By on June 20, 2012

Edmunds compiled a list of the ten best cars “for teen drivers.” Edmunds did not pick the cars according to driftability or their magnetic force on chicks. Edmunds used criteria that should be on the minds of the people who usually buy those cars: Parents. As a parent, says Edmunds, “you’ll need to consider three factors above all others: safety, reliability and true cost to own.”

Once Edmunds was done with the list, it looked like a fresh arrival of exchange students. Except for a lone Malibu, all cars have foreign nameplates.

Four cars on the list are Japanese, two Korean, two German. Much-maligned blandmobiles, the 2009 Honda Accord and the likewise 2009 Toyota Camry, take top billing. The whole menu does not look anywhere close to Gran Turismo dreams. At closer inspection however … We’ll get to that.

For safety, Edmunds recommends midsize cars with five star crash ratings and not too much power. Edmunds is against SUVs and follows the AAA advice that SUVs are”more prone to roll over in extreme driving conditions.”

For reliability, Edmunds scoured CarMD’s yearly Vehicle Health Index. For true cost to own, Edmunds had to look no further than its own True Cost to Own tool.

And these are Edmunds’ top ten picks for generation why drivers:

What parents should buy for their kids

Number one: 2009 Honda Accord

Number two: 2009 Toyota Camry

Number three: 2010 Chevrolet Malibu

Number four: 2010 Volkswagen Jetta

Number five: 2011 Hyundai Sonata

Number six: 2012 Honda Accord

Number seven: 2012 Hyundai Sonata

Number eight: 2012 Toyota Camry

Number nine: 2012 Volkswagen Jetta

Number ten: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu

The list might jibe with the desire to sell new or late model used car off dealer lots, but it does not jibe with reality. Fiscal factors usually dictate something older as the youngster’s first car.

Also, the list will elicit groans from the intended target group: “Maaaaaaaaamoooom! A Camry?” As an indicator of what the Generation Why demographic really wants, let’s consult “Gran Turismo 5 – the best key cars to own” as compiled by

What kids want from their parents

1. Mitsubishi Lancer Evo
2. Nissan GTR ‘07
3. Corvette ZR1 (C6) ‘09
4. Toyota Minolta 88CV
5. Formula Gran Turismo

Now isn’t that interesting: Three out of five cars on the dream list are Japanese. One is purely fictional, but has a Fiat sticker. Only one dream car, the Corvette ZR1, is American. Since when do kids agree with their parents?

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103 Comments on “America’s Top Ten Gen Why Cars: Eight Are Not American...”

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    So in this economy parents are supposed to give their kids a MY12 spanking new car.


    • 0 avatar

      Not just a new car, but a new midsize family car. If these cars are for the kids than who the hell is buying small cars.

      • 0 avatar

        If my parents bought me a car at all I would have been ecstatic, A new, mid size car? I would probably would’ve died in a Heart attack the moment I got the keys.

      • 0 avatar

        I actually knew a guy who had a heart attack and died while driving his beloved Mark VIII.

      • 0 avatar

        My Aunt Martha (really) had a heart attack and died while driving her 70 Malibu 350 coupe. It went to my sister who eventually passed it to me, where it died when my then-girlfriend drove it without enough fluid in the transmission. It made nasty crunshing noises, and after that it would only go backward.

      • 0 avatar

        If you buy a 22 year old college graduate a car, there’s now a reasonable chance that it’ll last until they have kids in their 30s.

        The used Ford Ranger that I bought the year after I graduated from college lasted until after my son was born. It wasn’t a very good kid-hauler, but he did ride in it a few times.

        Of course, the big question is: Why? My parents let me drive hand-me-down vehicles but never bought me a car, and that was more help than I expected. I had a lot more pride in the used-car I bought and maintained myself than any of my friends had in the cars they were given.

      • 0 avatar

        “I had a lot more pride in the used-car I bought and maintained myself than any of my friends had in the cars they were given.”

        I think there’s an important truth in that, and it applies to a lot of things.

    • 0 avatar

      Couldn’t the 2nd Sonata’s spot go to the Optima or the Elantra

      #2 None of these kids want a BRZ or FRS? A Nissan GTR? HAHAHAH NOT ON YOUR LIFE KID!

      #3 Parents are SO F****d on their mortgages and 401K’s, they CAN’T in most cases afford to simply buy their kids a car like this. They give em handmedowns.

      #4 Most STUDENTS and kids in general are so F****d on their loans they can’t afford a car like anything up there.

      all of these cars easily run higher than $20,000 – That’s a hard N.I.N.J.A loan to get unless you actually have a secure job. Preferably: something with a union behind it.

  • avatar

    I’m kind of in this position right now, looking at buying a third car due to a new driver. My first instinct was the same as yours, to get an older car. I can come up with about 6-7k in cash. Due to the inflated prices of used cars, I’m not keen on anything that I can buy with cash on hand. Once you are talking financing, new cars become a reasonable alternative because at a given payment, when the car is paid for, the new cars will be newer when the payments are done than the older cars. Does that make sense?

    • 0 avatar

      Not bad logic, given the cost of some used cars. Where you will find the biggest difference is the insurance costs for a new car with a new (young) driver. Even if you lease a new Accord at $199 a month, you could spend $250 a month insuring it for a teen driver. And buying a $20k new car, the payment will be even higher.

      We have had this discussion before, and the end result was that insurance costs differ wildly depending on where you are, so hopefully you are in one of those lower cost areas.

    • 0 avatar

      Why don’t you write to Sajeev and Steve and make a “New or Used” out of the quandary?

    • 0 avatar

      “Once you are talking financing, new cars become a reasonable alternative because at a given payment, when the car is paid for, the new cars will be newer when the payments are done than the older cars. Does that make sense?”

      It depends on the car and the time. A few years ago, I graphed the depreciation of several models of car, and I found that the Toyotas and the Hondas depreciated almost linearly, while used Fords took a huge hit in the first few years.

      At the time, Hondas with a few years and some miles on them were going for $16k and new ones were in the mid $20s. I decided that, if I was going to buy a Honda, that I might as well buy new — because a Honda Accord with about half of its miles driven cost about half as much as a new one.

      BUT, the used Fords lost 2/3rds of their value in a little over 3 years. They’d lost well over half of their value, but hadn’t covered anywhere close to half of their miles. So, I bought one of those.

      I imagine that the curves are shaped a little bit differentl now, but I bought a Ford Escape with 120k miles on it (about 50% of it’s life) for 1/5th the cost of a new one in December. Now, it’s true that it’ll require more maintenance over the next 130k miles, so not all miles are created equal. But the purchase price was WAY less, and I don’t have a car payment. Also, since I can walk/bike/bus to work, having a car in the shop is a much smaller inconvenience for me than it is for most people. A used Ford was STILL a good deal for me as of December.

      Good luck finding a used Prius for a reasonable price, though.

  • avatar

    First of all, is it just expected that parents buy their kids a vehicle these days? When I turned 16 I had to buy my own vehicle. I had to work a part time job to afford the vehicle, etc. etc. Not a chance I was ever going to be given a 3 year old or newer vehicle. Not that my folks couldn’t afford it, but that wouldn’t have taught me anything or forced me to be an adult. “Driving is a privelege, not a right” is what my dad said. A teachable moment that with age I realize was a good move on dad’s part.

    Secondly, what’s the difference between the 2009 & 2012 Accord? Seriously this list is stupid. A 2009 Accord is going to have far more residual value than a 2009 Impala for basically the same vehile. Who cares about long term reliability, any teen is going to beat the vehicle within an inch of its life. When I was in senior high the student parking lot was filled with Detroit metal because it was cheap to buy used. Safety wise they are all about the same, and when the kids go off to college they really don’t need a vehicle so the hoopty can go die somewhere.

    • 0 avatar

      Agree. The economy sucks, people are out of work…and kids are thinking they are entitled to a brand new car? As if. My son worked hard (very, very hard) to get accepted to all three military academies (he’s now a senior at USAFA), so I guess one could say he potentially had earned a nicer car than what he got from us. But in the end, being a new driver back then (and a male), we gave him the 1997 Toyota Tercel (under 200 HP? Try under 100 HP!). But the danged thing is stupid-reliable, now cruising up on 200,000 miles with nary a whimper, save for regular maintenance and normal wear/tear items. Even if the money had been there, giving him something much newer never entered our minds. His grandfather is holding onto his final-year Pontiac Firebird to gift to our son, and I had to fight him on giving him the car when he was in high school.
      My first car was a hand-me-down 1978 Plymouth Arrow, and I was ever so grateful for the privilege of having wheels…period! I proudly parked that burnt orange sucker in the parking lot at school alongside some much spiffier whips, amazed that parents would spend that much on a first car that usually wound up being wrecked or abused..
      Oh, and as for the list…ironic that a majority of them, while being labelled “foreign” are actually as (if not more, in the case of the Camry and Accord) “American” by content and assembly as anything on the list with a US-nameplate on it.

      • 0 avatar

        My sister bought her 2 daughters new Dodge Avengers, the highest domestic content cars available.

      • 0 avatar


        Not to mention, if they’re 2012’s they’re actually a really good car and CHEAP.

        You can get a loaded 2012 Chrysler 200 at a local dealership for $21k. All of Chrysler’s stuff has tons on the hood, because people still remember the Cerberus days, and the cars they helped produce.

        Seriously, $20k for a 6 speed auto minivan with a good engine, tons of room, power liftgate and rear seat entertainment? NEW? That’s almost good enough to skip a small CUV.

    • 0 avatar

      Cheap sheet metal and bumpers should be the first concern as any teenager will run into things by accident.

      • 0 avatar

        I wouldn’t say it’s expected. I didn’t exactly grow up in Beverly Hills, but I come from a pretty well-to-do area, and attended by far the wealthiest high school in the state. And I knew of about 3 people out of perhaps 1100 that had brand new cars at any age between 15 and 18. I had friends whose parents pulled in $500k/year that either didn’t buy their kids a car, gave them old hand-me-downs (’80s cars in 2004), or bought completely sensible used cars (a 9 year old RAV4, for instance).

        My parents didn’t make nearly that much, but they bought me a ’98 Maxima which was actually far too nice, and I paid them back 1/2 of the $3200 cost. Perhaps it didn’t crash as well into an offset barrier as a 2012 Accord or Camry, but I didn’t die. In fact, I never even ran into anything in that car. PERHAPS BECAUSE I PAID FOR SOME OF IT HINT HINT. Sorry, was that too obvious?

        Anywho, I think the expectation is less about parents actually buying their kids new or 3-year-old midsize sedans and more about an online automotive magazine thinking of ways to generate page views, then running out of ideas for lists (because lists generate 11 page views for one article that has about 6 actual sentences of writing). These sites have to fill space, and if they’re paying salaries, they have to have SOMETHING for their employees to do. Carmakers aren’t releasing new cars for testing 365 days a year.

      • 0 avatar

        Also, if Edmunds is ill-informed enough to think teens can’t get into trouble with 4cyl FWD sedans (that now have 170+ hp), they’ve never seen Saudi drifting. Sonatas, Altimas, Camries, Accords, Optimas, Accents, the occasional Avalon and Corolla… Those are their whips of choice. The subculture is fascinating, tests the high-speed crashworthiness of these cars (spoiler alert: it isn’t good), and it’s fun as hell to watch, except when something goes wrong and several people die.

    • 0 avatar

      No, it’s not. But it IS expected that high school students will spend more time than ever on extracurricular activities that don’t pay anything, but improve their chances of getting into the university of their choice. Public universities now cost a lot more than ever, so if the kid DOES work it’ll be to pay for tuition (actually, more likely housing, since tuition can be borrowed on better terms).

      It’s also expected that parents who can afford it will put their kids in a vehicle with better crash test ratings than would be expected in the past, which typically means a newer vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      Bertel’s mention of “fiscal factors” is the key to discounting the Edmunds list. I’ve asked around, and the overwhelming first car is a hand-me-down, followed by granny’s/uncles’ old 8-10 year old boat.

      The teens’ wish list is just that. Mine as a high school graduate was for a new 1966 Pontiac LeMans with a 326. I got my sister’s late model ’63 rambler as a hand-me-down after she’d gone 23,000 miles between oil changes on that aluminum block six (a bearing wiped out at 55 mph 2,000 miles later).

      A classmate got a ’61 Falcon and another got a ’56 Belvedere with a flathead six and three on the tree. The classmate with the richest dad got a new car – a ’66 Valiant sedan with the slant six/torqueflite, which he drove for over 20 years, badly in need of body work, to aggravate his father.

  • avatar

    I just don’t see how anyone could seriously recommend the Malibu over the Cruze, they have virtually the same interior space for the driver and the Cruze is much more car for much less money. And seriously, late model used cars for a teen driver who is likely going to end up beating the poor car to death? The kid would be better off if you put that money towards his or her college fund. I wouldn’t get them anything costing over 8k, perhaps a 2002 accord v6 or 2003 maxima? You can find them with less than 60k around here on auto-trader.

    • 0 avatar

      Not to mention, the Cruze has as much if not more usable interior room (in the front seats, anyway) as the last-gen (2008-2012) Malibu. That generation had an oddly thick center console. Made leg room for my 6’5 self very uncomfortable.

    • 0 avatar

      Why not finance the car AND the education AND laptops/tablets/cellphones/new dorm room decor and a 32″ LCD TV/DVD/stereo and then – – graduate with 120K in loans so they can struggle to pay them while looking for work with starting pay around $45K. Then they can go on to struggle to buy their first house, pay $400+ for daycare for their first and then second child…

      Of course Mom and Dad raised them and their future spouse right – so everything has to be shiny and new – no second hand anything – and their adulthood of debt has begun.

      Me? I spent time in the military and went to school on my own dime with used car after used car. Still happily driving my only new car 15 years later. I refuse to try to keep up with the Joneses or feel too bad for them when it all comes crashing down on their heads b/c the economy hiccuped.

  • avatar

    Reliability and they have the Malibu and Jetta on there?

    I don’t necessarily think parents are obligated to buy their kids a car in the first place, but if they do there is something to be said for going cheap. Also, there are plenty of compact cars out there that are plenty safe but much cheaper. I find the number of mid-sized cars in that last befuddling.

    Seriously, the odds are good the average kid will end up with a used Civic or Corolla and no teenager wants a Camry or Accord. Why would the parents even spend the money?

    • 0 avatar

      Eh my friends mom bought her a 99 passat and now at 250k it hasn’t needed a single repair. I knew someone who had a jetta manual in high school and it has almost 300k miles. They are hit or miss though. The Malibu however isn’t so great

  • avatar

    A kid’s first car should be a reliable, safe beater with under 200hp. Period. My kid is getting a high mileage Civic, paying for half of it plus half of insurance, and learning how to do his own maintenance/repairs on it.

    • 0 avatar

      Mine will be driving a ~20 old VW Cabrio that remains our car to loan to him if he keeps his grades up. His grades go down? He’s walking. I worked from about age 12 right on through the present day and was pretty distracted with money and what I wanted to spend it on. I bought my fist car at age 14, my second at age 16 and third when I sold the first around my 17th birthday. I was car crazy. A good thing and a bad thing both. For a 14 year old kid it was an expensive hobby but it also taught me alot that serves me well decades later.

      I hope my kids will work in the summer and concentrate on school/activities the rest of the time taking an odd job here and there. I was a bit socially isolated b/c we lived out in the woods and when I went home after school to mow yards, wash cars, and so forth – my friends were going to sports practice, dates, prepping for college, etc.

      There is a happy medium in there – grown up responsibilities vs kid time off vs kid activities. Ours’ are very much into soccer and scouts and I want them to get everything they can from those activities as long as they can keep up their grades which they are.

      If they want to buy their own cars – then I’m fine with that but I reserve the right to pull the keys and OK the purchase.

      Being socially successful has a value too. Tough to get along in the world as a hermit or basement dweller. I wasn’t either a hermit or basement dweller but I’ve met a few over the years.

  • avatar

    I’ll take a page from SNL, and second the notion that some previous posters have said.


    We’re supposed to buy 16-18 year olds a car less than 2 model years old!?


    So I’m actually about 18 years away from having to think about this based on the schedule my wife and I are thinking, but here is my take on things:

    1. Your teen is going to wreck their first car. Most likely badly. Therefore it should be inexpensive, and not fast. I’m thinking $5-7k tops for a high school kid.
    2. We’re in an interesting time right now where basically anything has front airbags even in the $3-4k range (where most of my friends who didn’t have wealthy parents shopped), but you start getting DSC, TCS, and side airbags as you look at 2005ish model year and newer stuff.
    3. Most post-2000 stuff and almost everything with a 4-banger (which is what you should be driving as a HS kid anyway) gets good mileage, has low maintenance costs, and is fairly reliable, even if it is a rolling crap-box.

    I think what I’ll end up doing at that point if funding is adequate is to pick myself up a mid-life-crisis-mobile and hand my kid down whatever blandmobile i’m commuting in. My wife is already cool with thing like this, which is similar to our curent automotive plans:
    1. Current cars – 2000 S2000 (Me), 2010 Mazda3 Hatch (Her)
    2. Future plan when space becomes an issue – CUV/mommy-mobile (her), Mazda3 (Me), S2k (Weekend/toy/track car)
    The S2k is paid off, and the 3 is only a couple years away, so this keeps us in reliable stuff, with a maximum of 1 car note at a time.

  • avatar

    I see 5 cars on this list:
    Honda Accord
    Toyota Camry
    Chevy Malibu
    VW Jetta
    Hyundai Sonatta

    This list is stupid and these are horrible choices for high school kids.

    Here is what the list should be:

    Any volvo 240 – will run for ever and can be bought cheap
    Ford ranger – 2wd regular cab 4 cyl. One passenger, slow, and useful for the family

    2000-2004 Ford Focus – cheap and easy for THEM to fix

    late 90s Buick Centry – dirt cheap, reliable, no one will cry when you wreck it.

    School bus – It gets you every where a kid NEEDS to go. If they need a job then they can buy their own car.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 on all the above choices. Giving a new car to a new young driver is utterly, UTTERLY retarded considering the statistics showing how many new young drivers crash. And lets not even mention the parenting implications of throwing huge quantities of money and material goods at pampered and entitled little Princes and Princesses. Let them fund their first car themselves – it builds more than just character and mechanical skills.
      IMHO the Ranger and the Brick are the best choice. You can punt both of them through a brick wall and then patch them up with bondo and duct tape and still drive them.

    • 0 avatar

      Your list is a pretty good one, especially with the Centuries/Regals of their day: well looked after by their owners (geriatrics), reliable, not prone to make a kid drag race on a Saturday night), but the one fact you’re overlooking are the safety advances of the newer vehicles. The Regal would have had ABS and at least 2 airbags. I don’t believe ABS was standard on the lower model Foci of its day.
      Not wanting to get into an argument about the pros and cons of stability controls, OnStar, 18 airbags, etc, but to the worrying types, a newer car equipped with all the safety gadgets is likely to make a few parents sleep better knowing their progeny is driving one so equipped.

      • 0 avatar

        On the flip side if the kid is scared to death driving their car it’ll slow them down a little too. I grew up driving 60s cars that were worn out and by comparison to today’s cars – dangerous! I was very aware of that and though I had my share of shenanigans I also never got hurt in that car.

        Cheap-cheap-cheap and slow… The first car they’ll wreck or neglect or dog to death. The second car they’ll pamper. Unless – – they have to work on the first car alot and then they’ll be very protective and proud of it. No way I’d let them do $500 worth of damage to a car and then fix it for them. Let them pay for it. Clears even a clouded distracted teen mind when priorities have $$$ consequences.

  • avatar

    All it takes is a little pre-planning, folks….

    When the kid turns 12 get yourself a reasonable family sedan like these listed above and 4 years later, when they turn 16, let them drive it and get yourself an Aston (or whatever you feel you deserve for sacrificing the last 16 years carting this brat around). Problem solved. As not to give them everything with no work, at least make them pay for the insurance if they want to drive the sedan.

  • avatar

    Guess my kids need to get a good job then. New car…I don’t think so. Maybe I help out a little but my main contribution will be in the form of teaching them to work on cars and allowing them use of my tools so they can keep whatever pile of crap they can afford on the road.

    Anyway, here is my list:
    1. Ford Ranger 2WD, but if it doesn’t have a twin I beam it is too new.
    2. Brick Vic
    3. Boxy Caprice
    4. 1989ish 4 cylinder Mustang…hopefully with at least 1 body panel of a different color lest they think they are too cool in said Stang.
    5. Third Gen v6 Camaro meeting above criteria
    6. Pre-Tacoma Toyota Truck
    7. First Gen Chrysler Minivan with a stick
    8. Chevy Celibrity or any of it’s clones
    9. Second Gen Ford Escort
    10. Ford Festiva

    Kids should have a car that requires tinkering as buying a kid a new car creates an adult that knows nothing about cars and will be stranded by a flat tire one day.

    Bearing that in mind perhaps the new Jetta is not too bad of a call after all.

    • 0 avatar

      I am in agreement with your list but it seems like a list for a teen car circa 1999. I haven’t seen a boxy Caprice or Celebrity for sale in years, I think the last year was ’90 for Caprice, nor have I ever seen a stick Chrysler minivan.

    • 0 avatar

      My mom tells a story of driving home one evening and finding my sister changing her boyfriend’s tire IN HER FORMAL DRESS. he was leaning against the back of the car with the owner’s manual looking for a clue. Sister knew what she was doing. Needless to say that love affair didn’t last. He couldn’t even be bothered to get his hands dirty…

  • avatar

    I’m surprised to see that while many have mentioned the likelihood of a teen’s first vehicle being wrecked, few have mentioned anything about the importance of safety given this circumstance. If you know that there’s a good chance your kid is going to have an accident of some sort, wouldn’t you want them to drive something that will give them the best chance of getting through their first years of car ownership alive?

    With the possible exception of the Jetta, these are all mid-size sedans. These are good reasons to have a mid-size sedan as a first car. Something like a Ford Ranger as a first vehicle? I know if it were my kid I’d be trying to talk him out of that one.

    • 0 avatar

      Most cars in the last 10 years are pretty safe, there are some exceptions of course, but if one goes with a mainstream sedan, there really isn’t much to worry about. If I were going for extra safe and cheap, a used volvo or subaru would probably be the way to go.

    • 0 avatar

      “I’m surprised to see that while many have mentioned the likelihood of a teen’s first vehicle being wrecked, few have mentioned anything about the importance of safety given this circumstance.”

      Good idea. Go all out and get them a Suburban instead of a smaller car that costs $4500 less and then $4500 in driving school (and no I DO NOT mean a performance driving school). That way, when they kill the family of 4 in the ’99 Camry because they can’t be bothered to pay attention to driving when they’re driving, they’ll walk away unscathed. Well, physically, anyway.

      • 0 avatar

        “Good idea. Go all out and get them a Suburban instead of a smaller car that costs $4500 less and then $4500 in driving school (and no I DO NOT mean a performance driving school). That way, when they kill the family of 4 in the ’99 Camry because they can’t be bothered to pay attention to driving when they’re driving, they’ll walk away unscathed. Well, physically, anyway.”

        Nowhere in my post did I suggest or imply that it would be better for kids to drive large to extra-large vehicles like a Suburban. There seems to be a commonly held, highly uncritical, knee-jerk belief that bigger is always better (and safer), and your response suggests that you accept this rather dubious inference. I do not.

        As I said before, there are good reasons to have a mid-size car as a first vehicle, and many of those reasons have been outlined by other, more thoughtful folks here in this very thread. Contrary to what you read into my post, I would actually argue that there are also very good reasons not to have a large or extra large vehicle like a Suburban as a first vehicle, at least one of which is the very reason that you mention.

      • 0 avatar

        Sorry that was so vitriolic. It’s one of those days…

        We are in agreement, then, that it’s asinine to give a kid a large car the protect them. I’m still baffled as to why an older midsize car isn’t good enough, but that’s directed at whomever pooped out this bogus list than you.

        Again, sorry…

  • avatar

    Mid-sized cars make a good compromise between safety for your kid and not giving them 4000lbs of SUV to kill somebody else.

  • avatar

    With the exception of the Jetta, this is a pretty lame list of cars. Actually, I take that back, most Jettas are lame, too. What kid needs such a big boat of family sedan anyway?

    I agree with the general opinion that driving is a privlege, not a right. I also agree that the kid should figure out how to get wheels on his own.

    Simply handing your kid the keys to a car will make him similar to the list: pretty lame.

  • avatar

    I can see putting your pride and joy in a brand new, safe-n-reliable, but these don’t build character.

    My gf in high school drove a beater ’71 Bug with bad brakes. It was reliable enough, but in this case, that wasn’t a good thing. She had to pump the brakes and down shift to stop. She got good at it too.

    The Bug was a gift from her dad and I couldn’t understand why he was trying to kill her. She was the cutest ever and it’s not like he couldn’t afford better.

    What it did do is make her a great driver. She’s the only chick I would let use my manual 5.0 Mustang. Only person period. Chicks get addicted to power BTW. The car would kick sideways a bit when she got on it and dumped 2nd gear. She would giggle uncontrollably everytime.

  • avatar

    I’m thinking Edmunds is part of the car industry, profits indirectly from greater sales and interest in new cars and has some vested interest in pushig new cars.

    Anyway the voices in my head argued about this for a while. The majority view was… what car for a teen? Try a bicycle.

    However, some of the voices pointed out that many teens live in suburbs and exurbs where access to a car is more or less vital. Distances to any kind of activity are great, transit is non-existent, conditions for cycling may be very poor (we’ve got roads around here that I won’t bike and the alternative routes add two or more extra miles). They don’t live in these circumstances because of decisions they made… they live there because of lifestyle choices their parents made. Perhaps some accomodation is in order. Certainly their parents aren’t going to find a way to live life without a car.

  • avatar

    I agree this list is bad. I guess we were bad parents. Our kids got to share an 8 yr old Ply Horizon until they could buy their own car with their own money. They did the maintenance and repairs, except the clutch, I did that with their help. We spoiled our kids with things like, you know, a college education.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    The list needs to be adjusted for a maximum price of $5K. This one is just goofy.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Absolutely. Craigslist is littered with W-bodys (3800 only for my money), Panthers, and old midsize Taurus/Sables with the unkillable 3.0V6. Kid should be smiling that I’m giving him/her anything to drive at all.

      My first car was a 1982 Chevy Celebrity (this was 1993 when I got it) the car was worth all of $800. My Dad’s exact words to me; “If you loose control, hit something cheap.”

      • 0 avatar

        Agreed there is what kids want, what MSM tells you to buy for them, and the reality of limited financial resources.

        Dan between your father’s comments about Panther trunks having basements and that, I have to say I like how he thinks.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        My favorite Dad quote is from when I went off to college (first in my extended family to do so, no one had greater than a high school education at that point). He said; “Don’t forget where you came from and watch out for fast women.”

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        In my college days I borrowed a 1974 Impala while my Chevelle was in the shop. Wasn’t fun trying to parallel park a long car near campus. Panthers and W-bodies would have similar issues with unmarked street parking in spots previously occupied by a shorter car.

      • 0 avatar
        Felix Hoenikker


        I gave my 19 year old a 2000 Taurus with the 3.0L six. The automotive press gives these cars no respect. But I consider them ideal for a teen driver. They are crash worthy, sturdy, tolerant of abuse as will as cheap as dirt. I paid $3500 for this one in 2005. We had some trouble with exhaust gases in the coolant causing the coolant to overflow the gas separator. It turned out to be a bad cylinder head. We repaced it with a remanufactured head for less than $200. It runs like new new despite having 200K miles.

      • 0 avatar

        Celebrity? My condolences!
        I learned to drive on my father’s ’69 Chrysler 300, complete with bucket seats, floor shifter, TNT package, seatbelts neatly tucked on the ceiling and an AM/FM radio with rear speaker (we suffered without the ‘multiplex.’ It was 5 years old when I began to drive it (illegally) and already showing the tell tale Mopar rust. But it was fast. Buried the needle one night on a deserted freeway: 120 mph.
        The first car I drove legally was my mother’s ’67 Newport. That thing had so much rust, one needed a tetanus shot just to look at it. The 318 was a slug, compared to dad’s 440. The first car I bought was a’67 Dodge Polara. Already 11 years old, but it came from Florida so the rust was well hidden and it had a/c!
        I paid $50 and a set of Radio Shack bookshelf speakers for the Polara from a friend, who just bought a new AMC Spirit. (Ugh.)
        I find it very difficult to get excited about any of the cars on the road today. Every time I see the new Regal, I think it’s a Hyundai. When I see the latest tarted up Camry, I just want to weep.
        And I lived through the malaise era! The cars may be more reliable and fuel efficient today, but their blandness and me-tooism is astonishing.
        No wonder the kids today would rather stick to their video games.

  • avatar

    Plenty of sub $3k cars out there. Civic, Protege, Corolla from the 88-95 vintage that will serve a teen well. My first car was a hand-me-down Ford Taurus. Sold it when the transmission started to slip and bought what I really wanted, a 94 Civic Coupe (this was in 2001). Loved that car.

    Why does a kid need a full size car?

  • avatar

    I grew up in the big bad´’burbs and my parents didn’t buy me a car. I had a job and paid $400 for my cousin’s rusted out ’87 Civic. I had to replace the struts, HVAC panel, and saved up for a new muffler and clutch (the old clutch gave out on the highway and coasted down a hill to the next exit, and a kind stranger used his car to push my decreped Civic home).

    The thing was a tin can, but I survived, with more driving and repair experience than had I been given a new car.

    One other great point already brought up: these cars are often specified with an automatic (Malibu isn’t even available with a manual). If I were buying my kid a car, I’d make sure it was a row-your-own so he learns this essential skill.

  • avatar

    News Flash: Edmunds tells moms and pops to go buy their kids late model camcords. In related news the sun will rise in the east tomorrow and two plus two is equal to four. Stay tuned for more important announcements!

  • avatar

    How did they get away with putting the same cars on their twice in different model years?

    “but it [the list] does not jibe with reality.”

    I tend to agree, Edmunds, do kids today really *want* Camcords, I mean are you fricking serious? I suppose you could make TCO arguments but if so called Gen Y really desires these things then maybe its a good idea to prevent them from reproducing.

  • avatar

    I agree that these are pretty expensive options for new drivers.
    I drove a cheap car in high school (8 year old Thunderbird bought for around 2k, which I enjoyed as a first car), and I had a job to pay for all of my gas and insurance. But when I look around now, I wonder if my future 16 y.o. daughter will be able to get a part time job. (This is 16 years from now as she’s 4 months old now).
    Seems to me I see a lot of middle aged people are working the service industry jobs that used to be filled with teens. Wonder if that will change. …and it might be coddling, but I can understand the desire to let your kid focus on school and sports/extra curriculars during the school year. (Although you learn a lot working too I think).

    I too like the plan to give the hand-me-down car to the teen driver- but currently my wife and I are already doing this with our two vehicles (with me driving the hand-me-down), so at some we’d still have to introduce a 3rd vehicle to the mix.

    I’m already planning ahead for this in other ways though. My wife and I are looking to buy a house, and one of the big factors would is a somewhat walk-able community. Preferably with the school in the neighborhood, not out on some no sidewalk suburban road.
    If my daughter can walk/bike to school, that means she can borrow one of the two family cars on weekends when she needs/wants it.
    I think two cars for a family is enough. My wife and I almost get away with one now as I walk/bike to work whenever I can.
    I like cars and driving, but it’s definitely convenient to not need to be a one car per person household.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    When one is a teenager, one has this strong belief that Newton’s Laws governing motion (you know, inertia, and other silly stuff) somehow have been waived for us because -of course- we are so very kool.

    Other laws of physics easily disregarded: that two bodies cannot occupy the same space-time coordinates simultaneously. That the friction coefficient is NOT infinite, specifically with bald tires and a throughly iced surface.

    Oh, let’s not forget other medical facts: alcohol and drugs actually make you a much better driver. And that the 20,000 watt stereo playing Lady Gaga full blast enhances your driving awareness. Extra points for texting on this front.

    Our first close encounters of the third kind with an inanimate object, brings these illusions of invencibility crashing down.

  • avatar

    Who’s buying their kids new (or nearly-new) cars? My first car was dad’s hand-me-down, 10 year old corolla with 140k on the clock.

  • avatar

    One other thing. Do you really want to give your teenager a car with that much back seat room? My oldest is going to get my 90 Miata to avoid his needing a family sedan prematurely.

    • 0 avatar

      You don’t really think a lack of a back seat makes a difference? If you wanna do it, you will find a place. By the way mkirk, I wish you were my Dad at that age!
      I ended up with a very old ( won’t tell you how old!) Pontiac station wagon. Rather have the miata.

  • avatar

    In this instance, Edmunds is pure hooey.

    My kids either got what they could afford and/or a hand-me-down.

    I bought a 1983 Ranger beater for my son in 1995 – but I got benefits out of it, too, of course, as we both drove it. I eventually handed it over to him when he learned to drive a stick. My daughter got our beloved 1990 Plymouth Acclaim in 1998. She so far hasn’t learned to drive a stick and I pity her…

  • avatar

    I went to work flipping burgers at 15 so that I could buy and insure my first car at 16. It was a rustbucket 1982 Datsun 200SX with over 200k on the clock. I paid $450 in the fall of 1993. I learned a lot, with my Dad’s help, over the year-and-a-half I kept that beast going. After I had “proven myself” with that first car, Dad loaned me $1500 to buy his co-worker’s 1988 Accord 5-speed hatchback, 140k, which felt brand new compared to the Datsun. (Which I sold for $400) That Accord got me all the way through college as a commuter student.

    I have three younger brothers, and it was similar with the next two, except they didn’t have that initial self-purchased deathtrap rustbucket like my Datsun. Dad “helped” them buy an old Accord, – it didn’t have to be an Accord, but it happened they both were – which they were expected to pay back, insure, maintain and take very good care of.

    Now my youngest brother is in college, and hadn’t yet gotten his first car. My automotive tastes were definitely formed in those early days, and I was driving a 1996 Nissan 200SX SE-R. My daughter is getting bigger, and even though my wife’s car is a 2006 CR-V, I decided I needed a four-door as well. So I scored a 2005 Sentra SE-R Spec V.

    The ’96 SE-R? It went to my youngest brother for $600, 142k on the clock and a few small issues to be resolved. It’s a heck of a lot more car, in infinitely better condition than my $450 ’82 200SX was, but the parallels still make me smile.

    I expect to follow a similar approach with my daughter, if that’s still possible in another 15 years or so.

  • avatar

    This list explains why I never read Edmunds.

  • avatar

    No better way to inculcate the love of cars than buying your youngster a soul-crushingly bland entitlement whip.

    No wonder interest in cars is declining amongst our young – I’d hate to drive too if I were stuck in one of these lobotomies on wheels.

    Buy the kid a Dodge Aries and call it a day. If they hate it then good – it will motivate them to move their a** to get a better job and make enough dosh to replace it.

  • avatar

    What generation Evo do the kids want?

  • avatar
    el scotto

    @ mkirk, an MG and a blanket ;). I get ’em 4X4X4 ranger; 4 tires, 4 speed, 4 cylinders. Easy to work on, lots of parts available, and oh so slow. 4 door sedans? More than one study has shown the more teenagers n the car, the more likely they’ll wreck.

  • avatar

    I see not everyone was in the late model kid’s cars. I was from the “it runs be glad you get one” parent group. Cars were usually old, $1000, and run. One daughter ended up driving a combo ’84 Horizon 90 Omni (front said Dodge, rear said Plymouth) the unique one and only Plodge Horomni, until it rusted out and the rear bumber fell off. My son’s first car was an S10 I bought at an Boy Scout Camp auction along with a target rifle and 17′ canoe for a total of $230. Took a little work to get the car going. No. 4 child got a ’96 Cavalier from the state auto auction that I hoped would last through high school, she is still driving it 8 years later (200k + miles). If they wanted another car, my advice was to buy anyone they could afford.

  • avatar

    If I had a teenager right now I would be looking at american sedans from the early 2000’s. Taurus/Sable; Saturn L series (with I4 ecotec), Grand Am, Buick century

    Used Japanese cars cost way too much

    When my kids are drivers if i get them a car, I would consider getting them a small regular cab pick up so that I can use it on the weekends to haul stuff as I am always hauling dirty tree branches, bushes, bags of mulch topsoil etc. in our nice leather lined Odyssey. Would be so much better if I could just throw that stuff in a truck bed and not have to worry about cleaning the interior of the Odyssey after a run to the dump or Home Depot.

    • 0 avatar

      Get a little utility trailer! Better yet a European utility trailer – cheap, light and rated to carry 1000 lbs. Can be stored on the tail gate in the garage or barn. Galvanized steel. Can be bought with a locking top and any number of accessories. Has worked well for me for many years now.

  • avatar

    Horrible list. Now a Camry or Accord of older vintage might be a decent bet. No kid needs a car this new. Besides, I hope the parents are not giving title to their kids. Instead it should be a third car the child can use, as appropriate. I’ve got 7 years to go before confronted with this, and wondered if my 2007 328xi would hold up that long, but I think less power, cheaper upkeep and better mileage are needed. Maybe something like a 2011/12 Focus…in 2019. So if she was 17 now…maybe an old TSX? Safe, reliable, room for 5, still has some “fun”.

  • avatar

    To be fair, I’m not sure that the Gran Turismo 5 Best 5 Cars to Own list is a good indicator of what kids want to drive. Those cars are on that list because they are the best performing cars for the buck for certain portions of the game or they can mature well with you and you can use them for a good long portion of your “career”. Having played previous versions of the game, GT’s stable of cars skews heavily to imports and most of the available starter cars (used cars) are Japanese. Most of my friends that didn’t play the game didn’t know some of those cars existed and even the ones that did were a bit surprised when I whipped them with a mildly modified Skyline GTR.

  • avatar

    Why do people assume that when you are buying a new (or different) car when you have a new driver that the kid gets the new (er) car? If I’m paying for it, I’ll get what I want, and the kid can drive the hand-me-down. In a lot of cases, the decision isn’t based on whether the kid “deserves” a car. It’s a practical consideration based on how many times you the parent have to not do something because all the cars are taken or there’s someplace that you have to take junior. Yes, it’s a “first world problem.” My daughter may not have a job before she graduates high school, but she’ll have more than a year’s worth of college advanced placement credits, and that’s worth $25,000 – a lot more than she’d put away in savings flipping burgers.

  • avatar

    I do remember that my father brought me my first car, a $1000 rust bucket ’75 Bug, after that I brought my own stuff.

    As for what other Gen Y kids should drive? Well, heres a list that I highly recommend that will teach your kids to drive with caution:

    1. Ford Bronco 2: Cheap, slow, and prone to rolling.

    2. 4 Cyl Mustang II or a Fox: Slow, good to teach snow driving in, cheap.

    3. Chevy CavalierPontiacOldsmobileBuickCadillac with a 4 cyl: Slow, cheap, and they’ll learn a lot about scrapyards.

    4. Pontiac Fiero with a 4 cyl: Cheap, slow, and you’ll have a disposable mid-engine car.

    5. Yugo: This is what you buy for you kid if you want to kill hisher hope of driving at all.

    6. Dodge Omni: Same as Chevy Cavalier.

    7. Old rusty VW Bug: Teaches them to appreciate newer cars, an engine thats not in the cars behind, and to drive a stick.

    8. Just take their license and slice it, seriously, the less bad drivers on the road the better.

  • avatar

    I was 21 when I got my first car – a ’95 Bonneville – last year. I waited to get a car as my parents wanted to make sure I was mature enough to handle the responsibility of having a car and I had limited driving experience (I learned how to drive in Mexico and Israel, initially…with practice on friends’ cars in Indiana and California). I didn’t have much money to play with – $2,000 – so I had to do diligent research. I’m also paying for my own insurance, so I looked up quotes to assist me in picking out a car.

    I could have easily bought a ’99 Cavalier coupe – a popular choice for teens/college students around here, but the insurance quote I got was significantly higher than the Bonneville and a ’99 Taurus I looked up. It was also a little bit higher than a C280 from 2000 that I looked up as well.

    It would have been totally awesome if my parents bought me something from within the past 5 years, but I don’t think I would have appreciated it as much. I’m also thankful that I did the legwork in researching and purchasing my car since it makes me appreciate it that much more.

  • avatar

    …America’s Top Ten Gen Why Cars: Eight Are Not American…

    And the two cars on the list are from Chevrolet.

    The irony is not lost on me. At least GM is still around, if it wasn’t there wouldn’t be a single ‘merica car on the list.

    Hypnotoad now popping popcorn…

  • avatar
    George B

    If I were looking for a 1st car for a teen driver headed to college, I’d probably look for something like a used 4 cylinder Ford Fusion or Pontiac G6. They look a little less like a family car than a Camry and cost less too, but offer larger crumple zones than a Cobalt or a Focus. There is a compromise between safety and ease of parking near a college campus. The Honda Accord and Toyota Camry are approaching full size, making them more difficult to parallel park, and their ability to avoid the repair shop is less of an advantage to a kid with more time than money.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    I think Edmunds staff has been smoking the kids’ favorite thing to pass the time when they made this list, I got a $500 Beetle back in the early 70’s as my first car and I got my son a 6 yr old Prizm which he kept for 8 yrs while he saved enough for what he finally liked, an FR-S.

    • 0 avatar

      No kidding, what are the Edmunds editors smoking? No one ever bought or gave me a car (beater or otherwise). I’m 25, with a college degree, working toward financial independence. I come to TTAC and read some comment about someone’s niece/nephew/child/grandchild getting a new Elantra after high school graduation, and the whole idea is so alien to me that I can hardly imagine that kind of luck/fortune. Those kids had better thank their lucky stars.

  • avatar

    Sweet propaganda piece. How much are the big 3 paying you for it? Keeping that anti-japanese/prodomestic agenda up and running.

    “As an indicator of what the Generation Why demographic really wants, let’s consult “Gran Turismo 5 – the best key cars to own” as compiled by

    What kids want from their parents
    1. Mitsubishi Lancer Evo
    2. Nissan GTR ‘07
    3. Corvette ZR1 (C6) ‘09
    4. Toyota Minolta 88CV
    5. Formula Gran Turismo

    Now isn’t that interesting: Three out of five cars on the dream list are Japanese. One is purely fictional, but has a Fiat sticker. Only one dream car, the Corvette ZR1, is American. Since when do kids agree with their parents?”

    Oh noes teh kids want to buy Japanese cars!!! That article has nothing to do with what kids really want, its a strategy guide for what cars to buy in Gran Turismo 5. Could you be anymore ridiculous?

  • avatar

    My soon to be 16 year old son will be driving soon, and of course he wants a GTO like mine…which is just not going to happen. I have offered to give him my ’00 Saturn SL2 but he doesn’t want a 4-door car. Fair enough, so now I’m am on the lookout for a nice, clean ’00-’02 Saturn SC2. Other than a tendency to burn oil, I got over 260K out of my last Saturn and am just about to turn 140K on my current one. I bought it 3 years ago with 75K on it for $4500 which I think is about the max one should spend today for a teen’s first car.

    My stepdaughter, who just graduated high school and is about to start college, more than happily took her Mom’s ’97 Camry with 150K on it after we leased a new 2012 Equinox. It needs some work, and doesn’t look all that great, but she’s just happy to have something to drive. The car is actually registered in her Grandmother’s name, so all she has to pay for is gas and oil changes…we told her that we’d pay for any repairs as she only works part-time and needs all the money she makes to help pay for school.

    I am of the belief that a teen’s first car should be four things: cheap,economical, reliable, and just fast enough as to not be a hazard to other drivers.

  • avatar

    Mkay, I’ve thought about the quite ridiculous idea that American parents are now supposed to buy their children a car that probably costs more than the average family car. Actually the cars recommended ARE family cars – if we allow ourselves the privilege to ignore the existence of octo-moms – with ample room in the rear seat. Coming from another culture it seems odd with all that space in a country where abstinence-only sexual education actually is a thing and where one’s sexual debut is likely to be in the rear seat of a car.
    Wouldn’t it be cheaper to get some scented candles, a couple of Barry White CD’s, a bottle of Californian “Champagne” and leaving the kids alone for the evening if you’re THAT desperate for grandchildren?

  • avatar

    I was given my sister’s 2 year old ’71 Cutlass for my first car. My dad would have none of the “getting the kid a beater”, he was all about never having to worry about breakdowns, as he had had many of them with the used cars he owned before he could afford new ones. Two weeks after I got my license, the Cutlass was gone, T-boned by a VW bug at over 60 MPH. The bug showed how tough it was, it was still drivable! My car was bent like a boomerang, and every piece of glass was shattered. I was definitely glad I was in a car like the Cutlass versus the Gremlin my best friend drove. The ’71 Cutlass got replaced by my mom’s ’72. I had that until I bought and paid for with my own money, my ’74 Roadrunner.

  • avatar

    My daughter is four, she wants my 1994 miata when she gets older. I’ve taught er well.

  • avatar

    when my 16 year old gets her license her car will be my old 2001 volvo xc wagon, safe big, and I know everything works on it, and when she hits something or someone hits her car she stands a very very good chance of walking away safe and sound. Her friend will be getting a 2011 lexus rx350 and she is complaining about it being white. I am sure my daughter will appreciate her beater volvo with 175 k on it more than her friend who just expects a new car of her choice.

  • avatar

    My dad gave me the hand-me-down 180,000-mile 1993 Isuzu pickup when I started driving in 2002. When its carburetor (that’s not a typo) started giving me trouble, he demanded that I take it to his house to work on it. My parents are divorced, and I was only in his custody every other weekend. I had a job to hold down. That was not going to work. My step-father and I trailered it to my dad’s house and left it sitting in his driveway.

    My mom and step-father were nice enough to buy me a slightly more modern Nissan Hardbody. It had a hydraulic clutch and air conditioning, neither of which the Isuzu had, but otherwise was very similar, right down to the manual steering and regular cab configuration. I think they spent $4,000 on it. All the costs of operation fell to me, from insurance and gas to oil changes, which my step-father helped me learn to do along with other common maintenance tasks. The truck lasted me well into college before it was totaled in a collision with a herd of deer. Not one deer. A whole herd of them. It still ran, but I was nearly out of college and gainfully employed, and bought myself the 2006 Ford Ranger I drive now. First truck I’ve ever had with power steering.

    To the comments here re- kids aren’t grateful for anything unless they work for it: I was very grateful. I’d still be driving that little truck if not for the unfortunate Deer Jihad, as it has come to be known in my house (the deer, by way of their unfortunate timing, actually ran headlong into the side of my truck. I didn’t hit them with the front of the truck.) I still miss it. It gave me 24 mpg and hauled my music gear to tons of shows, in addition to helping me move twice while in college. My folks were nice enough to get me a set of tires my freshman year of college after my bald tires had suffered a few flats from easy punctures, which I also appreciated immensely (having to buy $600 of books a semester makes you appreciative of a $300 set of tires.)

  • avatar

    ‘Only one dream car, the Corvette ZR1, is American. Since when do kids agree with their parents?’

    Agreed, as much as a General-basher I am. The ZR1 is one insane ride. And as for as the 2010 Malibu, buyer beware. Just got rid of my lemon ’08…:)

  • avatar

    My wealthy next door neighbor just got a stick shift Honda Fit for his son to take to college. If he handed down the Magnum, the insurance would be much higher.

    A friend at work go a new, loaded Honda Odyssey for his wife, but put his newly licensed son as the primary driver. No way could they afford the insurance for a hand-me-down Scion Tc.

    My mother didnt drive, so dad couldnt wait to get me a car so I could take over as driver for my mom and younger siblings. ’67 VW he paid for and I paid operating expenses, fair deal. Insurance on a 4-cylinder car back then was cheap. If I got his ‘vette-powered Impala it would have been prohibitive.

  • avatar

    My Niece is turning 16 next year– her mother drives a Town & Country. My parents are giving her a 2006 Stratus.

    When we were younger, my parents got us a ‘bomb’ to drive for a while, then got us a new car when we graduated. Really, we don’t do bombs, they were all actually very nice cars. Except the aries. It was stomach-bile yellow inside and out. Nice vinylette bench in front! He kept it shiny, too. So much armor all on that bench, you’d slide around if you didn’t wear your seatbelt.

    My Brother got an 85 Aries in 92 and a 96 Dakota in 95– Sis a 89 Tempo in 92, and a 97 Intrepid in 96, and I got an 87 Taurus in 96, and a 98 neon in 97. Mine was early(11th grade) because the Taurus was on it’s *third* HSC 2.5 and ATX by then. Those two Fords were so similar, it’s disgusting the difference in reliability. We tried one more, but it was dead by 130k. 3.0 Vulcan that would lose complete dash lighting at night.

    • 0 avatar

      My sister and her husband bought identical used Tauruses and they both had the transmission let go at the same mileage – a little north of 100K. Didn’t go back to Fords after that. Two identical Buick Centuries after that. His did okay and he sold it to buy himself a minivan (WTF?) and my grandmother took over the second Buick Century. By 65K despite being a good car prior – it needed shocks, intake manifold, a/c compressor, and she’d dinged every corner on something at the market. She offered it to me but I politely declined. We can’t do a sedan. They are useless to us. Need a small wagon or CUV.

      Neither of our cars have needed those items despite having three times and more the mileage.

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