By on December 20, 2015

It’s never too late to snap up a last-minute gift for your teenager, such as a car. Consumer Reports has nifty practical advice for parents looking to make this Christmas one to remember for their teen — until next Christmas when you have top a friggin’ car. 

For your teen’s first ride, according to Consumer Reports, avoid anything with a big engine (“Generally speaking, the ideal car for a teenager is a four-cylinder mid-sized sedan”), lots of numbers on the speedometer (“If too much speed is to be avoided, then it should be a no-brainer to avoid high-performance sports cars.”) or minivans (” … a carload of teens is not a recipe for safety.”)

There are other considerations, according to the report:

Braking ability and handling are also important for avoiding crashes. We only recommend vehicles that stop on a dry surface in 145 feet or less in our tests, and perform adequately in our accident avoidance maneuver test. Electronic stability control is a must-have feature.

The handy guide comprehensively narrows the list: small engine, low horsepower, good brakes, no SUVs or pickups, swift handling, small passenger compartment, cheap to fix when it breaks — no Corvettes, obvi.

So it’s clear, the best car you can buy your teen for the holidays, according to Consumer Reports guide is:

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

 

Thank you, Consumer Reports.

[Image: Mazda]

 

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131 Comments on “Consumer Reports Has Tips If You’re Buying Your Teen a Car for the Holidays...”


  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    Lots of kids in my area driving dad’s old pickup truck or mom’s Suburban or Tahoe.

    Mom and Dad bought the new car for themselves.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Where I grew up, the official car of my high school was and largely still is the hand-me-down Volvo. Though I suffered with a hand-me-down Subaru.

      If I had a kid their first car would be a Volvo 940 sedan. Cheap, safe, slow, and utterly disposable.

      Here absolutely no one buys their kid a *new* car. Even the richest kid in my class, the daughter of the president of L.L. Bean, drove a used Ford Escort!

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        I believe that about the Volvo cars. They were “en vogue” for many years but not so much these days. I haven’t seen any new Volvos in a coon’s age. I don’t even know where the nearest Volvo dealer is.

        Buying a new car for a kid has its merits. My son and I pitched in to buy his daughter a brand new 2011 Elantra when she graduated from HS. We did this because the college she would be attending was 75 miles away and she had to commute through the desert on Hwy70, across the vastness of White Sands Missile Range.

        And my son and I also pitched in to buy his oldest son a new 2010 Wrangler. But he was already in the Marine Corps by then so it was like a belated graduation gift.

        I’m not a proponent of buying anything used, or giving anything used, unless I know the history of it. When I was young buying used was a disaster for me, at a time when I could ill afford it.

        For that reason, when my grand daughter got married this past June, my son and I gave her my 2012 Grand Cherokee V6 and his 2012 Grand Cherokee SRT8. They needed transportation most of all and by giving them our used vehicles it helped keep them out of debt until his next assignment with the Air Force.

        It’s whatever works for people. And in my area, kids usually inherit their parents’ old vehicles while the parents buy new ones for themselves.

        • 0 avatar
          Marone

          “coon’s age”

          I know how this will sound, but seriously, what is this and what does it mean? Not sure I’ve heard this and not sure I can apply this to a single point of reference.

          For what it’s worth, I see new Volvo’s all the time. You can spot them with the updated body shapes and the most recent ones from the updated grill.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “Coons age” just means “a long time”, and it refers to raccoons. It isn’t inherently offensive but it is archaic, plus the fact that “coon” is also a racial slur should discourage people from using it.

            Of course, I didn’t have to read the comment to which you were replying to know that HDC used it. He thinks that he’s being clever because he has the courage to use terms to offend minorities, but my only question is whether he more closely resembles Beavis or Butthead.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            Listen, you, both his sons are Captains of Marines!

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            RideHeight, not are but were, during the 90’s.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            Oh, well then, you’re not awesome anymore.

            Pch, I retract my umbrage.

          • 0 avatar
            tresmonos

            Good Christ, RideHeight. You are on a roll today. LOL

          • 0 avatar
            jansob

            I’m actually a real live linguist and folklorist, so I know the answer to this one! A “coon’s age” is the American version of “a crow’s age” which was popular in England in the 1700-1800’s…meaning a long time. Crows (and later raccoons) were thought to live 10-20 years because it would take a lot of experience to become so clever. You also might hear “a dog’s age” in some parts of Louisiana.
            Nothing to do with race, but people delight in taking offense these days.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            jansob, I find it awesome that you’re an actual linguist.

            My favorite local-color measure of time is the British “donkey years” or just “donkeys” I first encountered in the ’90s by reading Bike magazine.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Here in Northern New England, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a Volvo, and there are at least three dealers in my little state. New ones are a dime a dozen around here, certainly far more common than all the Japanese near premium brands put together here in Maine. As I have mentioned, they can’t give away Infiniti here, the Lexus dealer is a little corner of the local Toyota dealer, and the Acura dearer is a little corner of the Honda store. The local Volvo dealer is a massive standalone, though they were also the Saab dealer for the last few years of Saab.

          • 0 avatar
            brettc

            I live right near the former Portland Volvo/Portland Saab, which is now just Portland Volvo. The Saab dealership’s old building in Falmouth is now an Ace hardware. I didn’t even realize Maine had an Acura dealer.

            Berlin City charges $1000 in add-on fees before you even walk into the F&I office. I can’t comprehend why people buy cars from them.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @Brettc

            We are relative neighbors, I’m in Westbrook. I guess Berlin City gave up on Acura in S. Portland! North Hampton NH seems to be the closest now. Explains why you never see them here, I guess.

            Interesting that there is no shortage of MINIs though, given the closest dealer is in Manchester, NH.

            Not sure how long you have been in the area (IIRC you are younger than me), but that old Saab dealer in Falmouth was built from the ground up as a Subaru dealership in ’81, my first car was bought new there by my Grandparents in ’82. Before that, the Subaru dealer was a corner of the old Mercedes-Benz dealership down Rt 1 a ways – Performance Motors. It was next door to Morong VW/Audi/Porsche. After Subaru, it became a BMW dealer for many years, until Bill Dodge bought them out and moved it to their big dealership area in Westbrook, cohabitating with Infiniti until they built the new BMW store six months ago next door.

            Also in Falmouth, where Staples and Richettas are now, was Colony Oldsmobile Buick, who were also Peugeot, Fiat, Delorean (!) and Rolls-Royce(!) back in the day. And Morong VW sold TVRs! Forest City Chevy in Portland was the Saab dealer (and Alfa Romeo) before they moved it to Falmouth. That was quite an “auto mile” back then, Morong is the only one left.

            And the big U-Haul center on Marginal Way in Portland was originally built as a British Leyland dealer, and sold Jaguar, MG, Rover, and Triumph when I was a kid. Which is why the main building is MUCH too grand to be a U-Haul center.

          • 0 avatar
            FuzzyPlushroom

            I know exactly where you mean. Here’s my old $700 ’94 855/M56 on their lawn.
            http://i.imgur.com/IEgAt.jpg

            I’ll also second your suggestion of a late 740/940 as a first car – an ’89 244 was my first; a ’92 745 was my second, and that trend’s continued to this day.

        • 0 avatar
          Fordson

          So, is your son who was able to buy himself a 2012 JGC SRT8 the same one with whom you split the cost of the 2010 Wrangler and the 2011 Elantra for his kids?

          Or did you buy him the 2012 JGC SRT8?

          Would you consider adopting me? I’m a liberal, but you could probably use a black sheep to kick around the family compound, right?

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Fordson, yes, the same. He is my oldest and now retired from the Japanese bank he worked at for 20 yrs.

            We split the cost of the Wrangler and the Elantra because his son and daughter grew up in my household after he and his first wife split, back in the nineties.

            Long story short, he now lives here, has gone into partnership with his former father-in-law, and lives in my abode in the desert with the twins he and his ex-wife made in 2005 after attending their 20-yr HS reunion, prior to marrying his current Japanese wife in 2008 (who still lives in Japan).

            It’s awkward because his ex-wife does regular sleepovers but had to stay away when his wife came to visit this past summer.

            Stranger than fiction.

            Anyway, we’re leaving for Ensenada, BC, Mexico, this afternoon, so until after the Holidays.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            “It’s awkward because his ex-wife does regular sleepovers but had to stay away when his wife came to visit this past summer.”

            Hard not to pull my judgment face at that one.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      That’s going to be both of my kids first vehicles, a 5-10 year old pickup/suburban/BOF-FS equivalent. Easy and cheap to maintain, safe, heavy enough that 350-400HP doesn’t allow too much fun, and allows for off-roading and detriment weather.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      When I was 16, my first car was just that. I got my dad’s 5-speed Altima, because he picked himself up a used Porsche 968, who’s value had just plummeted because the Boxster came out a year or 2 prior.

      It did get traded for an XTerra when I was a senior in high school, but that was because he wanted an SUV around the house for home depot runs, not because of any input from me. He daily drove it after I left for college until my brother was old enough to drive and it became his car.

      The idea of a 16 year old being given a vehicle that’s not a hand-me-down is humorous to me. The only times I’ve really seen this happening is when mom and dad are already driving BMWs and they get junior an off-lease civic.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        Emotionally, there is comfort in surrounding your kids in all the weight involved with a large SUV or pickup. But statistically, the combination of inexperience and a high center of gravity tends to result in rollover accidents, which can be deadly.

        This is why the traditional advice is to invest in a large or midsize sedan.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Plus, if you have a daughter the Miata has no back seat.

    • 0 avatar
      its me Dave

      With distracted driving one of the leading causes of teen accidents, limiting the passengers to 1 is a pretty good idea. A regular cab pickup doesn’t seem a bad idea either.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        Full-size pickups are still almost 6′ wide inside–enough to lay down across the bench seat.

      • 0 avatar
        Willyam

        Unfortunately Dave, while I totally agree with your thinking, the modern teen girl doesn’t seem to hang out with other actual people, but with a small, glowing box which she must immediately use to post her position, destination, mood, and inner monologue at each stop sign or intersection. Passenger seat unnecessary except for purse and book bag.

        I live two blocks from the high school, and sitting at that intersection I am surrounded by teen girl squad in Jeeps and Mustangs, all texting someone and staring into their laps for the entire red light.

        Ours has been warned with sudden revocation of license and said phone if I EVER catch her texting behind the wheel.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah but you do realize she can still bend over to position her head on the driver’s side right?

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      I think I remember reading the full CR piece, and the full recommendation included that driving a parents car instead of “their own” car resulted in safer decision making. So… it will have to be *my* Miata. Double points, triple word score, and the win.

  • avatar
    April S

    Ha Ha. Nothing wrong with a Loyale (especially one with a manual transmission).

    P.S. I sorta wish I still had my 93′ sedan.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    No, the answer is not always Miata. Sometimes it’s late model used Corolla.

  • avatar

    Car Talk used to advise old Volvos.

    My first car was an 8 year old ’62 Falcon. I doubt the brakes would have stopped from 60 in 145 feet but I rarely exceeded 50 in that car. Even driving across the country, which I did twice, at age 17.

  • avatar
    raph

    My mom had the best buying tip when my dad was talking about buying me a car and she said “He can get a damn job and buy his own car and pay for his own gas and his own insurance and his own maintenance and repairs. ”

    Frankly it was good advice that has served me well through the years. I take care if my vehicles even if I like to run them a little hard and when it comes to purchasing a vehicle I get exactly what I want and don’t mind paying for it which means I have to keep everything else is decent order (mostly finances) in order to get there.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      This was my Mother’s rule. I bought a Quad4 Grand Am and my sister purchased a ’68 Eldorado.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      This should be the rule. It will teach the kid some responsibility, and they will value the car more. I knew a kid in high school. His dad said the kid can buy the car, and he would get it running for him. That really struck me as a good idea, because the Fox body thunderbird they ended up fixing was worth way more to the kid because of all the blood sweat and tears he had in the car.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      I was given a hand-me-down car in high school, but I wasn’t allowed to drive until I could cover the insurance increase for adding me to the policy. I thought that was pretty fair.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        Kids who work are at a disadvantage getting into college. My kids are just entering high school, but they already know that they can have a car if they get A’s and nail their extra curriculars.

        It will be a used midsize sedan, but it will run fine, and I’ll teach them basic maintenance. But get into an accident, and you’re on your own for insurance.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      This is what happened to me too.

  • avatar
    ArialATOMV8

    the range of cars at my high school is extremely intresting.

    At the top of the line, a girl has a Range Rover Evoque (parents bought it for her) and, another rich kid has a “leased” Scion FRS with a rocketbunny body kit.

    The lowest of the low is a first gen Lexus ES300 which commutes over 100 miles per day and, shows no signs of breaking down!

    A honerable mention goes to the kid who’s father is obsessed with restoring up old cars and fixing them up. He lets his kid drive cars like a late 80s Firebird, a 1960s Plymouth Barracuda and, best of all a 65 Mustang. Ironically, unlike most kids, this same father insists his son learns how to drive stick and, his winter car is a smoked Volkswagen Jetta!

    Out of all the cars in the HS parking lot, only 3 are stickshifts (5 if you count the Mustang and the Firebird) .

    For me, I have access to my faimly’s 100 series Land Cruiser with a massive 5.7L V8. I also have some BMW driver in my blood after learning how to drive in my father’s F10! Shockingly, with big engine and the dna of a BMW driver in my bood, I still don’t have any tickets nor accidents because, I’m a cautious driver trying to keep my rates down for a little summer stickshift toy!

    Overall, the car does have some influence into how you become a good driver but, overall it’s baised on the experience. With a stick, you won’t be as tempted to text and drive or adding to your driving selfie to your snapchat story.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Son, that’s a 200 series cruiser if it has the 5.7. 100 series only got the 4.7 in the States. Wish I had a landcruiser to drive :(

      • 0 avatar
        ArialATOMV8

        Your right sorry about the engine mixup. The US Spec 100 has a 4.7L. I keep thinking of the famous Chrysler 5.7L Hemi V8.

        Land cruisers make a great second hand car to drive around. they also last forever. Ours (2003 100 seres regular model) has over 300k miles on the clock in a rust belt state! (It has some rust but, definitely less than any other cars) hand-built and imported from japan, even the US spec versions are built to last (If only the Australian 70 series was offered here lol)

        The US spec 200 is definitely a “pavement Princess” but, from what I have heard from some of my Cruiser forums that, they are still fun and, capable of going Off-road!

        One day, I’m going out of my way to find a good old 80 series just because, i’ve heard cool things about it. Some say that after you drive one, you will be obsessed with them and, automotive nirvana will be achieved!

        Overall, I highly recommend a used/pre owned one of some sort. From the legendary FJ40 to something like a 2005 100 series (or a 200), these cars will last forever and, make the perfect winter vehicle! Even if you have to go our of state to pick it up and, tow it home, every minute and vacation time will definitely be worth it and, alone the roar of the engine will always put a smile on your face! :)

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          I think you’re seriously wrong about the 200 series being a pavement princess, they beefed up the front diff in a serious way compared to the 100 after years of feedback. In terms of the sorts of wheels that the US spec truck comes with, sure they are impractical, not to mention the very concept of beating on an $80k truck. Give it 10 years and the 200 will be what the 100 is now.

          For me right now my 4runner is in the sweet spot of durability, reliability, cost, and somewhat importantly fuel economy. If I was shopping right now for a decently set up overlanding and daily driver rig, a 5th gen 4runner would be my top choice. About as much utility as a 100 series, equal amount of capability, but with significantly better mileage and you’d be getting a significantly newer truck. A 100 might ultimately be more durable in terms of axle strength and the torsion bar suspension vs the 4runner wishbones, but for what people would be using it for it’d be more than up to the task.

          • 0 avatar
            ArialATOMV8

            Spot on! :) Your right that the 200 is not a parking lot princess. It’s still lives up to the Land Cruiser name but, is just added with a few features some people would not prefer. On a Land Cruiser/Toyota Forum I visit a lot (ih8mud), we keep making fun of them because, at $75K, the US version is sadly more geared to a Kim Kardashian lifestyle and, a majority of them may never hit the dirt (yeah some of us can’t wait for the day a spartian one is offered in the US [Definitely going to be waiting for awhile though]). However, I keep forgetting that even with the US version, it still is capable to go Off-road for those who prefer it!

            I also find your point about the 200 being reasonable 10 years down the line Interesting. It’s true in like 10 or 20 years, it will be a bang for it’s buck! (who knows maybe even by then, we will have the ability to take out all of the bling and, replace it with a Spartan interior!)

            The 4Runner is also a great SUV from Toyota (I can’t believe I did not notice your thumbnail image). With the 3rd gen, just like the 100 series, it’s one of the best Toyota trucks ever built! They were built with perfection, durability, and practicality in mind. I keep hearing stories of them on high altitude rock crawling adventures and, the gearbox is perfected so you’ll always have enough torque and horsepower to keep on chugging. Also, the 4Runner is easier to find for parts (like the popular mod of taking a Limited’s heated seats and, swapping them into a manual cloth seat model [SR5 and base if I remember correctly?]!)

            Above all, for something like a teenager’s needs, the 4Runner is smaller and, easier to handle on the highway (they even come with a inline 4 and a semi reliable V6[ isn’t either the manual V6 or the auto V6 of the 3rd gen 4Runner known to have more problems over the others? {milkshake engine of death?}])

            We used to have a 95 4Runner I was little and, I loved it! We traded it in for the mid refresh 100 series though after it experienced the infamous chrome bumper rust issue [a huge con for the salt belt states]. Just like a 80, the third gen 4Runner [with Aftermarket front and rear bumpers]is on my bucket list of cars to own!

            Overall, they don’t build them like they used to and, both the Cruiser and the 3rd gen 4Runner would make good first cars.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            You’re thinking of the pink milkshake, it happens to trucks with automatic transmissions occasionally but honestly is an overblown issue. I nipped the potential worry in the bud with a simple $60 aftermarket transmission cooler that isn’t routed through the radiator.

            Funny that LC100 guys would be making fun of the 200 since the US LC100 is just as over-gingerbreaded from the global 100-105 series as a US 200 is from a “UN-spec” 200. Abroad, an LC105 was our land cruiser but stripped out, with a solid front axle, manual transmission, and a choice of the old 80 series straight six or a diesel engine.

            Fwiw my ’96 is a limited but lacks heated seats, they may have come later in the run, and I know were an option in Canada. I throw on imitation sheepskin covers on mine in the winter, but an aftermarket heated seat kit is on the list of to-dos.

    • 0 avatar
      IAhawkeye

      My high school had a wide range a few years ago too, all the way from a Land Rover to old, handed down, pickups. I will say though, my high school had an absolutely huge Mustang addiction. There were no less then 15 I swear every year I was there. Ranging in age from brand new to a sweet ’91 5.0 this kid had. Quite a few sticks in the bunch, too, thank god. We only had a few Camaro’s and like one Firebird I ever saw. I’d ask my sister what’s there now, but that’d be asking her to actually look up from her phone while she’s in the parking lot, no chance of that happening, lol.

  • avatar
    matador

    You want a car? Go buy one yourself….

    Otherwise, my child would be “stuck” with whatever I have sitting around. They’re not entitled to a newer vehicle. They can ride the bus, or if they’re starting out on gainful employment, I’d pony up for a 20 year old Buick. If it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for them….

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      I’m buying a car for my daughters this spring. I’ve given them a $15,000 budget, for a 2012 or newer car. Buying an old s-box is a false economy, especially if you have to pay retail prices for repairs. I fully expect one of them to be driving it for the next 8 years, and I want something that’s as trouble free as possible.

      I can get a 2014 Corolla with 30,000 miles for that money, with up to date safety equipment.

  • avatar
    salguod

    Consumer Reports buying advice for teens is pretty useless. “Stability control is a must.” That means buying your teen a $15K+ vehicle to get something small and slow but new enough to have stability control. Who spends that kind of money on a kid’s car?

    I have 4 cars for my family and, aside from the Mazda3 that I bought new 10 years ago, I didn’t pay $15K for all of them together. They certainly aren’t worth $15K now. Even if I include the car my daughter recently wrecked I’m still under $15K.

    2007 Prius – $10K in 2013, worth maybe $5K now
    1998 Escort – $2K in 2011, worth about $500 now
    1996 BMW 318ti – $500 in October, worth maybe $2K now
    2005 Mazda3 – $17K in 2006, worth about $3K now
    2003 Protege (gone) – $2K in 2014, totalled, Pick N Pull gave me $130 for it

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      Is stability control really that expensive on a used car? Edmunds says the Corolla has had it since ’10. (And I’m sure there are plenty of other cheap, boring, cars with it also.) You shouldn’t need more than $10k at a dealer, less if it’s a Craigslist car.

      • 0 avatar
        salguod

        I stand corrected, I didn’t think it had trickled down to the cheap cars until a couple years ago. Still, my point stands, who spends $10K on a car for a teen? (And my 4 cars are worth about the same as the 2010 Corolla).

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Stability control was a gov’t mandate and all 12my year and newer cars and light trucks have it. Before that it was phased in with minimum percentages across the fleet. That meant that the main stream high volume cars often got it fairly early to meet those targets. It also meant that it was often added before it was technically required when a model got a redesign or update so that it already had it when they had to meet the standards.

          The law required it to be on 55% of 2009, 75% of 2010 and 95% of 2011 vehicles. That is the reason that the Panther and Ranger’s last year was 2011 and they were barely able to do that since the demand for both skyrocketed when the fleets that had been using them (often exclusively) stoked up so they knew they could make it a couple of years until they could find acceptable replacements.

          • 0 avatar
            salguod

            Thanks for the stats, I knew it was mandatory but didn’t know about the phase in. I had assumed that, like most new tech, it would debut on the pricey cars first, then trickle down to the cheap cars.

            Still, a car with stability control is going to be a high 4 figure investment at minimum.

      • 0 avatar
        mattmers

        I paid 7000 for my car (07 SAAB 9-3) and it has ESC, and you can easily find a Saab with ESP since it was optional since the 90s. You can get an 03+ 9-3/9-5 for under 4000.

    • 0 avatar
      rdclark

      My 2005 Scion xB has stabiity control. No there’s a car any high schooler woud be proud to own!

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      stability control was a federal requirement as of 09 or so. We have a 2010 Mazda 3 with it, and the going rate for our car used from a dealer is around $11k. We’re fairly low mileage in good mechanical condition and a mid-level trim with the 2.5 engine. you can get something with the 2.0 and steel wheels for $9k-ish.

  • avatar

    Damn. Hopes of 17 year-olds the nation over longing for that Town & Country Touring or mom’s old tan Sienna CE under a red bow in the driveway are dashed by CR.

  • avatar
    pgcooldad

    I’ll be shopping for a vehicle for my youngest who turns 16 in February.
    I’ve come to the same conclusion, he’s the 5th and last child, and we’ll be shopping for a Ford Focus in the $4-5K range – with his money.

  • avatar
    dwford

    The ideal car for teens is the Hyundai Elantra with the 1.8. It’s slow, very safe, has a dirt simple radio set up to minimize distractions, gets good mileage, and not very expensive.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Amen to that! We helped buy the grand daughter a brand new 2011 Elantra for HS graduation so she would have a dependable ride to commute to college in (~150mi roundtrip 4X a week).

      It served her all through college, while carrying three of her best girl friends along. Never a problem. And when sold, she still got $10K for it 3 yrs later.

      Not too slow though. It routinely cruised at 85mph on Hwy 70 to and from college. Did wear out the OEM tires but the Pirelli 9000s lasted a lot longer.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    For someone in a Passat CC, she looks oddly excited to have older Chrysler keys.

    Also, it does seem odd to recommend a midsize sedan if a minivan’s out because of too much room for friends. So, up to 6 friends are a dangerous distraction, but 4 is safe? Then again, it’s probably for the best not to stick an inexperienced driver with something weighing more than two tons, and what cheap two seat pickups there are aren’t the safest.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    Stability control?
    Bah!
    In high school we waited for winter days when we could find a snow packed parking lot and “do doughnuts”. All in fun, but at the time we did not realized that in fact we were learning the hows and whys of automotive handling while exceeding the traction limits, learning how to control and recover control in > 10/10ths situations at very low and safer speeds.
    Wouldn’t stability control thwart this?

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      You don’t think that high schoolers would gind the off button? ;)

      I never was into that, but I can see how that could teach some car control (Though that’s not why they did it). When I was in High School, there was someone in the class below me who drove a late 80s Taurus wagon. He always tried to do donuts in that thing, but he was only able to drive in quick circles.

      I would just sit there in my warm F150, laughing at him. It was hilarious to watch!

    • 0 avatar
      salguod

      My daughter did Tire Rack’s Street Survival school (http://streetsurvival.org/), Because of an exhaust issue that had her Protege laid up in the garage (and her inability at the time to drive a stick), she had to do it in Mom’s Prius. I’m convinced the non-defeatable stability control limited her learning. Every time the car started to slide on the skidpad, the stability control would jump in and cut the power so she had limited opportunities to experience a loss of control and learn how to recover.

      • 0 avatar

        I need exhaust work every other year on my Protege. How were your wheel wells?

        • 0 avatar
          salguod

          AI’m not exactly sure what you’re asking. The car was relatively sound for a 13 year old Mazda, better than my 2005 Mazda3 There was rust through in the quarters and some in the dogleg ahead of the rear wheels, but otherwise not bad.

          The exhaust failed at the donut gasket and I had to replace the downpipe from the cat because the ears had broken off. Total pain, I broke 2 studs in the cat ended up dropping it, drilling them out and putting in helicoils. She totaled it a month or so later.

    • 0 avatar
      Marone

      “recover control in > 10/10ths situations at very low and safer speeds”

      I agree it is a useful experience, but doughnuts in a parking lot is no where near 10/10th’s and you can’t tell me that extrapolates anywhere close to actual car performance limits.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Stability control aside the right answer is Panther. You just can’t find a car with 4 airbags, ABS, maybe traction control, near as good crash performance unless you spend way more than a teen’s first car should cost. Plus it will be way newer and they’ll get bonus points from their friends if you get a retired P71 that still has it’s spot lights.

  • avatar
    Rnaboz

    My first car was a ’72 Triumph Spitfire. I never had to haul the gang around. Nobody could drive the stick. It fit me and my date. I learned how to work on cars! One of the best cars I ever owned!

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    I won’t give much advice as to what specific model is best for a young driver–I would recommend a compact to midsize sedan or compact CUV, but I think any car or segment can be used appropriately or inappropriately

    I will say that color seems to play a part too. Avoid red at all costs–red excites the driver, makes them more of a target for cops, and (apparently) raises insurance costs. Gray/silver is boring, but it acts as a mellowing agent to the driver and passengers and is also a natural camouflage (the only vehicles less conspicuous are white vans).

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      I worked in the same building as an Allstate agent. I asked him this- he said that they don’t factor color into their rates at all.

      So, you’re saying that parents should buy their children 15 passenger Econolines? ;)

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        All I said was, “the only vehicles less conspicuous are white vans.” Anything else was an assumption made by the reader.

        • 0 avatar
          mik101

          Except where you said exactly that…

          Copy and pasted directly from your post: “I will say that color seems to play a part too. Avoid red at all costs–red excites the driver, makes them more of a target for cops, and (apparently) raises insurance costs. Gray/silver is boring, but it acts as a mellowing agent to the driver and passengers and is also a natural camouflage (the only vehicles less conspicuous are white vans).”

          At least go back and edit your post if you’re going to argue that you didn’t respew old urban legends…

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            My statement applied to the part where matador tried to say I advocated buying “15 passenger Econolines.”

            If you’d care to learn a little more about the individual you’re slamming, you’ll find that I do my best not to present anything that is my personal opinion as fact. I may have presumed too much in thinking that the word “seems” was indicative of this.

            And if you’d care to learn more about TTAC’s comment system, you’d know that post editing is a time-sensitive feature, certainly more time-sensitive than the 4.5+ hours between my first and second posts, and I had better things to do today than engage in self-censorship in an effort to defend my character to someone who it seems doesn’t fully understand my meaning in the first place. If it’s not too forward, may I ask how long you’ve been here? I’m not always familiar with the longevity of other members of the B&B.

            At any rate, good night, and I truly hope we can meet on better terms tomorrow or at another time in the future.

  • avatar
    Joss

    CR: Get your captain of football a Fiat 500 in citrus yellow…

  • avatar

    I’m not sure the “avoiding minivans” thing means much. I remember back in my high school days cramming way more people than a vehicle was designed to hold – I think we once got 11 people in a Mercury Topaz.

    My first car was a hand-me-down LeBaron sedan, in silver- a K-Car with a vinyl roof. As far as vehicles with limited ability to get into trouble with, it’s probably up there.

  • avatar
    Varezhka

    I do have an acquaintance who bought a Smart ED for their teenagers.
    Two seats, good crash ratings, and a limited range so that they won’t disappear all night to who knows where.

  • avatar

    Don’t buy your kid a manual.

    You don’t want to raise their hopes for future generations of cars that aren’t gonna happen!

    • 0 avatar
      Marone

      or buy them one and put them on the path to enthusiast.

      That and no one else is going to drive the thing because they don’t know how.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        I would consider a manual in the hope it keeps him off the phone. But I suspect he would just have one hand on the stick and the other on the phone.

        Hard to play Clash of Clans hands free…

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      Absolutely buy your kid a MT, for my kids it will be a must with no exceptions.

      1. keeps the texting and driving to a minimum

      2. their buddies will not know how to drive a MT so no worries about someone ‘borrowing’ their car.

      3. they are cheaper to buy used

  • avatar
    mchan1

    Any kid that wants a car should get a job and buy one for him/herself. That’s called being realistic and responsible.

    The kid will learn what it means to own something that costs a lot of money and the other costs associated (i.e. gas, insurance, repairs).

    Otherwise, the kid can either walk, take the bus or use whatever vehicle is available to them and appreciate it.

    Kids nowadays are spoiled brats and buying them cars aren’t going to make them more responsible but more reliant upon mommy and daddy for future purchases!

    Any wonder why the younger generation has the ‘Entitlement Syndrome’?

    Got my license late at the end of high school and drove my parent’s cars If I was allowed! The first car I owned was the Honda Civic DX MT coupe which was a stripped down car. Didn’t have to spend money for gym membership since I got a workout daily driving the car as it didn’t have power steering and partial power brakes back in the early ’90s, NO A/C (sweated a lot on hot days) and had to buy a stereo, speakers and antenna for it! The car was nothing but a commuter car but one that I paid for. You appreciate it more If you paid for it even if it was a base model.

    My current car is luxurious compared to that stripper of a car which is why I can’t stand Honda’s nowadays considering I came from a Honda family.

    • 0 avatar
      Frylock350

      I’ll help my kids buy a car so it can be newer and bigger. I had to pay for my own (I chose a b-body station wagon) and it was a very rewarding experience. That said, I want my kids driving vehicles that the average teenage job makes far too unaffordable. I want my kid in a mid-size truck that’s only 4-5 years old. Its unrealistic to expect them to pay for that themselves.

      • 0 avatar
        mchan1

        “Its unrealistic to expect them to pay for that themselves.”

        The kids can always work to afford a used car.
        Otherwise, they can accept the parent’s vehicles or walk or ride with friends or use their bicycle.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        The only thing that’s unrealistic is the self-imposed standard he’s set for what his children will drive. The other fallacy is thinking a 4-5 year old truck is safer than other, cheaper options.

  • avatar
    Marone

    Consumer Reports. One more useless report.

  • avatar
    Scuttle

    When I was in high school there was a guy who had a new mustang mach 1 (2003-2004 model) given to him by his parents for his first car. He took it onto the curvy roads outside town and plowed it into the side of a hill. Killed his best friend and maimed the two girls that were in the back seat. He survived, mostly unharmed.

  • avatar
    CrapBox

    The best vehicle for your teen is a bicycle.

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    I hear Ethan Couch’s mom is having a Hellcat shipped to South America for him…

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I say go with a Corvette Z06 and let natural selection take its course. LOL.

    Nah, late model hand-me-downs are the most common around these here parts.

  • avatar
    gasser

    Watch the number of doors on that kid’s car. When my first was 17 I got her a 4 door Accord. Good choice I thought. When the second one got his license at 16, I got him a 2 door Acccord. Bad choice. My insurance company deemed the 2 door a “sports car” and hit me with a 30% surcharge!! P.S both wer 4 cylinder automatics.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “small engine, low horsepower, good brakes, no SUVs or pickups, swift handling, small passenger compartment, cheap to fix when it breaks”

    My dad’s 1978 Ford Fiesta had all this. I still proved out its 96 mph top speed on many occasions, I wrecked it into a curb in 1980, and totaled it in 1982 because I was being stupid. Air bags and stability control wouldn’t have saved my life given the foolish things I tried back then.

    • 0 avatar
      nrcote

      >>> Air bags and stability control wouldn’t have saved my life

      Let’s prove it with science. Do it all over again, with air bags and stability control, and come back with the results.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    “We’ve got a garage full of tools, a lift, three dozen junkyards within a half hour’s drive and nights & weekends free.

    You can have any car you want, as long as you BUILD IT YOURSELF.

    I’ll help you.”

    See, I figure if a kid invests the kind of time, effort and tears necessary to build a vehicle from the ground up, he’ll be far less likely to wreck it in a maneuver he can’t recover from.

    • 0 avatar
      mik101

      My 18 year old neighbor that keeps wrecking 240sx and Skylines his father and I help him build seems to contradict that. It’s just giving him more capability to do something stupid (showing off for friends).

  • avatar
    dasko

    If they are going new, get a Fiesta Ecoboost. The stick will keep them from texting. If going used, get Mazda3 with a stick and the two point slow engine.

  • avatar
    George B

    Here in Texas a teen’s first car is likely the last car owned by some elderly relative. My girlfriend’s daughter was given a very low mileage 2004 Toyota Avalon from her great-uncle. A friend’s son was given a similar Buick sedan from his grandmother. Good system that transfers a reliable car with a known maintenance history to the next generation of drivers. These old person cars don’t encourage reckless driving plus what teen wants to tell their grandmother that he or she wrecked her car?

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I really enjoyed my first car, my family’s 17 year old Honda civic wagon that I shared with my mom. Folks paid insurance and registration and the cost of parts, I did the maintenance and repairs and gas. Kept that little rusting beauty as immaculate as can be. Every spring it was a sander and wire brush and tin snips, then bondo and more sanding, and then paint. I think the car was a really slowly gaining weight as globs of bondo are heavier than thin sheet metal. My brother and I did the CV axles, upper control arms and lower ball joints as our biggest DIY repair, I was very proud.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    VW Jetta with the 2.0 (slow) motor. Same horsepower, hell same motor I had as a teenager and I’m in my 40s. All other modern cars are either too small or too powerful. 4cyl Accord is now faster than a mustang 5.0 from my youth.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    My son is seven. By the time he’s old enough to drive, I’m thinking I’m gonna get him something with a stick. No way any of his idiot friends will be able to drive it that way!

  • avatar
    jjklongisland

    Best vehicle choice in my opinion is a regular cab pickup with a standard transmission. This reduces the amount of people they can have in their vehicle and by driving a stick it will be much harder to text and drive. I recommend a 3/4 ton pick up. I also think a 2wd pickup in the new england area will command a respect for driving in inclement weather. 4wd instills false confidence in young drivers and allows them to drive to fast in the snow. My thoughts…

  • avatar
    EAF

    For teens my recommendations;

    1) Used JDM or USDM, stay away from Euro trash, say **no** to Volkswagens!
    2) Functional anti-lock brakes, seat belts and air-bags are mandatory.
    3) Invest in time behind the wheel with them, experience & wisdom are key.
    4) Cars are tools for education and/or employment. For anything else; walk.
    5) NO CELL PHONES & if you see a red DSM in your rear view GTFO of my way!

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    Consumers Reports has become a periodical of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%.

    Do they even know what the statistical mode of American family income is?

    • 0 avatar
      Frylock350

      Its not the 1%, its the “sophisticated” middle class white collar demographic. They have enough money that they don’t have to worry about it, but they’re not vacation home wealthy. They’re the type of people that will only drink bottled water, shop at whole foods, wear scarves indoors, participate in “detox cleanses”, etc. They’re victims of confirmation bias, placebo effect and they’re big consumers of snake oil products and love snake oil salesmen (Dr. Oz). That’s the Consumer Reports demographic.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    I’d buy the cleanest D-platform Taurus/Sable/MKS I could find. That is, unless my wife convinced me to lease a Focus for our daughter for $150/month.

  • avatar
    Frylock350

    My kid’s first car will be something large and safe, preferably a truck. In today’s market, a lightly used extended cab Colorado would be ideal.

    For the purposes of learning to drive a Colorado is pretty ideal. Its big enough that you are forced to develop good parking and positioning skills, in 2HI its RWD so its a great way to learn to control a vehicle when the tail slides out and in 4HI its a fantastic bad weather vehicle. Its also plenty slow with the 4-pot diesel, yet its also durable enough to handle lots of WOT abuse. They’re quite safe and they’re also cheaper to insure than most cars are.

    Additionally its durable enough to survive a few rookie mistakes without needing major repairs. Often times teenagers can/will drive over curbs, parking blocks, back into stuff (like a guardrail), etc. See how well a Camcord handles a teenager misjudging a tight turn out of a driveway and going over a 7″ curb. I’m sure the rear bumper won’t mind. Colorado don’t care. Forget to slow down for a speed bump? Colorado don’t care. Din’t see that decent sized pothole? Colorado don’t care. Pull up to fast to a parking block that’s higher than it should be? Colorado don’t care.

    EDIT: My kids will also be working to partially pay for the car. People take much better care of an item when they’re cognizant of the work that goes into earning enough to acquire it.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    She won’t get far in a VW CC with Dodge keys.

  • avatar
    tbe30ll

    Does it bother anyone else that the keys dont match the car in the lead image?

  • avatar
    colin42

    There is 1 car that is often over looked (for good reasons) that make it a perfect Teen car. Honda CRZ

    2 seater – prevent being the friends taxi
    Available in Manual – no other friends could drive it
    Looks sporty (but isn’t)
    Good fuel economy
    Good reliability – It’s a Honda
    reasonable low purchase price due to not being popular

  • avatar
    Varryl

    I have been thinking a lot about this.

    2011/2012 Nissan Leaf.

    1. Electric cars do better over gas cars in crash tests on average.
    2. Those things are super cheap now, about 10k
    3. in order to get battery life to the max, they have to drive it like old ladies.
    4. and no matter what you do, your child will never ever leave town with it.

    Perfect car.

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