own car. There’s wisdom in that, for sure.

The real question though: How much is your time worth? When I was your age, I wouldn’t have been able to spend a single fucking (sorry, forgot I was speaking to a teenager) moment on messing around with a broken car. I had football practice, band practice, study groups, conditioning drills, plus I sat faithfully by my pager (yeah, I said pager GOLDFLEX 4 LYFE) waiting for any indication that somebody’s parents were out of the house long enough to create an ad hoc party. Any down time would have meant either missing a social event or a team practice; unacceptable.

So, you need a car that meets three important criteria:

  1. Cool enough for you to enjoy driving.
  2. Maybe attracts a girl or two.
  3. Runs reliably through Michigan winters. I’m in Grand Rapids as we speak, and I can confirm that winter is no joke up here.

Let’s deconstruct your list and come up with the best option:

2003-2008 Nissan 350ZAre you just taunting me here?  Dude. No. There are simply better options out there for you in 2015. This isn’t 2006, and you aren’t Han. You will have a hell of a time finding an unmolested 350Z (GREDDY YO) that doesn’t have a gazillion miles on it. Also, you don’t want a car with only two seats when you’re 16. What are you going to do when Amber, Madisyn, and Kayleigh all need a ride home after school?

2002-2008 Audi A4 Quattro: Again, no. Expensive to own, expensive to fix. A search for “B6 A4 known issues” will bring you to instant tears. A decent B7 example will eat up your entire budget. And when something breaks, you’ll be working many extra hours at your part-time gig — which, of course, you now won’t be able to get to.

1990s Mitsubishi 3000 GT VR-4: I loved these cars when I was your age, and they have started to become more and more popular on the market as people realize that the amount of money being asked for comparable RX-7s and Supras is freaking crazy. Clean, low mileage examples of the VR-4 are commanding in excess of $25,000, so the kind of car you’re going to get for $11,000 isn’t likely to meet our third criterion. I can’t recommend this car in good conscience to you, even though I really, really want to.

2002-2011 Subaru WRX: Again, difficult to find one in your price range that doesn’t have the word “COBB!!!” in the description somewhere, doesn’t appear to be a ticking head gasket timebomb, or have more miles than Jenna Jameson.

2003-2008 Mustang GT: I like this idea, and I like it for a lot of reasons. First of all, I obviously love Mustangs. Secondly, there is no shortage of how-to videos, guides and forum posts on the internet for fixing anything that goes wrong with this generation of ‘Stang — as well as posts from people who can tell you how to get insane power out of the holy Ford 4.6 V-8. Lastly, it’s probably the most reliable car on your list. For maximum chick-magnet status, try to go 2005 or newer. The fifth-generation Mustang looks enough like the newest car for young women to not really know the difference, and a GT will definitely sound the business.

About your rear-wheel-drive concerns: I was taken to task a bit by a commenter last week for suggesting that rear-wheel drive and winter climes are not compatible. He was mostly right. A good set of Blizzaks make rear drivers completely manageable in the snow. In fact, I have gone so far as to put Blizzaks on my front-wheel-drive FiST, because FWD/AWD doesn’t automatically mean “good in the snow” any more than rear-wheel drive means “bad in the snow.”  When it comes to winter driving, the ability to stop is much more important than the ability to go. Blizzaks (or the winter tire of your choice) are a must for any car in Michigan winters.

Now, let me say this: You’re sixteen, and this is going to be your first car. You’re going to love driving whatever you have, because you’re going to have a big, beautiful world of freedom opened up to you that has thus far been a locked door. Remember how I said I burned the front tires off of my Jetta? That thing was an 11 second car. No, not an 11 second quarter-mile car; 11 seconds from zero-to-sixty. And yet I still drove the hell out of it every day. Your first car doesn’t have to be a speed machine. It should be big enough to keep you safe when you hit something, and you should be able to cart around a few friends. I have more great memories of the unbelievably stupid things that my friends and I did in that car than I could relate to you in a hundred such posts. You’ll have more fun driving a little slower with your buds than you will driving fast all by yourself.

Also, don’t forget that you’re gonna have to insure the thing. Insurance agencies aren’t huge fans of most the cars you listed for younger drivers, so your rates aren’t going to be all that awesome. Keeping that in mind, let me make a few more suggestions to you for cars that will be safe, cheaper to insure, and still fun to drive.

Since you said you like Japanese cars, other options could include this Acura TSX, or perhaps this Infiniti G35X, both of which should be reliable and fun to drive. The G35 is as close to a Skyline as you’re going to get in your price range, and is a bit more refined than the Z.

But, if you’re really asking what I’d do in your situation, here’s my answer: I’d go find the right Mustang, buy a service manual, and watch the Homecoming dates line up. Good luck, young squire.

If you’d like to Ask Bark a question about cars, life, the universe, and everything, shoot your emails to [email protected], or hit him up in the Twitterverse @barkm302.

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298 Comments on “Ask Bark: What Should I Buy For My First Whip?...”


  • avatar

    Depends on how much money you have.

    Depends how much you can afford as a car note or monthly insurance…

    If you aren’t buying new – depends on how much you can afford for insurance and to pay a repair man if something goes wrong.

    My parents didn’t buy me my 1st car.
    I wasn’t simply “handed” a vehicle for graduating with a 4.0 average.
    I had to work for it.
    Molded by it.
    I didn’t see my own car till I was an older man and by then it was nothing more than blinding gas prices.

    My FIRST CAR (that I was fully financially responsible for) was a 2006 Chrysler 300 SRT.

    A horrible decision from the perspective of those who believe in good fuel economy and low insurance payments.

    I was paying $600 a month note and $222 a month insurance.
    I believe I was spending about $80 a week in fuel.
    $90 every 3500 miles for oil changes.
    $500 every year for rear tires.

    I recommend taking a look at any of the plethora of soul-less 4-cylinder, front-wheel drive econoboxes made by Toyota, Honda or even Hyundai. Bottom line: make sure you have an extended warranty.

    Stay FAR AWAY FROM USED GERMAN CARS.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Which is clearly stated in the article as $11,000.

      • 0 avatar

        For the $11,000 the best bet is to buy a car like the soul-less Japanese-made econobox Nissan Versa Note which means you’ll pay the car off almost instantly and only be responsible for insurance/maintenance/fuel.

        The only downside is, buying a car up front doesn’t help your credit. It also means your insurance will likely be more expensive.

        My girlfriend years back had her dad buy her a $10,000 used Maxima with 100,000 miles on it. Her insurance was upwards of $600 a month. The tranny went and it cost her dad $3500 to repair. She totaled it a few months later.

        If you want to help your credit – buy the Note Versa whatever on credit and then pay it off fast before interest accumulates. Your credit report will show a large sum and then the payoff.

        BEFORE ANYONE CHALLENGES ME ON THIS (since I know it’s coming) – all I can say is it’s worked for me and my score is over 800.

        • 0 avatar
          SlowMyke

          What the hell kind of credit do you have to have for $600/mo insurance? Negative? I’m no credit angel, but the world of bad credit clearly is foreign to me… Yikes.

          Why doesn’t this kid go out and get himself a panther? Seems perfect. You get a V8, it’s not actually that fast, and 4 doors will help keep the insurance monster at bay.

          • 0 avatar
            tylermattikow

            First time driver New York City residents see rates like that for the first couple years. I drops a ton after 2 years. Even a very good driver with excellent credit is likely paying over 2k a year to insure with a Manhattan residence, your talking a 70+ % increase over just about anywhere else.

          • 0 avatar
            Erikstrawn

            +1
            $11,000? I bought my son’s ’99 CVPI for an even grand and he loves it. Find a nice Mercury Marauder for about $4,000 and spend the rest of the budget on a big stereo.

        • 0 avatar
          MeJ

          This was an article about buying your first car, not building your credit score.
          While I agree with some of your points I believe this young man is trying to find something fun and cool. He’s only 16, let him make his own mistakes.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Did the sun rise in the west this morning? Because I agree with BTSR!

      Growing up, many of the parents in our neighbourhood were smart enough to make sure that their sons’ first/second cars were the biggest vehicle that they could buy with the smallest engine.

      Usually Pontiac/Chev sedans with a small 6. Sometimes a Dodge Dart sedan with a slant six.

      Mine was a VW Type 3 wagon/squareback/shootingbrake.

      And most came with a standard transmission.

      Learned how to drive in these before spending our own money on a ‘muscle car’.

      Remember that it is “better to drive a slow car fast, than a fast car slow”.

      And as an aside, here in Ontario if at the age of 16 you were a registered driver on a V-8 Mustang your insurance would be in excess of $6,000 annually.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        Arthur Dailey – agreed. My brother had 1/2 the cash and my dad agreed to pony up the other half but like China and the UN he got veto rights. My brother wanted a step side short box 5.0 F150 but he got a long box Chevy 4×2 with 250 six, 3 speed auto and 3.05 gears. Far from cool but got great mpg and was ultra reliable.
        My dad trusted me more and I got to keep his ’68 Galaxie 500 2 dr. hard top with 390 4 barrel 10.5:1 compression FireChicken killer. BTW I still have the car. The only car I have ever owned.

    • 0 avatar
      Compaq Deskpro

      BTSR is right as usual. I owned 2 used cars before owning a new one, they were both unreliable moneypits that gained me no credit for the money I put into them. 2003 CVPI and a 2005 MGM. CVPI had everything worn out and lots of miles but was reliable. The MGM was in excellent shape and had only 60K miles. Total piece of crap, the heater core went, the head gasket went, the intake manifold went (with leaking coolant and smoke) the fan blower stopped working during the winter, the transmission took a crap while on the highway. Both cars I spent far more than the purchase price on unimportant “but it’s not perfect” stuff.

      BTSR, I really wish you would have pulled up in your Chrysler, threw me in the trunk, and took me to the dealership, before I handed over thousands to my mechanic to replace the transmission. Now I have a new base model Challenger that hasn’t skipped a beat in 20,000 miles and rides better than the old Vics did, and I couldn’t be happier.

      I blame the internet. It’s so easy to go on Craigslist and be tempted by cheap discontinued niche cars.

  • avatar
    jeanbaptiste

    Mazda 3 with a stick shift.

    Should be cheap to buy, cheap to run, cheap to insure. Able to modify and should be a peppy fun car.

    Mustang for 16 year old. Do you want this kid to die?

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      This. Or a Civic Si (or non-Si that you can mod), Accord coupe–hey, it’s cool enough for Baruth–Altima coupe. My first car was a Mustang, and it was horrible in snow. Stick with FWD. And keep at least a thousand in reserve for repairs.

      • 0 avatar
        formula m

        2 door accord or civic, Mazda 3, used RAV4, etc…
        Spending $1200 extra for blizzacs on a mustang still won’t make it a good 4 season vehicle. Plus wasting extra money on gas and insurance will be better spent on
        alcohol and pu&&y. Also the police will be all over you driving around in a mustang as a teenager.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Agreed on the compact. A Scion TC might also be an option. It will be a bit more performance oriented than a normal compact, but it’s insurance shouldn’t be too bad.

      If a 16 year old wants a fast car, it’s not for driving it under the speed limit to school and church. It’s to do stupid things. I know if my parents were dumb enough to buy me a hot rod in high school I probably would have wrapped it around something. I managed to get in trouble with my shitboxes.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy67

      ‘Mustang for 16 year old. Do you want this kid to die?’

      Amen to that. I’m 62 and my DD is a 2008 Mustang GT Bullitt. The damn thing tries to kill me almost every day. I love it.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Can you say “sky-high insurance and speeding tickets?” Man, when I was 17, I considered myself lucky to get my sister’s hand-me-down 1978 Plymouth Arrow (at least it was in “GT” trim…lol). My son’s first car (and one he still drives to this day) was a 1997 Toyota Tercel. What my 16-year old male (and my insurance) didn’t need was anything with a semblance of power or speed. I can think of a ton of cars in the $11k realm that would better suite a first-time driver that would be infinitely easier to maintain and insure. But that’s just me…I’m the guy that “discussed” with my father-in-law my objections to him giving my son his 2002 Firebird Firehawk!

  • avatar
    mikedt

    At 16, your biggest expense is going to be auto insurance for anything that even approaches “sporty”. Unless your parents are picking up the insurance tab and don’t care about money, I suggest you take a list of your dream used sports cars and a couple of econo cars and ask your parent’s current insurer what it would cost to cover one of these hypothetical cars.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    Jesus Christ, not even 16 and has $11,000 to spend on a car? damn, my first car in 1993 cost me $150.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    #1 – The term “whip” when referring to automobiles has been being used inaccurately for a decade or more now. If you look into the origins of the term you will realize it is not just a stupid name bros came up with. “Whip” is actually W.I.P. which stands for Work In Progress. So a WIP generally is nothing to brag about and is used as a humble indication of the state of your car.
    This is one of those things that drives me inappropriately crazy for no real reason.

    #2 – This guy needs to get an IS300. As a recent purchaser I can’t think of a better car for a new driver. Reliable as hell, easy to work on, fun to drive while not being inappropriately fast, room for girls, and very attractive (not to mention JDM cred). You can find great condition unmolested examples with reasonable miles under $11k. Plus, there’s a good chance they will start to appreciate in value over the next few years.
    See the recent Digestible Collectible for more.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    “What Should I Buy For My First Whip?”

    I thought the dominatrix brought her own.

  • avatar
    dwford

    How about a newer Acura RSX-S? You’ll get the sporty car, the reliability, the front wheel drive, some room for 4, and the ricer cred he seems to be looking for. You can still find some out there that haven’t been molested. An 8000rpm redline doesn’t hurt, either.

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      This is also a great suggestion. The only misgivings I would have would be the insurance premium for a new driver. I believe they are still pretty high on the list of stolen/hedge-bound cars.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        They’re hard to find, and because of that, I think the cost is too high for them. My brother paid $9 a couple years ago for a not-perfect one with higher miles. They have a Prelude effect to where they almost aren’t worth it these days.

        • 0 avatar
          SWA737

          I recently received an unsolicited offer of $7500 for our ’05 RSX-S with over 210k miles on it from a local Honda dealer while dropping off our Accord for service. My 13 year old daughter is lobbying for the RSX to be her first car, but you’re exactly right, the insurance would be ridiculous. We pay over twice as much to insure the RSX as we do the ’14 Accord.

          I think the OP should take a page from Jack’s book and look at an Accord Coupe

        • 0 avatar
          Fordson

          Almost not worth it? $9k for a ten-year-old, fair-condition high-miles car that was maybe $24k new, tops?

          Why worry about whether a car like this will cost too much over the long run…just get one that costs too much right out of the chute and remove all the uncertainty.

      • 0 avatar
        dwford

        I think anything on the list is going to be high for insurance. I mean, really a first time driver needs some inexpensive economy sedan, but that’s not the premise we are working with, lol.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      Alternatively, try an early 8th gen Civic Si. Roughly the same as an RSX-S, but with LSD, better suspension geometry, and an aux-in on the factory radio, which I hear kids are in to these days. Plus your insurance *might* insure you as a regular civic if they don’t catch it in the VIN.

    • 0 avatar
      formula m

      +1 didn’t read your comment yet and posted above

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    As posted above the Mazda 3 is a good choice for a young man’s first car. Insurance rates will be far more reasonable and it’s fun to drive a slow manual car fast. There’s extra utility if you go for the 5-door version.

    My initial suggestion would have been to buy the nicest Subaru Legacy GT you can find, but then the insurance would be crazy (I assume). Also I don’t think 16 years of age is mature enough to handle more than 150hp. IMO there is much driving skill to be acquired before thinking of adding more power.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      I wouldn’t recommend the 2005+ turbo eating version of the Legacy GT. Bad build quality and, well, they eat turbos.

      • 0 avatar
        MUSASHI66

        I never knew this to be the case until my buddy had a turbo replacement, and then a blown engine with 113 or 130k miles on the clock in his 2005 Outback XT. I thought of finding one with low miles for my next car, but I gave up on that idea now.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      As a Mazda 3 owner – definitely this. They’re fun to drive, practical, and more interesting looking than a civic or corolla. And they come with a stick in almost all trims.

      I was kicking myself for not knowing about the 1st generation Speed3 when I first bought my RSX-S, they came out around 6 months after I had purchased it.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    I never, ever, ever recommend a V6 pony car to anyone, but…yeah, this kid should get a V6 pony car. A Mustang GT means you’ll be uninsurable and/or dead.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Yep. $300/mo insurance til you slide it through a pole. Then you won’t have any bills except the casket.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        yep. less than a week before the urge to show off to people at school takes over, then the newly-minted driver will discover what “oversteer” is.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Going as far back as 2010 the Mustang coupe is not exactly a death-trap per the IIHS ratings. Convertible data goes back to 2005 and there is a marked improvement in performance in the 2010 model year.

        Christ I spent my teen years driving around in a 14 plus year old Celebrity and the only real safety feature beyond seat belts was 5 mph battering ram bumpers.

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          I agree, driven like a normal car, a Mustang is perfectly safe (hence my recommendation for a V6 version).

          Driven by a 16y/o boy, a 400hp+ Mustang is a death sentence. I managed to power-oversteer (on a gravel road) a 1990 Geo Prizm into a tree at 16, what do you think I would have done in a Mustang GT???

          • 0 avatar
            Opus

            Wait just a minute. The Mustang GT did not have 400hp during the years mentioned. I think it maxed out at about 330hp. Still, that’s more than a new driver needs at first. Add me to the list that says a V6 Mustang would be a MUCH better choice – still has the style, but lower fuel, maintenance and insurance costs. Also, nobody has mentioned the possibility of a Celica or Prelude – but then I don’t remember when they were discontinued. They might be too old for consideration at this point.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            Newest Prelude is 2001, newest Celica is 2005.

          • 0 avatar
            CobraJet

            When I was in high school my dad gave me a choice between a 66 Mercury Comet 289 3 on the tree or a 65 Pontiac Tempest 6cyl auto. I chose the Comet which served me all the way through college and to my first job. My high school friend was given a brand new 69 Mustang Mach I 428CJ. His lasted 3 years until he totalled it out one night. I had to wait 20 more years to get my 69 Mach I but I still have it.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I -think- (can’t be sure) the FWD Iron Duke Celebrity is just slightly slower than newer V6 RWD Mustang. :)

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            I’m saying that a 2005 and up Mustang is many orders of magnitude safer than an old Celebrity. In fact given that the V6 Stang for most of this current century only made 200 ish hp and the Celebrity made 92 hp the Mustang is likely a greater SAFETY upgrade than it is a HORSEPOWER upgrade.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Yeah but the Cologne is a PITA to work on in the Mustang platform. Better to just go 4.6 and ride that new platform. Here’s MY06:

            MY06 Ford Mustang GT Coupe Deluxe

            01/27/16 DENVER Regular $10,200 59,347 Above GRAY 8G A Yes
            01/05/16 NJ Regular $7,100 79,531 Avg SILVER 8G A Yes
            12/29/15 GEORGIA Lease $6,700 95,328 Avg BLACK 8G 5 Yes
            01/14/16 FRDKBURG Regular $7,900 99,112 Avg RED 8G 5 Yes
            01/26/16 GEORGIA Regular $11,900 126,638 Above RED 8G 5 No
            01/27/16 KC Regular $4,300 153,220 Below RED 8G 5 Yes

            MY06 Ford Mustang GT Coupe Premium

            1/22/16 PA Regular $12,300 60,148 Avg SILVER 8G A Yes
            01/12/16 NASHVILL Lease $9,900 63,972 Avg SCRM YEL 8G 5 Yes
            01/13/16 NJ Regular $17,850 77,490 Above SILVER 8G No
            01/06/16 NJ Regular $14,200 77,490 Above SILVER 8G Yes
            01/20/16 CALIFORN Regular $8,700 82,497 Avg BLACK 8G A Yes
            01/07/16 CENT CAL Regular $7,600 100,991 Avg BLACK 8G A Yes
            01/27/16 CALIFORN Regular $8,100 110,347 Avg GRAY 8G 5 Yes
            01/26/16 ARENA IL Lease $4,100 117,863 Below MAROON 8G A Yes

        • 0 avatar
          chuckrs

          5 mph battering ram bumpers……

          I preferred to think of them as urethane-encased railroad ties.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatic

      Mustang V6 with a manual transmission is the ticket. No automatic to fail, cheaper to insure, depreciates fast so they are cheap used. Not sure if the 2011 have reached the $11,000 threshold but that’s what I’d aim for.

    • 0 avatar
      dolorean

      I highly suggest the V6 option for the Stang. You can probably find a ~$11k premium puppy with the 3.7L and not the 4.0L dog motor. You’ll get 300HP, decent MPG, cheaper insurance and more likely than not, a clean example that hasn’t been molested by da BadBoyzToyz club. Pretty reliable and modifiable by now and with the lower weight proportion to the V8 and ESC/TRC/ALB as standard nowadays versus the locked rear diff and no traction control on my ’95 Cobra, should do okay in the snow with Blizzak shoes.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    As I was reading before I got to the bottom, I thought G35x. It’s reliable, it’s not too big, it’s cool enough, it has AWD, and it won’t kill you in insurance premiums.

    You paying your own premiums, by the way? Cause if you are better save some of that $11,000 for that cause it’s gon’ cost ya. Whatever your circumstances, you’re lucky to have this figure at age 16. I spent $2750 on a 15 year old Audi 5000 after working for $5.10 an hour.

    Other recs, though:

    00-05 GS300/430 (for cheaper than $9k)

    06+ GS330/350 AWD (if you want AWD and spend your full budget, will have some miles on it)

    ~07 ES350 (FWD, still a Lex man. Cheaper than GS.)

    06-07 M35x (You CAN find them in budget, has AWD, more modern look than G35x.)

    Earlier FX35 (Still looks good, is SUV, you’ll be the only kid with one. http://www.ebay.com/itm/Infiniti-Other-AWD-/271878484793)

    *Overall, stay Japanese. Unless it’s a GM 3800, but you can get something nicer than a 3800 for $11k.*

  • avatar
    smartascii

    If the WRX has big appeal, and if the young gentleman in question has patience and the ability to travel to go buy the car, consider looking for a Saab 9-2x Aero, which has the same mechanicals as a WRX of the era, but is considerably cheaper, because Saab.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Cue the “When I was your age, I didn’t have 11,000 to spend on a car” comments, never mind that when some of you were 16, $11K could buy you a new Rolls-Royce.

    • 0 avatar
      Cactuar

      It is normal to reflect on our own experiences when reading this question. I’ll bet most people here didn’t have 11 grand to spend on a car at 16, that’s impressive. Maybe inflation is worse than we think it is, or maybe our parents did have the means but thought it was wiser to limit to a lower amount for whatever reason? Why would that be? It’s an interesting discussion.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      Given the level of curmudgeon around here, I suspect $11k would have let some of them take a controlling interest *in* Rolls-Royce.

    • 0 avatar
      DevilsRotary86

      Agreed. I admit, I was not the “saved up for my own car by working after school” sort. My parents bought me my first car (1983 Honda Accord, and later a 1991 Honda Civic sedan if anyone cares). The reason? They absolutely forbid me from working after school during school months. They wanted me focused on school and not working. So it was a little hard for me to buy my own car at 16.

      I did work at a Boy Scout summer camp when I was in High School, but at about $80-$160/week that was almost minimally paid volunteer work (and I had fun at it too!!!). And since my parents had already gotten me a car, that freed me up to use the summer proceeds to buy my first computer :)

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Haha. My first car was a 1990 Honda Accord…but that was in 2009, and it had been our family car up to 2006. The other cars I’ve had since then, I bought on my own.

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        We took the same approach for my son. He spent four years at Scout camp. Made peanuts, but the experience and contacts he made were a big help in getting him accepted to the Air Force Academy. And to this day, he still owns and drives the ’97 Tercel we bought him (230k and counting!).

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      Back in ’68 when I was 13, my dad and I went to the NY Auto Show. The Rolls Royce Silver Shadow was $18,000 and I remember my dad saying that you could buy a nice house in a lot of places for that money.

      I’m guessing that an $11K Rolls would put you somewhere in the late ’50s or, perhaps, the early ’60s.

      • 0 avatar
        wumpus

        I know my parents bought a house for less $30,000 in 1971? in the DC suburbs. I also remember reading about the first porsche 930s, looking at the price and realizing that it cost similar to that house.

        The dollar *changed* a lot between 1970 and 1990.

        I also wound up inheriting a car that my parents bought when I was a cubscout. I think my mom mentioned that 10k was mercedes money… the car they wound up with was a chevy malibu (305V8 4 barrel carb, for a whopping ~150hp).

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    At the age of 15 I purchased an 87 S15 base model. 2.5L, 4MT, reg cab/short box. Power options included whatever made it to the ground through the back wheels. Paid the old guy on the next street over $75 to take it off his lot.

    I spent the next 6 months in the garage with my dad fixing it up. It ran well but was rusted pretty bad. Replacement parts and some welding by a friend and then filler and primer. I learned an awful lot (mainly how much I hate bodywork!) and got to bond with my dad. It was a great experience. Sold it after a few months for 3200, and proceeded to buy an insurance write off 98 Grand Am 4cyl 5MT coupe. The bags had blown, so we really just needed to rebuild the front end with replacement parts and get a paint job. Put 150k kms on that car in 4 years, it was awesome.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      See I knew I liked you for a reason, eh?

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        That and my undying love for, and being raised on, the 3800.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Speaking of 3800. Look at this beautiful time capsule. It’s like – unused.

          http://dayton.craigslist.org/cto/5375738995.html

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Oooo twilight sentinel! Trip computer! Rear air ride! Sunroof.. but aftermarket :/

            Oh but too much money.

            Check out the 8th gen Eldo in dude’s garage. He is afflicted by the same 80s GM disease which used to plague me. Prob why he wants all kind of money for this Buick, he’s thinking “but this LN3 is the best of the best”. He’s right the trouble is nobody cares in 2016. “People collect these” he says to himself, but no, no they don’t. People barely collect 8th gen Eldos. Maybe if it had sucked less, but it mostly did.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Haha, yeah the price is funny on that one. Maybe for a grand less.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Out of left field: Volvo C30. Safe, mostly reliable, chicks dig (if they are the slutty librarian type, not the county fair type).

    The sensible suggestion is to spend half or less of your budget on something, and keep the other half for this time next year, when you’ve figured-out that oil changes matter and that soft shoulders aren’t exactly pillow-soft.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      My wife has a C30 and I agree its a great car, always overlooked… but very pricey to maintain. Chicks dig it because it was in that silly vampire movie chicks seemed to love (still haven’t figured that out). The C30 could make a good starter car as long a Volvo dealer is nearby and his parents don’t mind paying way too much for various fixes. Because its a rare car parts are not easy to come by, for example a new headlight = $800. The same part on a Volvo S40 (way more common) is only $300 in comparison.

      Agree with the others: RWD + 16 = bad combination. I had ’83 Mustang as my first car, sure enough did a 180 degree spin in the rain. Thankfully I didn’t hit anything. And that was the LX model with the pathetic inline 6. I can’t imagine trying to navigate snow as a first timer with V8 RWD.

      I’ve even keep this kid away from the Infinity G35/G37, they are basically a Z with back seats. I guess the AWD (x models) might be OK in the snow but these cars have too much power.

      As a first ride its hard to knock the sporty FWD Civics, Mini Coopers, Scions, Mazdas, Fords, etc. These are fun, good on gas and will hold multiple skinny chicks. My second car (after my Mustang got STOLEN) was a Civic, then I moved up a Prelude, then a turbo Eclipse (JDM YO! for sure). If my 16 (or even 24) year old self had my current 350Z I’d be dead already. Way too powerful… and in today’s world a V6 Camry or Accord Coupe has nearly the same HP! Only now (pushing 45) can I afford to put my Z on the track to use it as a Nissan intended.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        $800?

        https://www.fcpeuro.com/products/volvo-headlight-assembly-c30-31299853
        Claims to be Genuine Volvo, and only $280 or so.

        I think your Volvo dealer was ripping you off, or the price situation has changed significantly?

        (I’d love a C30 if I had any possible use for it…)

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    I’m sure I’ll get flamed, but is there any option OTHER than a Panther? RWD V8, a spacious back seat for sundry activities, a trunk that fits a few steel liquid-containing barrels with room to spare, a high tolerance for abuse, cheap to insure as a teen driver, and as simple as a hammer. He could get a good one for $5-6k and have a lot left over for insurance and/or gambling on marbles. Anything nice will get beat to hell on a college campus in any event.

    Greg, on a serious note, make sure you or your parents have insurance quotes before you purchase and you’re baking that cost into your projections. I’d go as new and as common as possible for your first car, for the twin aims of reliability and safety.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      ask Jack Baruth how safe the Panther is.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick 2012

        There’s no need to – he already explained http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/falling-out-of-panther-love/

        A brand new Volvo XC90 is a bit out of his price range. Compared to other 2000-2005 era cars, the Panther performs well and offers head and thorax air bags.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      What about a 2005 last of the H-body GM cars? Last model year LeSabre or Bonneville should be well cared for by its elderly owner and as long as you’ve got the 3800 all should be well.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        The problem a big car for a teenager is your car becomes the default party car. You end-up driving when you shouldn’t (even if you’re not intoxicated), shuttling people around, there will be drinking and fighting going on around your car, and no-one chips-in for anything.

        Much better to get something that’s cramped in the back. Fewer people will ask for rides.

        • 0 avatar
          fvfvsix

          When I was in high school, I fit 7 people (4 were skinny girls) in my ’83 Camaro (with the b*tch ass V6). In my experience, the small space was merely a challenge. And My God, that was unsafe!

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      >Panther

      >spacious back seat

      OK.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I hate to be one of “those guys” but I will be anyways. You don’t deserve to be handed a sporty car (or any car, quite frankly) as a 16 year old. I think the Mazda 3 suggestions are on point. Get a decent stick shift one, maybe learn to do some basic maintenance like doing your own oil changes, replace the brake pads/rotors. Even with the older 2.0L these are peppy and fun to drive cars. Just watch out for rust on the earlier ones. I know I had more fun tootling around in my rusty ’90 Civic wagon that I was making small upgrades and repairs to than my friend whose parents ironically doled out this very same amount that you’re working with on a newer first gen Volvo S40. He literally had some kids throw rocks at his car because that was such a nice car at the highschool that I went to, my brown Civic was spared the same “attention.”

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      I can’t believe you didn’t suggest to get the nicest 4Runner that $11k can buy. An early 4th gen 4Runner would be the perfect first car. Low insurance rates, can go all over the place, reliable, and fun in the right context. It isn’t great on gas, but neither is a WRX or a Mustang unless you are going 60mph on flat stretches.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Haha Quentin I was tempted to, but seems OP is looking for a sportier on-road experience.

        But I agree, an older SUV is an awesome first car, rollover risk and false sense of invincibility aside. Seeing as he’s in Michigan, tons of fun outdoor adventures would await.

        I’d actually recommend a third gen, they’re more capable offroad in stock form (owing to better clearance), cheaper to buy, no 4wd actuator worries, bigger aftermarket. They also just have that more rough and tumble look that the 4th gen lost. The biggest thing to look out for on any 4Runner is rust. Earlier 96-98 trucks can be found for $3-5k in decent shape with 150kish miles. There’s a standard list of to-dos but parts aren’t too pricey and these are about as DIYable of a vehicle as it gets. I see a lot of 16-18 year old kids with these as their first vehicle on the 3rd gen 4Runner forum, the biggest problem is convincing them to catch their new (old) truck up on maintenance before doing the whole lift and gnarly tires thing.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          $<11k 4Runner in Michigan? Rust-o-matic mayne!

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Yeah he’s have to be cautious. I walked away from a gorgeous 2 owner low mile ’04 V8 Sport in a rare (for a 4th gen) Evergreen pearl with the unpainted plastic bumpers a few months ago due to the scary underside. No body rust mind you, but the frame was nasty looking, I’m sure the brake and fuel lines were on their way out. If not for that rust, the truck would have been a steal at $8900 considering the excellent condition otherwise.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I’m not a fan of the Passport/Rodeo. From everything I’ve read (and my college roommates experience in 05 with his 98 or 97 model) they get brittle and have electrical and trim issues. His constantly had something wrong with it. Rode rough as well. I wouldn’t rely on one as a DD either unless it was a newer, lower miles one.

            Even then, for same money I’d get a Trooper.

            The other day I wanted to show you an ebay ad for a Trooper but it’s gone now, and I think they removed the pics. It was an 01 or an 02, with legit 3rd seat and belts like the overseas models. It didn’t look like aftermarket fitment either. So unusual.

            EDIT: Pics work! Look!
            http://www.ebay.com/itm/301849102983

          • 0 avatar
            Quentin

            Don’t buy in Michigan. I wouldn’t buy any used car in Michigan to be honest. Take a 6 or 8 hrs road trip to get south of the mason dixon line. You are looking at around 100k miles, generally, but there are tons of nice ones out there.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Corey I actually realized the one I posted was RWD (boo!). I think generally something happened once the second gen trucks started rolling off the Lafayette Indiana factory floor, my gut tells me the pre-98s are more reliable, including motorwise avoiding the oil-burning issues of the more powerful, newer V6s. I have heard of a third row in Troopers here in the states, very rare indeed. Likewise I’ve heard talk of third rows in 4Runners like mine, can’t imagine it being comfortable in either case!

            Quentin you’re oh so right about not buying a used car up North unless it hasn’t been driven in the winter for much of its existence (ala my 4Runner).

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Here’s a cool looking SUV that I assume high schoolers would really like:

            http://lansing.craigslist.org/ctd/5394206506.html

            ’03 Xterra XE-V6, the lack of rust on the bumpers gives me hope that this one is decent underneath. Lowish miles and a decent looking interior aside from that tear in the driver’s seat.

            The VG33 is a dog but a reliable one, not suffering from the timing chain guide issues of the early build VQ40s.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            The Xterra suffers from common cat converter failures, taking the O2 sensors out with them. I think the Xterra is a decent buy in that condition assuming there are no bad cat telltales, or they’ve been fixed previously.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            And it’s yellow. Everyone likes yellow to some extent, even if they say it’s a stupid color. I wanted a yellow Escape for my first car and “settled” for a gray-on-gray Tribute.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I think the cat failure is rooted in cracked exhaust manifolds, something the VG33 is known for unfortunately. With an upstream leak (letting in extra oxygen), the oxygen sensors downstream will detect this as a lean exhaust condition, and will tell the injectors to dump in extra fuel to compensate. This extra fuel makes it down to the cats, heating them up incredibly and causing them to essentially start melting. At least that is my educated hypothesis.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I’m sure you’re right – that’s an excellent explanation, and an indication of even bigger problems with the Xterra beyond just cat work!

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Corey I just looked at that Trooper, wow she’s a beauty but I wouldn’t trust the seller one bit, on the underside photos, they couldn’t even wait until their quick and dirty black spray-bombing job dried before taking shots for the advertisement. It could simply be surface rust hiding underneath there, or something more sinister (judging from the parking brake cable bracket that they neglected to cover up the rust on).

            As far as that seat goes, I did a bit of digging and it looks like an aftermarket unit. Factory third row in the Trooper overseas is a Land Cruiser style bench that splits in the middle and folds off to the sides of the trunk.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            Heh.. rusty scuzz be rife beneath that last-minute squirt.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      it’s not a matter of “don’t deserve,” it’s more “you are just learning how to drive, you will not know how to responsibly handle a powerful car. and you’re the age and gender where people act the most irresponsibly. You’re getting a Geo Metro.”

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        My first car was an ’89 Metro (LSi, LWB).

        It was a blast, and far better built and more reliable than one would suspect for a GM-badged Suzuki.

        Honestly, “get a used Versa/Fit/Yaris and good tires” is a great modern version of that for snowy places – first, make all your mistakes in a small, underpowered car.

        Then get something nice and powerful.

  • avatar
    ajla

    1. Buy the cheapest thing you can tolerate now.

    2. Save lots of money.

    3. Buy a garage queen GT350 (or whatever) when you turn 25.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Honda Element!

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Ok a few choices here, an Accord?? yeah a little boring but cheap to insure and that is key, it can be sporty, 2 door w a stick, safe and that is another key, and flys under the radar so fewer tickets again key, or if you want to go the other way , here me out B&B a Miata , yes they are small so that is a issue , but plenty of them around cool car but tough to get in trouble with, yes you will need snow tires but w a extra set of cheap rims not that big of a deal.
    The ins for a 16 year old is gonna be sky high and safety should be a major buying point. If he wants a truck, a used Pilot would be a good choice or maybe a Kia soul but I think the safety is not great on those.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Buy a Golf with the 2.5 engine and put GTI badges and wheels on it. Poseur sure, BUT you’ll have a sexy practical car, cheap insurance, VW’s most reliable engine that isn’t the dreaded 2.sl0w, and the girls will still find it sexy. That’s probably the ONLY German car you should be thinking about. I wouldn’t buy a true GTI with my own money, and I want one so bad it hurts.

    As far as your list, Mustang all the way to lessen maintenance headaches. Bark’s advice on a G35 is spot on too- you get the engine of the Z but you can have a back seat (4 doors even, if you want!) and a bit of luxury to boot.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    ONLY $11k? C’mon – you just point out what all the other almost-16-year-old young squires on your cul-de-sac have lined up, and you guilt you parents into leasing you a 3-Series. With X-Drive, of course.

    And “when” (not if, I notice…) you run into things, you just bum your mom’s RX-350.

    Why is this even a question?

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Nice piece, Bark. I wanted a Mustang at 16 (which would have been a 2.3 powered Fox most likely) but I didn’t get one. My budget was $1,000 which even inflation adjusted for 1998 is maybe $3500. After an expensive mistake in a Dodge Shadow, my first real car was an MY92 Cavalier coupe in 1999 which cost *then* about $4K and the money not taken on trade was made up for by the $600 I had in savings and my grandmother as a graduation present. I ran that whip for several years having my share of ladies and heartbreaks with it. So before I start mf’ing OP for being incredibly spoiled and lobbing apox on his house, lets think this through.

    -A vehicle, as much as we are nuts about them, is a transportation system.

    You must think of it as your transit method of getting around, NOT hey lets go buy cheap cigs in West Virginia! Road trip! This is not a toy as much as you want a toy. You don’t have the finances to have multiple cars and one of them be something out of your dreams. Whatever you buy, even it is something cool like a Mustang, you have to start thinking about how you will keep it on the road month after month, year after year.

    -Since its a transportation system, who makes the most cost efficient system?

    I can’t answer this but as much as I like Bark’s advice, the Mustang may not be it. The list you’ve developed is the list a Grand Turismo fan would come up with, where is the Camcord or Civrolla type vehicle? Yes, uncool, but realistic.

    One other piece of advice, if you’re thinking I want to meet the girls guess what – a car ain’t gonna do it for you, you have to do it for you. Even if it did, they’d like you for the car and not for you. Such a thing is workable when you have a decade(s) of skills and experience, which you don’t have. I knew a guy in high school who didn’t drive and this man was able to get quite a bit of action. He was smooth, was a friend of 420, and always knew how to talk to women – and the pussy lined up. Be cool, be you. You will make mistakes, we all have and all still do. Mistakes are opportunities for growth. There will always be a girl around the corner, you’ll see. Just keep at it, perseverance is key.

    -An 11K vehicle retail is maybe an $8-9K vehicle at the most and a $6-7K vehicle at the least.

    There’s fiction (NADA, KBB) and there’s reality (Black Book, MMR) valuation, the general public reads the fiction. You won’t know what your vehicle will be worth unless you can get access to reality (which you won’t). So hear me now, dealers will put the most ridiculous amount of money they can on a car so always lowball. People don’t like to be lowballed so in private party its best to seek out unpopular models or estate/divorce sales. That’s right, estate or divorce because they are more likely to deal just to unload stuff.

    -All vehicles once beyond a certain mileage and age start to need wearables replaced.

    Wearables such as tires, breaks, seals, shocks, struts, seals, pumps, hoses, and fluids. You will most likely be doing this out of your own pocket, so budget in advance.

    -Therefore you really don’t have $11K to spend, more like 9-10 depending on your DIY and level of replacement parts cost.

    My thought is to look for something less than 10K and hold the rest of the money back in reserve for reconditioning costs (wearables, unexpected repairs, detailing).

    -Ideally you want to avoid wearable parts Made in the PRC (China), but doing so these days is becoming a dark art. Always check to box for the made in location.

    I am generally able to source parts made elsewhere for my Sat SL and Volvo 240, although the last set of rotors for the Sat was PRC as GM stopped making them. I was able to source Brembo rotors and Bendix brakes for my Pontiac, it rides on Gabriel shocks (I think Mexico) and uses the old Moog *good* control arms which were Made in USA (which were discontinued of course). #partsmatter

    -Lease vs buy?

    I think for you, leasing could end up being more costly. You will damage this vehicle, and dealers will ding you for repairs on lease turn in. So picture this you do a three year lease, blow most of your $11K in payments, and are 19 when its time to turn in. Now they ding you for repairs OR you have to buy it… which you may or may not be able to make payments on easily at 19 making minimum wage or in college not working. You buy the cost effective and reliable transportation system, you don’t have to worry about this because you’ll still own it OR still have money in it to get back out if you need it. Not such in a lease.

    -Check with Flybrian’s lot to see if he has anything you like. Most dealers are scumbags, he’s not a scumbag (but you’d have to go to Florida for pickup).

    additional:

    2003-2008 Mustang GT

    Mustang in general is great with the 4.6, avoid the 4.0 V6 Cologne (F those). This is the most reasonable choice on this list but get one with traction control. Seriously.

    2002-2011 Subaru WRX

    Stupid high resale and headgasket issues, plus try to find one which hasn’t been hooned on a weekly basis. Notgonnahappen.

    1990s Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4

    F this. Gen X fawned after these, they aren’t that great as it turns out.

    2002-2008 Audi A4 Quattro

    Double F this. Audis are mostly junk after about MY93. Despite what kids do these days, the used German car is a risky proposition after 1995. Hedge accordingly.

    2003-2008 Nissan 350Z

    This I find intriguing but good luck finding a clean/low mileage one. Better stuff out there for a kid, this is the kind of thing my generation seeks out for a toy – and we have the resources to outbid you.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Buy his C-Max!

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Yes!

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          28 is a card carrying member of his generation, and loves him some Z. He has two!

          ;)

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Z for… Z-body? Zombies? Zegna? Zorro? Zoroaster? Zelda? Zanzibar?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Definitely Zelda. Loved me some Link’s Awakening on regular Game Boy.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            A Link to the Past.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Zora Arkus-Duntov

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “Arkus-Duntov died in Detroit on April 21, 1996,[4] and his ashes were entombed at the National Corvette Museum. Pulitzer Prize winning columnist George Will wrote in his obituary that “if… you do not mourn his passing, you are not a good American.”[6]”

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zora_Arkus-Duntov

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Yet another dangerous refugee we need a wall to protect ourselves from.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “In 1934, Duntov graduated from the Charlottenburg Technological University (known today as the Technical University of Berlin). He also began writing engineering papers in the German motor publication Auto Motor und Sport. Later in Paris, he would meet Elfi Wolff, a German native who danced with the Folies Bergère.

            When World War II began in 1939, Zora and Elfi were married, just as Duntov and his brother joined the French Air Force. When France surrendered, Duntov obtained exit visas from the Spanish consulate in Marseilles, not only for Elfi and himself, but for his brother and parents as well. Elfi, who was still living in Paris at the time, made a dramatic dash to Bordeaux in her MG just ahead of the advancing Nazi troops. In the meantime, Duntov and Yura hid in a bordello. Five days later, Elfi met up with the Duntov and his family and later they boarded a ship in Portugal bound for New York.[1]”

            “Settled in Manhattan, the two brothers set up Ardun (derived from Arkus and Duntov) which supplied parts to the military and manufactured aluminum overhead valve, hemispherical combustion chamber heads for the Flathead Ford V8 engine. ”

            “Later, Zora left America for England to do development work on the Allard sports car, co-driving it at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1952 and in 1953.[1]

            Driving an 1100 cc Porsche 550 RS Spyder, he also won class victories in 1954 Le Mans and 1955 Le Mans.[1]”

            “He wrote Chevrolet chief engineer Ed Cole that it would be his complement to work on such a beautiful car; he also included a technical paper which proposed an analytical method of determining a car’s top speed. Chevrolet was so impressed that engineer Maurice Olley invited him to come to Detroit. On May 1, 1953, Zora Arkus-Duntov started at Chevrolet as an assistant staff engineer.[1]

            Shortly after going to work for Chevrolet, Zora set the tone for what he was about to accomplish in a memo to his bosses. The document, entitled, “Thoughts Pertaining to Youth, Hot Rodders and Chevrolet”, laid the foundation for the strategy that Chevrolet has used ever since to create one of the most successful performance parts programs in the industry. Chevrolet quickly became one of the most successful manufacturers ever in the history of motor racing. Soon, Zora became director of high performance at Chevrolet and helped to transform GM’s largest division from a conservative company into a youthful, exciting one. In the process, he would change the Corvette from a docile roadster into a formidable sports car that challenged Porsche, Ferrari, Maserati, and Mercedes-Benz. As was his way, Zora led by example. After helping to introduce the small-block V8 engine to the Corvette in 1955, providing the car with much-needed power, he set about showcasing the engine by ascending Pikes Peak in 1956 in a pre-production prototype, setting a stock car record. Not satisfied, he took a Corvette to Daytona Beach the same year and hit a record-setting 150 mph over the flying mile. In his spare time, the brilliant and vocal GM driver/engineer also developed the famous Duntov high-lift camshaft and helped bring fuel injection to the Corvette in 1957.[1] He is credited for introducing four-wheel disc brakes on a mass-produced American car for the first time”

            “Whenever anything Corvette happened, Zora was there. A member of the Drag Racing Hall of Fame, the Chevrolet Legends of Performance, and the Automotive Hall of Fame, Zora took part in the rollout of the 1 Millionth Corvette at Bowling Green in 1992. He also drove the bulldozer at the ground breaking ceremonies for the National Corvette Museum in 1994.”

            You do all that and you’re cool in my book wherever you come from.

            Useless rapefugees are not welcome.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      A) a cool car in HS definitely helps you pull chicks. It’s not required, but it helps. You’re not looking for a wife, you’re looking for which cheerleader will climb into the back seat based on what car you drive.

      B) why the assumption that $11k is all the money he has (or has permission to spend) in the world?

      C) young people don’t generally drive that much in terms of miles, so it won’t cost THAT much to keep any reasonable car on the road. You’re probably driving mostly to/from school, which is probably in your town, so it likely isn’t THAT far away. What’s a kid going to put on his car, 5-10k miles a year?

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        These days, just having a car will probably pull chicks. Wheels be wheels, and not everyone drives at 16 anymore. In order to find out is a “cool car” would pull chicks, we must also find out where in Michigan young Gregory lives. A 5-10 year old WRX or Mustang ain’t dropping panties in Bloomfield Hills, Birmingham, etc.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I realize the Bball household is a quite happy one and you wouldn’t realize this, but their generation is lacking in males who are men. Just act like a man and you’ll pull girls. Lift weights, call it like you see it, and generally do whatever you please without thought or apology and their girls eat it up. I’m not some kind of bad ass but this is true to life:

          https://i.ytimg.com/vi/AuRb4YJvvmM/hqdefault.jpg

          All your millennials are belong to 28.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        A. “you’re looking for which cheerleader will climb into the back seat based on what car you drive”

        Which he won’t know what to do with even if it happened. The kid needs to develop some game, I agree a car won’t hurt but you shouldn’t depend on the car. The car should make YOU happy, not women. F what they think, you get into the habit of “what will the girls think” and you’ve already lost.

        B. I read: “my budget of roughly $11,000”. Prob a little early in life to introduce the kid to credit card debt.

        C. I didn’t even bring up insurance. I just two hours ago was discussing 16yos and driving with my friend Rachel, insurance for kids is several thousand a year and she can’t afford it for her son. So in terms of maintenance it may not cost *that* much but in terms of TCO its ridiculously expensive. Therefore a cost effective solution is especially paramount.

        One must also think of the future as in two years this kid will be 18 and unless its GoArmy.com he will be working or going to school somewhere which might be far from home base. Think, McFly!

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          My wife’s sister was a cheerleader in high school and college. Her boyfriend’s have all driven 5-10 year old sedans except for one. he drove an old truck. The current boyfriend drives an older Fusion.

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          “B. I read: “my budget of roughly $11,000″. Prob a little early in life to introduce the kid to credit card debt.”

          I assume the kid’s got parents. Who may or may not be the source of the $11k, and may or may not be helping out with the other costs.

          “One must also think of the future as in two years this kid will be 18 and unless its GoArmy.com he will be working or going to school somewhere which might be far from home base. Think, McFly!”

          Most college freshmen cannot/are encouraged not to have cars on campus freshman year (my or sophomore year at my alma mater) so that may be irrelevant.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            So ok, you’re gifted/saved $11K. Then you go buy the 2004 Mercedes ML, because that’s what you want, and it blows a tranny/turbo/HG whatever. Mommy and Daddy are then going to shell out 3K to fix your car? Seriously?

            I went to community college where you most definitely needed a car. You bring up a good point on college policies though as they will vary. We also assume he’s going to college and not just working which is probably the better move for his generation unless he’s doing STEM (or something to this effect).

      • 0 avatar
        hubcap

        “…young people don’t generally drive that much in terms of miles…”

        I don’t know? I realize this is based off our own experiences. I grew up in the northern suburbs of New York City. I didn’t get my license as early as I could have. I think I was 17 and at least a few months before I earned it but I made up for it.

        Action Park was an amusement park located on the ski slopes of Vernon Valley, N.J. It was about an hour away. Went there a lot. In the summer, myself and some friends spent an inordinate amount of time driving around New York City.

        And when you have a car, it becomes much easier to have access to girls that don’t go to your school. I started meeting girls who lived outside of my local area (Paramus, Hackensack, East Rutherford, Clifton, Passaic, Rye, Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow) and going to see them was like a mini adventure.

        So, he might not drive it a lot but then again.. you never know. One good thing though is he doesn’t have a commute which I’m guessin’ is one of the greatest factors for accruing miles on a vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      My first car, a Corolla, was sensible. What a mistake that was! Not only was it the least reliable car I’ve ever owned, it was also the most expensive, inflation-adjusted, until my first brand-new car.

      The way to save money on cars is to go where they ain’t. Everyone “knows” that a Camcord or Civrolla is a good car, which makes them way over-priced. Get a car that everyone “knows” is bad instead. You can get nearly-new Fiat or Dart for 11K, or a seven-year-old Accord that’s had four (reluctant) oil changes.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Seriously what was the story behind this Corolla, you’ve piqued my curiosity?

        “You can get nearly-new Fiat or Dart for 11K, or a seven-year-old Accord that’s had four (reluctant) oil changes.”

        Fiat products seem to be mixed and haven’t put in enough time yet to know their long term reliability. Ruling out an Accord with improper oil changes is part of the art of used car buying. Steve Lang has written tomes on the subject on this very site.

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          Not much of a story with the Corolla, just that I overpaid, and that 80’s Corollas rusted like crazy, and they weren’t as reliable as people claimed.

          Almost every sub-system failed in the three years I owned it: radiator, gas tank (rust), alternator, clutch, water pump, brakes, steering (pitman arm), exhaust, some weird tube next to the carb. I don’t blame Toyota for the tires, or for the cheap aftermarket stereo bolted under the dash.

          None of those repairs was very expensive, and I did drive it across the continent twice (East-West and North-South), so I got a lot of use out of it.

          I also got to meet a lot of mechanics, some of which are friends to this day.

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      I basically think this is excellent advice…especially about girls. As a note, it’s WAY cheaper to be a musician than to have a nice car in high school, and you will do so much better with women it’s not even funny. It’s almost unfair.

      I went through high school in a ’65 LeSabre, (8 years old when I was this kid’s age) and had much more action than guys with ‘Vettes and GTOs, because I was playing music in rec centers and coffee houses and bars that would look the other way on age (drinking in NY was 18 at the time).

      Be yourself and remember – girls are just other human beings but with a vital difference…

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      “-All vehicles once beyond a certain mileage and age start to need wearables replaced.

      Wearables such as tires, breaks, seals, shocks, struts, seals, pumps, hoses, and fluids. You will most likely be doing this out of your own pocket, so budget in advance.”

      Yup.

      Basically assume any used car is going to need new tires on the way home [and if it doesn’t, you’re paying for it anyway, since it’s inflating the price more than the tires themselves cost], and it won’t hurt to change all the fluids on principle, unless it comes with receipts proving it doesn’t.

      And maybe even then.

      Struts, seals, pumps, all depend on age and mileage; lightly used and relatively new, not a big deal.

      100kmi? Well, don’t bet on the struts being any good.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    Thomas and his worthless gang of morons should all be fired immediately. They are all a bunch of f$ck ups. Why such a small island needs an extensive rail network is beyond me.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    Buy my well taken care of 2005 Mini Cooper S (6MT, factory supercharged, factory optional LSD) w/ 77k miles. It is a blast to drive. There are tons of information online for whatever you could imagine doing to it. FWD + LSD means that it does great in the snow. It has needed things fixed here and there over the years, but nothing that stranded us. It is also reasonably easy to work on. Girls will love it and you won’t look like a chode that is trying too hard to be cool. Even as these cars approach 11 or 12 years old, they still look fantastic. You should be able to score a nice one for $7k or so leaving plenty for repairs and/or modifications… though I don’t recommend modifications past wheels and tires. Most are a waste of money. We are honestly only getting rid of our R53 MINI because my wife wants a new Clubman to enjoy the MINI more. It gets a bit tedious pulling our daughter in and out of the back seat and my wife doesn’t want to drive the 4Runner everywhere all the time.

  • avatar
    7402

    Yeah, a WRX/STI would be fun. Skip it and just by an Impreza with a manual transmission. $11k should find a 2009 or newer with less than 75k miles on it. It’ll be cheaper to insure, get you around in the winter, have room for friends, and even get you through college if you treat it right.

    • 0 avatar
      baconator

      This is a pretty darn smart suggestion, I think. The Impreza 2.5 has plenty of torque and feels just as quick, maybe a little quicker, from stoplight to stoplight. But far less maintenance and far less trouble with insurance.

      And if you’re really a car guy, having a “momentum” car as your first car will force you to learn good driving habits that will stand you in good stead when you get more powerful cars later.

      I’d add that for high school / college, having a 4-door tends to be more fun. You want to go places with your friends. A TSX or a newer Jetta is actually a pretty good bet.

      If you want a car that is going to get you women, then all you really need is one with a working heater.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Somehow my browser wound up at a site with advice on how to pick up 16 year old cheerleaders? Oh, wait, no, still on TTAC…

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    The insurance part of the equation should almost be the primary part of the decision, the wrong car could easily make the monthly premiums more than simply leasing a brand new car.

    I think it’s a bad move for a parent to buy a sporty car for a first time driver, and almost all of these would be disqualified if I was looking at a car for a teenage boy. Don’t think for a minute that “my kid” is not going to be doing crazy stuff in it, they want a fast car so they can drive fast, race their friends, take fast turns, etc. Every teenager I knew with a “quick car” when I was in high school did crazy stuff in it.

    Not advice a upcoming teenage driver wants to hear, but get an older Lexus ES. Cheap, reliable, and safe.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      The insurance part of the equation should almost be the primary part of the decision.

      Absolutely. My parents paid my insurance back in my high school years and I had a “good student discount” which my father explicitly told me that if I couldn’t keep that discount I would no longer have insurance and therefore no longer have a car.

  • avatar
    Boff

    What about a 2012+ Ford Focus? They can be relatively sporty-ish with the sport package and 5-speed stick. And they have most modern safety and convenience features including (most importantly) Bluetooth phone integration.

  • avatar
    01 Deville

    I would recommend 2009-2010 Mercury Milan. It looks sharp on higher trims, is reliable and affordable. Insurance won’t kill you nor the FE.Will last you through college.
    You can also get a first gen CTS or charger, but second gen for both are significantly improved and decent second gen examples in MI are just outside your range. Best of luck!

  • avatar
    John

    Sorry to be that guy, but the best answer to “What car should I buy?” asked by a 16 year old guy, is “What car would you prefer to crash in?” – because odds are, he will.

  • avatar
    Fred

    This is what I did, 1969 my first car was forced on me, a $100 1959 Ford Fairlane. Hated it. My first fun came a few years later, 1960 AH Sprite for $400. Loved it. It made an impression that 45 years later I still have a small British sport car. So if you want something modern than I guess it’s a Miata.

  • avatar
    Crancast

    Loooooong time lurker. Enjoy all of the articles and the fantastic B&B comments.

    And WOW — This advice is the worst I can remember since finding this site 5+ years ago. Recommend a Mustang with a service manual in Michigan no less for male teenage driver who (1) knows virtually nothing about driving, but will THINK he knows everything and (2) will be overconfident with a very likely high dosage of bravado at some point since that is what young teenage boys/men do. Because lets not kid ourselves, anyone will only read what they want to hear – get a fast sports car – even though you suggested more sensible choices.

    I truly enjoy the writing Bark, but this advice column is borderline irresponsible.

    I had this same quandary as a parent last summer. 17 year old first car and he wants a sporty, cool, fast ride. Uh, HELL NO. Those are second car shopping list requirements at best depending on how the first one goes. He can do plenty of damage in a boring slow first ride.

    For another take from a few years back, here’s another read. The vehicle of choice can be debated, but the checklist is spot on. Agree with several of the suggestions from the B&B. And with the budget, do not forget to set aside some funds for bluetooth and stereo upgrades, maybe a backup camera, etc.

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/1999-2003-lexus-rx300-the-perfect-first-car/

    Thanks to all for making this site an enjoyable read.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Something safe and heavily depreciated. No older than 5 yrs to ensure modern safety. Pulled from the IIHS list of safest midsize cars

    Fusion, Sonata, Optima, Legacy, Outback

    Just because you have 11k to spend doesn’t mean you should spend it all. A car is a depreciating asset, and as a new driver, you’ve got pricey insurance to consider.

    Be smart.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Better idea – borrow your parent’s car until you NEED to have a car.

  • avatar
    Willyam

    Ok, not to be anti-Mustang, but I just did this very search with dear Step-Daughter. Your budget is higher, so congrats on that, but do not buy one earlier than 2009. Ideally, the sweet gold ones from 2010.

    Ours is a 2005, and here’s the deal…they were built as badly as my first pony cars were back in the eighties.

    Hers was well-kept and low mileage, but it leaks like a sieve (or pasta-strainer, if you prefer). This is weird for a vehicle with an interior that seems made of Tupperware (after 2011 they do get a bit better).

    The first big storm it encountered it drowned all the electrics, including the computer. This is apparently not unique to ours, as a quick search for “Mustang” and “water damage” will confirm. Fortunately, she had me to help buy used parts and glue the thing back together, but just be sure you have a tolerance for this sort of thing and a secondary ride to work/school.

    In the end, she loves the Drowned Pony anyway (how Game of Thrones sounding). So, we still have it and I clean up after it as it leaks water in and oil out. I will admit it does look good.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Heh, my 65 Mustang was a leaker, fortunately it didn’t rain a lot in SoCal. And to be fair, from the Bondo I eventually discovered on it I’d say it had a hard life before I bought it.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      “Ours is a 2005, and here’s the deal…they were built as badly as my first pony cars were back in the eighties.”

      My experience with two S-197’s has been different (07 GT and 09 GT500) both were reliable and I never had an issue with leaks other than an issue that developed with the supercharge on the GT500 replaced under warranty.

      The only grip I have with the early S-197 cars are the door panels and Ford using that craptacular foam adhesive to bond the vinyl to the insert and give it some padding.

      My mother’s S-197 GT has been reliable as well with the exception of the front tie-rod ends.

      Also it seems weird the computer was “drowned” since it resides under the hood in a sealed case and uses sealed connectors for the harness?

      Are you referring to the fuel pump driver module under the seat? They are susceptible to water damage when the interior gets flooded.

      Also in all three cases there was never any issue with flooding in the interior or trunk nor have I heard this as a common complaint on any forum or FB group or the Mustang folk I hang out with at Cars & Coffee or otherwise.

      • 0 avatar
        Willyam

        Sorry, I’ve been away. I should have been a bit more specific, in that by computer I meant the “Smart Junction Box”, or “SJB”. Unfortunate name, as it gets installed in the right side kick panel and water from the window channel, firewall plugs for the cowl (made of Ford’s best FOAM!), and if the drain gets clogged the cabin air filter intake. The plugs on this iPad-mini sized device are on the front and, of course, the TOP, the better to drink rainwater with.

        The hilarity ensues when it shorts out, as I attempted to get it a mile back to the house. The gauges all quit (electric speedo), interior lights, power windows stuck down, radio, wipers!, head and tail lights, pretty much each electric device in the vehicle outside of the running engine. One of my more unpleasant and dangerous recoveries trying to get the thing home as item after item went down. Ford only makes replacements sporadically, and they’re 500 bucks! I found a salvaged V6 coupe with the right options and swapped one out for $90, but it was a risk that it still worked. I was lucky there.

        I really thought I must have bought a lemon and did some research to nail the dealer, but unfortunately I found many, many cases of this. At least two TSB’s that describe how to patch the thing up and then test it for leaks using duct tape and the A/C fan. Really.

        I’m not disagreeing with you, and believe me I feel quite taken advantage of having bought this one. I LOVE the look of these, and always wanted one myself, (in that excellent throwback green).

        This Google search will pull literally thousands of hits: “mustang SJB water leak”. If anyone has one and wants to try to prevent this issue, I can refer you to the right heat-shrink replacement plugs, drains, and weatherstripping. An ounce of prevention…

  • avatar
    Acd

    A Volvo V70 for several reasons.

    Since he’s only sixteen there’s a very good chance he’s going to be involved in an accident and a Volvo will do an excellent job keeping him safe from bodily harm.

    In a few years our young friend will most likely head off to college and providing he hasn’t already wrecked it a Volvo station wagon does a great job moving belongings to and from campus. Once he’s there it will also do a great job transporting him and his friends to god only knows what they’ll find to get into.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    $11,000 to spend on a car at age 16? What do you do? Rob a McDonalds rather than work at one? Or sell something illegal?

    This is a joke, whether parents are providing the cash or not.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      *I* don’t even have $11K to spend on a car.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      Don’t know the particulars but kids with skills can make pretty good money now. The internet makes it easier for kids to have access to better opportunities that many of us had.

      My first job was washing dishes in a bakery. Have you ever seen a cartoon when the dishes are literally going up the wall? That was my reality.

      There’s a lot of opportunity today but it’s not going to drop out of the sky and present itself. Kids need to take the initiative. I know a couple of authors whose kids are now writing and earning money for their work.

  • avatar
    maxxcool7421

    Umm

    mustang ? ok, not bad at all, but not ideal for hauling 4 friends. I might suggest also a Chevy SS. 4 doors comfy *ahem* back seats.. v8 RWD. there both cheap and self service yards can have you plush in parts easy peasy.

    Honestly. budget 9000$. keep 2000$ and NEVER spend it. keep it for parts and as a fix-it budget.

    no no no no no no no and fucdge no …
    – ANY Volkswagen turbo.. drop the APR dream of tuning a VW.. stop
    – 2002-2011 Subaru WRX
    – 1990s Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4
    – 2002-2008 Audi A4 Quattro <—- no no no no no no no no!!
    – 2003-2008 Nissan 350Z

  • avatar
    Alfisti

    The answer, as always is Saab.

    Specifically a 2008 wagon in AERO trim. The 2.8 will offer a solid 380HP with a simple tune, maybe add a brace to help the handling and off you go.

    Safe, cool, comfortable, power everything and shit-tons of torque. JD Power says they are more reliable than anything listed in the OP.

    Oh and it holds a mattress in the back. Just sayin.

  • avatar
    suspekt

    I’m going to give this a sincere answer as I would a family member.

    Buy a 2005-2008 Toyota Corolla and bank some of that $11k (assuming it’s cash). You can get an S model with the a larger motor and manual but it may hurt resale turnaround.

    Figure things out the next few years and once you have stability with income, career trajectory, you can dump the Corolla for damn near what you paid.

    I recommend Corolla’s to many family members. If they need more utility, I steer them towards a Matrix or GOD FORBID Pontiac Vibe GT with the Camry 2.4 (which in gen 2 guise is a great looking vehicle).

  • avatar
    Chan

    Greg’s list is insurance hell. With a budget of $11,000, I’m willing to guess he doesn’t have an insurance budget of $3000+ per year. That’s more than some car payments.

    Also, maintenance needs can strike hard on older cars. What if the car needs belts and plugs? Suspension repair? That can suddenly burn a $1-3k hole, and someone without stable income should minimise that risk by choosing a more reliable car. No Euro.

    I had a car with 200 hp at the age of 17 and looking back, that was way too much power. My high school friend wrecked his brand new A4 2.8 tearing up mountain roads. He is lucky to be alive, and I am lucky to have stayed trouble-free with the BS that I used to pull.

    So what is cool, reasonably fun, reasonably safe, reasonably reliable and not astronomical to insure?

    Hyundai Veloster manual
    Jeep Wrangler manual (how is the reliability on these, anyway?)
    Toyota FJ Cruiser manual
    Toyota Matrix manual
    Honda Element manual

    Maybe I’ll think of a few more later today. Basically, anything sporty + powerful will be impossible to insure at age 16. So I’m thinking cool + quirky.

    Each of these cars is also available with an Auto, but I would personally recommend a stick to force a new driver to understand the machine.

    And Greg, get an insurance quote first.

    • 0 avatar
      Scuttle

      I’m not automatically of the mindset that a Mustang = death like some of the other commentators but it does increase the odds. Your suggestion of the Jeep Wrangler is a good one I think. I’m betting it will pull more tail and lead to more fun high school memories than a Mustang ever will.

      • 0 avatar
        Chan

        Yeah, forget about death, just try even insuring a car like that on my 16-year-old self.

        Actually, I have a friend whose mom bought him a G35 Coupe after he finished grad school. Insurance in CA was still over $2k/year and they only found out after taking the car home. The car had to go.

        Insurance costs are no joke.

        • 0 avatar
          Scuttle

          Heh, I remember wanting a used s2000 when I was around 21 or 22. I had a good job could afford the car but not the insurance costs at the time.

          My first car was a 1990 Nissan Sentra with no ac and no power steering/anything. Did have a 4spd manual though. My parents bought it for 900 dollars and after I worked for a couple years I replaced it with a 1995 Honda Prelude Si (manual as well) and gave the Sentra back to my folks. I did a lot of dumb stuff in the Sentra that im glad I got out of my system before buying a car that I really cared about.

  • avatar
    King of Eldorado

    I like Mustangs and have long had a theory that 90% of people (non-car-guy people) do not know and don’t care about the difference between a GT and a lower-level V-6: a Mustang is a Mustang. Greg is apparently a car guy and might feel he has “settled” by getting a V-6 rather than a GT, but he will likely get a lower-mileage car in better condition within his budget, they’re plenty fast for a new driver, and they are likely to cost less to insure. But he should take a good look at the rear seat in any Mustang and consider whether his friends would really want to ride there for more than a few blocks.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    $11k? I’m middle-aged now and rarely spend over $10k on a car. Just traded my MY04 BMW 325i for a (don’t laugh) low mileage MY08 Scion XB.

    The Scion a whole different vehicle, but it has traction control, stability control, ABS, and air bags galore. It can also haul stuff and has plenty of legroom in the back for passengers It’s also funky and distinctive enough that I don’t feel like I’m driving an anonymous car. Performance is lacking compared to the BMW – which, these days, was never a heavy hitter – but living in a suburb where the speed limit is 25-30mph mean that I’m rarely speeding anyway.

    Performance cars – I’ve owned a few – are just asking you to do something stupid with them. Like street racing… or the time I outran the police (back in the 80s)… or just general hooning. Inexperienced drivers, no matter how fast their lightning reflexes are, will be more likely to be in an accident.

    My first car as a teenager was a 1968 Firebird that I paid $680 for in 1987. Being Michigan it mean rusted out rear quarters, a leaking heater core, a 2spd powerglide, and a four drum brakes. I too had big plans for wrenching on the vehicle and fixing it up. Instead, with my barely minimum wage job, I was just able to keep it going for a year.

    tldr version: shoot for reliability first, performance second. Shoot for something distinctive and fun too.

  • avatar
    Weltron

    I know this is completely out of left field, but hear me out: Volvo S80 T6.

    A) You will have a twin turbo straight six that has more than enough power.

    B) On the newer models, available all wheel drive

    C) Being that it is a Volvo, it will make the insurance man happy

    D) Being a Volvo, the body is built extremely well to stand up to salt

    E) Volvo seats. Need I say more?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      F) Lame fuel economy with AWD
      G) Difficult to service
      H) Not exceedingly reliable
      I) Looks old
      J) NOT COOL
      K) Interior bits which are already falling apart

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Interesting idea. Aside from the need of a Volvo dealer or indy for maintainace what you’d run into is higher than expected acqusition costs. It seems the MY10 S80 FWD I6 trades between $7 to $14K for clean with miles between 100 and 50 respectively. If we go back to MY07 it becomes much more feasible:

      MY07 Volvo S80 FWD I6

      12/30/15 NJ Regular $6,100 86,445 Above BLACK 6G A Yes
      01/22/16 PA Lease $4,800 87,090 Avg BLACK 6G P Yes
      12/30/15 TAMPA Lease $3,100 87,381 Below TAN 6G A No
      01/12/16 NYMETSKY Regular $6,300 87,766 Above GRAY 6G A Yes
      01/07/16 PALM BCH Regular $5,500 90,217 Avg BLACK 6G A Yes
      01/12/16 ORLANDO Regular $6,200 92,434 Above BLUE 6G A Yes

      The question is of course, finding one in the first place, and they paying for the deferred maint (timing belt, plugs/wires, fluids, other wearables etc) but yes its doable. I wouldn’t touch a P2 Volvo S80 (<05) if I was this kid.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        It’s just not a good idea for a 16 year old who wants cool points. Volvo sedan post-1995 RWD brick is inherently uncool.

        • 0 avatar
          Weltron

          If he is looking at Mustangs and the like, I really don’t think he cares about fuel economy as much. My first ride was a 1999 S80 T6, with the infamous GM transmission. It has held up just fine actually. It’s had a few repairs don’t get me wrong, but they are not half as bad as everyone makes them out to be, especially the newer ones. Plus if he wants to be a little different, you cant exactly go wrong.

          “looks old”

          I got mine when I was 15. Believe me, having a car that looks old is your best friend right there. Especially when you’re 16.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I agree the P2 Volvos can kept kept going, its just a exercise in $$$ and PITA. The P3 seems to be a vast improvement and is reflected in resale. I posted an MY07 P3, here are the MY05 P2 S80s

            01/06/16 SAN ANTO Regular $2,500 96,867 Avg WHITE 6GT A Yes
            01/06/16 MILWAUKE Regular $3,100 100,077 Above BLACK 6GT A Yes
            11/24/15 PENSCOLA Regular $1,200 115,809 Avg WHITE 6GT A Yes
            12/11/15 NEVADA Regular $1,500 130,720 Avg WHITE 6GT A Yes
            01/21/16 NEWENGLD Lease $800 148,878 Avg DK BLUE 6GT A Yes
            01/13/16 CALIFORN Regular $950 168,616 Avg GOLD 6GT A Yes

          • 0 avatar
            Weltron

            28-
            I completely agree with you. I love my P2, but for him, especially since he has the cash to blow, get the P3. They are vastly improved over the P2’s. My cutoff for him would be the 05-06 models and up. I would not go back farther then that. The older ones can be a PITA to keep running.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            “especially since he has the cash to blow”

            I don’t think he does. Presumably he might like some education after high school – not being saddled with a PITA Volvo would be helpful at that point!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Weltron

            I’m glad we agree. A P2 S80 is fair condition might make a nice secondary car if one is apt to DIY and has their own facilities or home garage.

            I hang out in a Volvo indy shop. I seldom see P3s for whatever reason but we do see a fair amount of newer (06-09) P2 XC90s in addition to the P2 XC70s and S60/80s.

          • 0 avatar
            Weltron

            @ Corey

            I’m in my freshman year of college with a P2. I’m surviving just fine. And I am by no means rich either.

            @ 28

            Agreed. If he is able to wrench, a later gen P2 might not be a bad thing. And you are a lucky man sir. I never had any Volvo indys where I was. It was me buying the blue box parts(or iPD), looking on MVS, and doing it myself, because I wasn’t paying dealer labor.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I had a very tidy 97 I30 (so about 9-10 years old at the time) in college, which I spent 35% of 11K for, and knew it would never break down – no survival tactics needed. Because it was Japanese.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Weltron

            You might appreciate my ’93 244.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          I think the S80 V8 is cool. It has a snarl to it and can keep up with the competition of the times.

          Still, I own many dollars worth of tools and my have own garage and still I didn’t want to hassle with one.

          • 0 avatar
            Weltron

            @ 28

            I appreciate all Volvos (or to that point, Swedish cars.) Oddly enough however, I don’t really care for other European cars. I’ve always liked the 200’s, especially the later ones.

            On a second thought, It’s probably a good thing that I don’t have a Volvo indy near me. I’d probably be spending a lot of time there :)

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            This one is neat but a PITA at times. ’93 has the revised windshield, R134a A/C (which still sucks), and electric fan. This one also gets about 14mpg consistently which I have never been able to improve.

            Probably for the best. I got roped into being the IT director of this shop about seven years ago (IT employees: 1, IT budget: $2.74/year)

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      F) You will not have a functioning transmission

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I just sold a 350Z and got a non-Si 8th gen Civic. I REGRET NOTHING. I highly recommend the Civic. Cheap to insure, cheap to fuel, cheap to maintain, and with a stickshift downright fun to drive. Z was just too fast and conspicuous for the street and pretty much a death warrant for a kid who likes speed. Get a Civic for well under your budget and then get a racing sim rig and go find a go kart track. Oh yea and get some snow tires, shifter bushings, better brake pads and lowering springs with aftermarket shocks. And an intake to make noise. You will be skraight

  • avatar
    Eyeflyistheeye

    I wonder if the theoretical panty-dropping premium makes the Mustang that much of a better value than a Panther car which can be had for much less, cheaper insurance premiums and cheap as hell to fix.

    Here’s a suggestion out of left-field. A used Grand Caravan American Value Package with the 3.6 Pentastar. Certifiable sleeper (literally and figuratively), can be had for $10k, low insurance and if one is feeling exceptionally froggy, there’s never been a better time for the shaggin’ wagon to return.

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    “You’ll shoot your eye out!”

    –B&B

  • avatar
    fvfvsix

    When I was 16, I had an ’83 Camaro V6 (this was in the early 90’s) – but oddly enough, I had way better luck with the ladies when I borrowed the family’s 1987 Ford Aerostar :)

    My advice – go non-sporty, used, and Japanese. My teenage years saw me re-engineering that friggin’ Camaro just to keep it running.

  • avatar
    Scott_314

    Follow-up from 28 cars later (great post!):

    Buy a $6K one-owner Buick. It will run beautifully, impress a girl just as much (just keep it clean), and put the other $5K into a few moderately-distressed oil company stocks.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    My thoughts: Avoid anything that could potentially be in The Fast and The Furious. WRXs, Acura sporty-cars, etc. They’ll all be thrashed and modded to hell right now.

    My default suggestion would be a Tahoe/Yukon or Expedition. They’re big and tough, parts and service are cheap and they’re mechanically stout.

    However, this guy wants a sportier model, probably not an SUV so I would say a good bet would be a 2009-2014 Cadillac CTS. It’s under the radar as far as resale value goes, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find one in good shape used. Has the 3.6L, so it may not be a Mustang, but it scoots around fast enough. Has AWD too for the winters. It’s luxurious and has the Cadillac name, most teenage girls probably won’t know it’s not the latest and greatest, after all when was the last time anyone saw or bought a new CTS anyway?

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      Can I request that we try and avoid entrusting inexperienced drivers with three tons? It can be done, but if it’s not an absolute need, and we’re operating under the assumption they’re absolutely going to get into an accident, maybe more mass isn’t a great idea? You know, for the sake of everyone else on the road?

      • 0 avatar
        Mandalorian

        The problems happen when someone goes from a Civic/WRX/small car to a 3-ton vehicle, they think they can just whip it around and physics proves them wrong.

        Starting out with a big vehicle is the safest way to drive them. One quickly learns its parameters and retains them even when moving down in size.

        • 0 avatar
          Maymar

          I feel comfortable saying there’s a happy medium between small and nimble and six thousand pounds of just waiting to smash into you. Especially since a teen’s proclivities for stupidity aren’t limited to overcooking it into just one or two corners (lest we forget noted affluenza-afflicted F-150 driver Ethan Crouch). Let’s say a Ford Ranger – nearly half the weight, and still not the second coming of the Lotus Seven.

          On the other hand, every teen should just get a Hellcat so they’ll learn how to handle high-power vehicles. Could be too dangerous to start them in something with 100hp.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      Have you seen the latest F&F movies? They’ll hoon anything.

  • avatar

    I’d get a Civic, or perhaps a late model Celica. Yes, they are FWD, and yes, they are way underpowered when compared to Mustang GT. I realize that. But having been there, I also know a secret: although they won’t beat that ‘Stang at a racetrack. they can be a sporty as you want. In fact, if I would even consider an almost brand-new Fiesta SFE with 1.0l turbo and the 5-speed. That would be a kickass car if I were 16. Again, not as much power as in Bark’s FiST, but you can get one for $11k.

  • avatar
    Mathias

    I’m a little late to the party.
    I don’t want him — or any other adolescent — to be “safe when he hits something.”

    That something could be me on a bicycle or my kid on foot or my wife in the car… learn to drive, anything will do. But the attitude of “he’s young, he’ll crash, needs safety” really grates.

    Just about any car with a stick will teach him something and be entertaining. Once he knows how to drive, who knows. What about earning your spurs first?

    • 0 avatar
      Chan

      So you agree with the general premise of the comments here–any car with a stick, meaning a tiny engine will do.

      Powerful cars + high schoolers tends to be a recipe for wrapping around a tree, if not killing an entire family in the wrong place at the wrong time.

      Yes, some people buy V8 muscle cars to cruise at 25 mph, but approximately 0% of them are age 16.

  • avatar
    Sam Hell Jr

    To the questioner… As that much-ridiculed Caroline Ellis piece pointed out correctly, it is not the vehicle, but the man-car synergy, which precipitates the friskiness. Are you a stick-shift car guy? Get something new and slow-fast like a Fiesta. Are you a Tony Soprano boss sort? Get a used SUV as some have suggested. Are you a pragmatic, entrepreneurial type? Get the Versa Note or some kind of eco box as others offered up. (Believe me, done convincingly, being smart with money is a great route to pulling high-quality trim, if not necessarily quantity.)

    If you haven’t found one of these paths yet… Get a late-model 3800 or a V6 300, but for the love of God get leather and heated seats. I swear, if only I’d once known how little it really takes…

  • avatar
    mypoint02

    +1 on insurance being the big concern here. IIRC, to keep the bills down it should be…

    A) 4 doors rather than 2
    B) Naturally aspirated
    C) Not a convertible

    Back in my high school driving days (mid 90s), I remember Mustangs, Camaros, and Civic SIs being expensive to insure for young drivers. I can only imagine what a WRX or Z would cost – especially in Michigan. I like the idea of an older TL or TSX (manual on the TSX if possible). Reliable, relatively cheap to insure, will go through the snow, and it’s good looking and prestigious enough to get some attention from the ladies.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Considering Bark’s story about his Jetta III, how has nobody recommended the current Jetta? There is a lease deal on the Jetta S for $169/mo for 36 months, $1,999 down. Safe, reliable, fuel efficient, room for friends, and about $3k under budget. Deal ends Monday though, better get moving.

    I’m almost tempted myself; it would give me something to drive while an older and less reliable indulgence sits on jack stands. Hell, some people pay more for their cable bill!

  • avatar
    IAhawkeye

    Super late to the party(as usual on here, I hate college) but after reading the all the comments on here, honestly a lot of good suggestions. Just a couple things I would add.

    To everyone who said a Mustang GT will get you killed, I’d like to respectively disagree. We had tons of kids at my school with Mustang GT’s and 0 deaths.. so physically you’d probably be okay. Financially is a different story, insurance would be insane on one. I have no idea what my parents paid for my truck to be insured but it couldn’t of been cheap.

    Also, have you thought about potential damage to your ride? My truck got hit in the parking lot of my hs, and whoever did it just drove away. I did my own damage to it just through shear stupidity. My sister has quite done quite a bit of damage to what was a pretty much perfect condition Corolla in just the 6 months she’s been able to drive. I don’t know if it’s your money or your parents(not that it should matter) but it’d be crushing to have something your paying for get all marked up.

    Either way bestof luck, it’s cool you get some choice in the matter instead of just being handed whatever, I personally would’ve probably wanted to choose a Mustang, but with winters and the kinds of activities I like, still would’ve ended up with a truck anyways.

  • avatar
    09box

    Nothing rwd/remotely sporty/big motor. Something with 4 doors. A friend of mine had a 2 door Accord Coupe in high school and it was considered a sports car and his insurance was considerably higher. I never spent more than $2500 on a car when I was in high school and college.

    Mazda 3 sedan or hatch or Subaru Impreza sedan/hatch gets my vote. If you can find one in your price range, Honda Fit’s are great cars. Tons of room, fun to drive and great gas mileage.

  • avatar
    DownUnder2014

    This has been quite an interesting (and educational) thread to me (I’m looking to buy a car soon)!

  • avatar
    JREwing

    Three problems with the Mustang suggestion:

    1) 16 year old kid with no experience. I got in plenty enough trouble with a Malaise-era Crown Victoria.

    2) Michigan insurance laws (No-fault + full coverage = insurance payments that could be double the car payment. Seriously.)

    3) Michigan weather

    The smart money would be on sporty 4-doors or wagons that aren’t recognized as “performance cars” by insurers. Some suggestions:

    1) Mazda 3 or 6

    2) Ford Focus

    3) Ford Fusion

    4) Honda Accord

    5) Honda Civic (pre-2012)

    6) Subaru Forester – Far less likely to be molested than a WRX; suspension swap will make it handle like one; way cheaper to insure than a WRX.

    I would also echo getting snow tires regardless of vehicle, particularly if he’s in the snow belt.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    Me? I’d hit this MY93 Mustang LX V8 convertible sleeper like it was covered in sugar and I was Oprah. http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?endYear=2017&zip=43235&listingType=used&listingTypes=used%2Ccertified&transmissionCode=MAN&maxPrice=15000&transmissionCodes=MAN&showcaseListingId=418687590&featureCodes=1078&vehicleStyleCodes=CONVERT&sortBy=derivedpriceASC&startYear=1981&showcaseOwnerId=67968&firstRecord=900&numRecords=100&searchRadius=0&listingId=408145938&Log=0


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