New or Used: For My Daughter's Daughter

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
by Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang

Steve writes:

My 24 yr old daughter had been living on her own and driving an ’01 2 door Accord she’d totaled and had repaired. Not a safe car (air bags not replaced), but her choice– until she had the world’s most beautiful baby, our first and

only granddaughter.

We are not poor, and our granddaughter’s safety was at stake, so 18 months ago we bought her a new ’09 Elantra. Our reasons were it had a 100k warranty and modern safety systems.

Last week she totaled it. Nobody hurt, thankfully. She’s getting $12k+ for the wrecked car. We’re not particularly inclined to get her yet another new car, as you might imagine. But, there’s the world’s most beautiful toddler to consider. She says she wants something bigger and has been looking at Accords, but in her price range they’re much older and I presume less safe. Actually, she wants a small CUV, but with her driving I’m even less inclined to support that.

I’ve been thinking another Elantra in the ’08 range or perhaps a bit newer as we can kick in some money if we have to. Or should we buy something even newer? I don’t see much improvement in terms of safety in the past two years, but new does mean a meaningful warranty.

Any suggested used cars no smaller than an Elantra with up to date safety systems and reasonable reliability?(although given her driving, reliability might not be that important!)

Steve answers:

Consider yourself great parents with ‘extraordinary’ patience for a daughter in transition.

That being said, a late model compact car should be perfectly fine for your daughter. If she liked the Hyundai Elantra I would stick with that. You WILL likely have to pay a bit more for that model than you expect. Hyundai is a hot name right now and the lack of retail sales over the last several years has put a severe strain on supply.Which brings me to the other side of the equation. If we take a look at the top picks by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in 2008 – 2009 , we find several alternatives.
  • Honda Civic 2009 4-door models with optional electronic stability control
  • Mitsubishi Lancer 2009 models with optional electronic stability control
  • Scion xB
  • Subaru Impreza with optional electronic stability control
  • Volkswagen Rabbit 2009 4-door models
I have always liked the Lancer. Out of these five models it would likely be the best ‘bang for the buck’ in the used car market. Any of the above models along with the Elantra should be a good fit. My wife drove a 1997 Escort when our first kid came along due in great part to it’s safety ratings. Now she drives a Civic and we have two kids. Great car with great safety to boot.I would not indulge her ‘wants’ at this point and just give her what she ‘needs’. You have already given her way too much Economic Outpatient Care.Sajeev answers:This is tough to armchair. It sounds like your daughter needs to learn from her mistakes, not to mention her actions put another life at stake. I reckon we all pay higher insurance premiums for our collective mistakes, but for her own well being, a full size car that’s on the right side of the depreciation curve is her best choice.

No matter what, all late model cars are remarkably safe. They are packed with airbags and sport months of chassis R&D in simulated and real crash tests. The price is a little tight for new and clean Camrys, Accords and what not, I’d recommend a little tough love: a ex-fleet Chevy Impala or perhaps the Ford Five Hundred/Taurus/Montego/Sable.

Few people (cough, Zackman) go out of their way to recommend these fleet worthy machines, but the price is right and respect for the Laws of Physics is present, accounted for. And if your daughter complains about these choices, remind her to spend less time worrying about her choice of vehicle and more on her daughter’s well being. Good luck to you.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.
Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang

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  • Lumbergh21 Lumbergh21 on Jul 06, 2011

    I too think that many of these comments are way overboard. We do not know the specifics or the people involved. I do think the attitude that she must have a nice car for the benefit of the granddaughter is ignoring the most important safety feature on any car, the driver behind the wheel. If that safety feature is not turned on, then the car is not safe. The fact that she has been in two serious accidents by the age of 24 does make a person question her driving skills and attentiveness, and I don't think there is any legitimate argument against that point. At some point you will need to find a different solution rather than buying her new cars if she continues to total them, and I believe that point is now. P.S. When I was a baby/toddler, my mom didn't own a car because she couldn't afford one. My grandparents could have bought her a car but that wasn't how my grandfather raised his children. This was before there was any transit system where I grew up,a nd we survived. We lived in the middle of town within walking distance of my school and a store. And that is how my mom got around, on foot. Not the greatest neighborhood, but the best for our situation.

  • John Horner John Horner on Jul 07, 2011

    Last generation Ford 500/Taurus. Stay away from the CVT and get one with a conventional automatic transmission.

  • VoGhost Fantastic work by Honda design. When I first saw the pictures, I thought "Is that a second gen Acura NSX?"
  • V16 2025 VW GLI...or 2025 Honda Civic SI? Same target audience, similar price points. Both are rays of sun in the gray world of SUV'S.
  • FreedMike Said this before and I'll say it again: I'm not that exercised about this whole "pay for a subscription" thing, as long as the deal's reasonable. And here's how you make it reasonable: offer it a monthly charge. Let's say that adaptive headlights are a $500 option on this vehicle, and the subscription is $15 a month, or $540 over a three year lease. So you try the feature for a month, and if you like it, you keep it; if you don't, then you discontinue it, like a Netflix subscription. In any case, you didn't get charged $500 up front the feature. That's not a bad deal.In my case, let's say VW offers an over the air chip reflash that gives me another 25 hp. The total price of the upgrade is $1,000 (which is what a reflash would cost you in the aftermarket). If they offered me a one time monthly subscription for $50 to try it out, I'd take it. In other words, maybe the news isn't all bad.
  • 2ACL A good car, but - at least in this configuration -not one that should command a premium. Its qualities just aren't as enduring as those of Honda's contemporary sports cars. For better or worse, this is a formula they remain able to replicate.
  • Jalop1991 I just read that Tesla's profits are WAY down "as the electric vehicle company has faced both more EV competition from established automakers and a slowing of overall EV sales growth." This Cadillac wouldn't help Tesla at all, but the slowing market of EV sales overall means this should be a halo/boutique car. Regardless, yes, they should make it.