By on July 26, 2016

2016 Honda CR-Z, Image: Honda

Lichtronamo writes:

Hi Bark,

I’m starting the process of finding a used car for my daughter who turns 16 in September and will (hopefully) get her license afterwards.

She’s 5’3″ and about 90 pounds, so a B- or C-segment car would be right in terms of size. She’s also listened to me go on about how great it is to drive a manual transmission since she was born, and believes this to be a fundamental need of any car purchase. Our budget is upwards of $10,000 with driver safety the other primary criteria. Fuel economy and reliability aren’t negatives. While I should probably zero in on finding a nice Corolla, I’m looking for an out-of-the-box choice with some car-guy (and girl) cred. Golf? Mini? Mazda3?

Oooh, the Ten Thousand Dollar Challenge! This is my favorite game to play. The “Under $10K, Any Make” search is, by far, the most popular search on a certain orange-colored, third-party website, so dealers intentionally price cars that might normally be worth a bit more money at $10,000 to garner the attention of more eyeballs. This can mean an outstanding value for you, if you’re willing to do a bit of work.

You’ve already named all the Usual Suspects, so let’s see what outside-the-box cars might be available in your price range for your daughter (who, sadly, is about seven years too old for my son, but when they’re 34 and 27, nobody will blink an eye).

First up to bat: a very badly photographed, private seller Chrysler Crossfire. If she’s been raised by a car guy, this might be a compelling argument. This ’07 example is one of the last ones to roll off the assembly line. The Crossfire gets a bad rap, but I think it would be a unique car for her to have. It’s reasonably quick, and it only has two seats, which also means that she can’t carry around a whole bunch of friends. Reliability doesn’t seem to be too bad, either. The only issues I’ve heard of with these are that manual transmissions can be a little notchy and the doors sometimes have rust issues.

I don’t know why the Civic Si isn’t on your list, but it should be. Heck, I might buy this example. I would think that a 15-year-old girl would love the looks of this generation of Civic coupe. They handle very well and sip fuel. Plus, Honda reliability, blah, blah, blah. I dig it. Seriously. I’d rock that car.

Call me crazy, but if you’re looking for a car that looks sporty (but isn’t all that sporty) and gets good gas mileage, why not another Honda entry — the CR-Z? I know that the CR-Z isn’t well-loved, but that’s mostly because it’s not a CRX. This example has less than 90,000 miles on the clock and looks gorgeous in that classic Honda white.

I miss the S2000 CR I used to autocross. Sigh.

Where were we? Oh, yes, the CR-Z. She might get some extra cred from her Gen Z friends for having a hybrid, too. The more I think about this choice, the more I like it.

Let’s stay in the Hondaverse for one more idea: the RSX. In fact, I found an RSX-S for under $10K — JDM’d to the gills, but still not a bad idea. Okay, so maybe you wouldn’t want that one, but it’s still a great idea for a young woman who wants to row her own. One of my best female friends daily drives an RSX, and she loves its sporty look. Reliability and gas mileage get top marks for the RSX, as well.

And this really wouldn’t be an Ask Bark if I didn’t mention the Scion tC. I’d bet you my next six months of FiST lease payments that she’ll love the looks of it. Ten grand gets you a lot of tC, too. Here’s a nice lower-mileage example. The tC manages to be a complete hoot to drive while also not having enough power to get her into excessive amounts of trouble. The aftermarket support for them is considerable, too. She can spend all her part-time job cash on accessories. The best thing about the tC, however, from your perspective, is that underneath all the flash, it’s just a Corolla coupe and it’s just as reliable as you’d expect a Corolla to be.

So WWBD? Before I sat down to write this column, I would have said tC, hands down. However, like I said above, I’m really starting to dig the CR-Z idea. Consumer Reports consistently found them to be trouble-free, and users only report whistling windshields and fog lights prone to cracking. Of course, the Mazda3 and Golf would be fine choices, but you already knew that before you wrote in. And “Mini” and “Reliability” are two words that should never be uttered in the same sentence.

Go find a CR-Z, offer $2,000 less than the asking price, and you’ll have a fuel-efficient, attractive little car that should last longer than her affinity for Taylor Swift. And God bless you for raising a girl who insists on a manual transmission.

[Image: Honda]

Questions for Bark can be electronically mailed to [email protected], or sent via this new Twitter thing to @barkm302. I also have Snapchat. I don’t know how to use it. 

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92 Comments on “Ask Bark: First Car For A Car Girl...”


  • avatar
    TOTitan

    My daughter has a 08 VW Rabbit (Golf) that I bought new. 145,000 miles later Ive replaced one headlight bulb, one tail light bulb, and just replaced the original battery. It still handles better than small cars from Asia and N America and still gets decent but not great mileage from the 2.5L 5 cylinder motor. They dont get much better than that.

    • 0 avatar
      redliner

      The Mk5 Rabbits have a very nice ride/handling balance, but the current Civic, Cruze and Focus have equally nice chassis tunning for everyday driving.

      • 0 avatar
        TOTitan

        Agreed but high speeds and inclement weather are where the MkV really shines. A few years ago I flew up to Sacramento to drive home to Thousand Oaks with my daughter because there was a major storm along the route. The car was unbelievably stable in the pounding rain and high winds…much more so than and civcs, cruzes and focus Ive driven.

        • 0 avatar
          Adam Tonge

          I had a MKV GTI and a Focus ST at the same time. I wouldn’t say that the GTI handled better. On winter tires, in the snow, they felt basically the same.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    The less seats in a teen’s car the better.

    Also, take her to events where she can push her and her car’s limits. Karting and the 1/8th or 1/4 mile would probably be good starts. You can’t really enjoy cars or driving without having the skills and experience to handle them at their limits.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Within 500kms of Toronto there are exactly 2 CRZ’s listed for sale for under $14k Canadian.

    A 2011 with 112,000kms for $11,600.
    And a 2011 ‘base’ model with 50,000kms for $13,900.

    This 2nd one seems suspiciously underpriced.

    Used cars generally sell for much more in Canada than in the U.S. Plus strict safety inspections/licensing and the prodigious use of salt in the winter means that there are far fewer ‘beaters around or available.

    And in keeping with the situation: HeLLcaT.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    $10k? Safe and reliable?

    I suggest [email protected] 1987 Volvo 240s and 6 parts cars.

  • avatar
    duffman13

    I’m going to go with bark’s #2 here – get the best (and most stock) Civic Si you can for $10k. It truly is the last traditional 4-cylinder sport compact built in the old Honda way – perfect shifter, screaming, free-revving engine, and tossable, communicative chassis. I will say the car is not without downsides though…

    – No factory Bluetooth
    – Takes 93 octane gas
    – Insurance companies know the difference between the Si and a standard Civic, and you’ll pay for it. Get a quote first before you commit.

    If those downsides are too much, I have a definite alternative – a 2010+ 2.5L 6MT Mazda 3. It gets the same mileage as the Si but on 87, incurs no “hot rod spec” insurance penalty, and has factory Bluetooth calls and streaming. On the performance side, it gives you 95% of the Si’s top end with actual torque down low from the larger displacement, a penchant for revs if you want to, a good manual transmission, and 95% of the handling prowess with a more comfortable ride. The only notable exclusion is the LSD that the Si has, which doesn’t really matter unless you’re autocrossing anyway.

    I’ve been commuting in a 3 hatch with the 2.5 for 2 years, and it was my wife’s for the 4 years prior. We’re both very happy with it (I would like it more if it was stick, but no dice since it was her car first) and I would recommend it over pretty much the rest of the competition unless rear seat space is a factor for you. I just priced mine (2010 hatch 2.5 auto with Bose/Sunroof and 70k) at around $7.5-8k trade and roughly $9.5k private party. I’m sure you could find a manual 2.5 without the options for $9k or so. An Autotrader or Cars.com search for manual and any of the “S” trim variations will find this for you.

    A 2.0 is also a good choice and will get you 40mpg if you go 2012+. Personal preference, but you’re more likely to find one with steel wheels and hubcaps in that trim. Plus they changed some of the interior colorization to something I find less attractive (black plastic instead of silver paint). Just don’t go 2.0 on a 2010-2011, that engine is a dog.

    Finally, I have to recommend against the RSX. The youngest of them are 10 years old being the main part, and more often than not they’ve seen the better part of a NOPI catalog (do those still exist?). Secondary to that is the lack of any real driver safety nannies that I would want in a car for a teenager. They do have front and side airbags and ABS, but that’s about it. The closer you get to 2010 the more likely you get traction and stability control, which are systems I’d want a kid of mine to have for my own peace of mind.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Good point about insurance rates. A couple years of high insurance rates for a teen driver in a sporty car could buy a better, more conservative car with lower insurance rates. The tough part is finding one with a manual.

      • 0 avatar
        Giltibo

        Good ole Civic or even Accord with a sweet manual transmission. (I drive an ’08 Accord 5MT Coupe). Reasonable to insure and easy to maintain – parts are plenty and relatively cheap.

  • avatar
    Adam Tonge

    Business Insider says that the Ford Mustang is a good choice.

    I go back to my usual recommendation: 2010-2012 Fusion or Malibu

    But if manual is a must, there is always the 2012-2015 Focus and Cruze that have really depreciated as well. You may be able to find an I4 manual Fusion, but good luck with that…

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      Fusion and Focus, Malibu and Cruze – excellent choices.

      • 0 avatar
        Adam Tonge

        Well, if she wants a manual transmission, the Malibu is out. I still think it’s a really good used car and you can find some of that version with the 3.6L V6.

        The Focus and Cruze both have excellent manual transmission options. I’d buy either one for my daughter.

        • 0 avatar
          tonycd

          +1. I think the Focus is a fine choice here.

          Its big weaknesses don’t apply to her:
          •Cramped front seat room for big guys — she isn’t one.
          •Cramped rear seat — as noted above, that’s sort of an advantage here.
          •Crappy unreliable automatic transmission.
          •Crappy MyFordTouch on the higher trim levels — as a price-sensitive buyer, he’ll find that easy to avoid.

          Best of all, this Ford has the ultimate used car advantage Honda and Toyota/Scion don’t: It costs less than it’s worth.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I think back to Caroline and her choice (to the horror of the B&B) of a Chevy Sonic with the 1.4T and the 6-speed manual and her being happy.

    Gently used 2013-14 models can be found for under $10K all day long – still have factory warranty – do well in crash tests – and appeal to the target demographic (well the 5-door version).

    Cheap and cheerful, safe, slow car that can be driven fast, great driver visibility (yes I drove one) and practical.

    Winning

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      My MIL has one with the 1.4T and the auto…another excellent choice.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Caroline bought a 1.8L automatic.

      thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/the-truth-about-caroline-sonic-boom/

    • 0 avatar

      I drove one a couple years ago. Very impressed. Felt more firmly planted to the road than the Cadillac DTSs I was renting for business a decade before. I’d definitely buy a Sonic, even with an automatic though I’d prefer a manual.

    • 0 avatar
      oleladycarnut

      I just rented a Chevy Sonic last week in Georgia to drive from Atlanta to Columbia, SC. The interior was ridiculously ugly, but I was surprised at how well it scooted in and out of traffic. The handling was better than I would have expected. It would be something I’d buy my granddaughters were they old enough to drive.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        About sums up my experience. Not a fan of the dash or center stack, but was surprised at the feel from the butt dyno and the handling. Was surprisingly well planted at 75 MPH on the interstate, and navigated a blinding severe thunderstorm without issue.

        I would buy one for the kidlet – if I needed an urban runabout it would be high on my list – used – definitely not new. Someone else can take the depreciation hit.

        My understanding is the updated Sonic will get a more conventional dash and center stack.

        • 0 avatar
          frankev

          In April, we bought a bright red (well, “Red Hot” in GM parlance) 2015 Sonic with the 1.8L/5-spd combo to replace a vehicle that had been totaled a year before (rear-ended 2009 Hyundai Accent). It joins four other vehicles in our fleet (1988 Honda NX125, 2009 Subaru Impreza, 2011 Kia Sedona, 2014 Ford Fusion). Because the Sonic is a base model, it lacks power mirrors and windows, but interestingly it’s equipped with power locks (with fob and switchblade key) as well as Bluetooth–surely a decision tied to GM beancounter analysis.

          Pros: great handling, esp. for in-town and suburban driving; its size makes parking a snap. The A/C is powerful; it has some unexpected features for a low-end car, e.g., steering wheel-mounted Bluetooth and audio controls, a trip computer, and an outside temp readout. I’ve been getting 33-34 MPG without driving in a miserly fashion.

          Cons: after the 1-2 shift, there’s a little bit of lag when accelerating in second gear. Power windows would be nice to quickly exhaust hot air from the interior in the summer, but the A/C makes quick work of that. The armrest attached to the driver’s seat is too high for me (I’m 5’8″), so I never use it.

          Overall it’s a great runabout–I commute with it whenever I can’t ride my motorcycle. Rowing one’s own gears makes all the difference in the world to me. I also wanted to ensure that my sons can drive stick, as I consider it an essential life skill to pass on to them.

          Having said that, what was my first car at age 16? A 1984 Ford Mustang GT. This was back in the late 1980s–175hp from that 302 V8, in other words pretty much the opposite of what we’re recommending in this thread.

          There’s something to be said about getting a midsized vehicle (mentioned by others below). For example, when I travel for work (rare these days) I’m prohibited from renting anything smaller than an “Intermediate” because they’re not approved by our risk management folks. So a Cruze or Malibu is okay, but not a Sonic or a Spark.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    Yeah – what she really needs is some orphan-mobile, like a Crossfire or a CR-Z.

    I would bet that any self-respecting “car girl” would spit out her teeth at the prospect of a CR-Z, like any self-respecting “car guy” would.

    And maybe you could post a link to any test or review, anywhere on the internet, at any time, that claims that driving a tC is “a hoot.”

    • 0 avatar

      I owned one for three years. I liked driving it. I won some autocrosses with it. Only have my own experience to use. U MAD BRO?

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      I’ve driven a tC and I find it be almost unique in the market. Typically that is a bad thing, but for the tC is a good thing IMHO.

      A good example of a slow car that can be driven fast, and you get a pretty darn nice package for the price point. It is hard to define the tC because it stands largely on its own. Big enthusiast following (even if a large minority of them are…well read on) and lots of after market parts. The engine and tranny are pretty bullet proof, leans to understeer so forgiving for a novice driver.

      You could kind of say the Civic coupe competes with it – sort of.

      You could kind of say the base model Camaro or Mustang compete with it – but that is a huge stretch (others have made the comparo, don’t shoot the messenger- personally I disagree)

      You could kind of say the Hyundai Velositer competes with it – sort of.

      You could kind of say the Forte Koupe SX competes with it – sort of.

      Personally I wouldn’t get my kid a Scion tC because of the overall reputation that douches drive Scions (sorry Scion owners, that is the perception – don’t shoot the messenger). Just as the perception that mullet wearing trailer park residents drive Mustangs and Camaros, bald overweight men drive Corvettes, sexually repressed frustrated half-drunk soccer moms drive [INSERT OVERSIZED SUV/CUV OF YOUR DISLIKING HERE], hen pecked men drive minivans or the Ford Flex, anyone with a Prius drives slow and takes ownership of the left lane, Tesla Model S owners are hopelessly smug, and those with deficiencies in the groin area drive 3/4 and 1 ton trucks with lift kits.

      Being 16 once before and having my first car looking remotely sporty on the outside with two-doors, I remember how I drove it. That’s the other huge black mark for me against a Crossfire, CR-Z, tC or anything else that resembles a 3-door coupe. It is just inviting trouble.

      I agree with other views above that a Crossfire is just a bad choice for a long list of reasons. I’m a fan of the CR-Z personally for what it is, and I’m a fan of the tC, for what it is.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      I test drove an MT CR-Z. It wasn’t something I loved as a 28 year old (at the time) that could afford nicer/faster cars, but it wasn’t a bad little driver. Had they put 2 seats in the back, it would have been much better. Had I been given that instead of the plum colored 1993 Impreza (5MT, AWD), I’d have been over the moon. haha

    • 0 avatar
      Dingleberrypiez_Returns

      Fordson, it’s just another troll job by Bark.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      I happen to like the CR-Z. It is what it is, and it being a small Honda with a manual, it ticks a lot of boxes.

      Just because you hate it doesn’t mean someone else couldn’t possibly like it.

  • avatar
    mcs

    For safety, depending on how far you are willing to stretch the $10k, look for something with automatic braking. You might be able to get a Scion iA under 15k and it’s equipped with it. Your insurance company might give you a hefty enough discount to make up for the extra cost. There are other cars equipped with it (Subaru), but I’m not sure of the prices.

  • avatar
    Frank Galvin

    Bark, where is the OP located? If winter is not an issue, there are quite a few Miata (’06 and newer) that fit the ticket. Also, 2005 and newer Mustangs (including V6 deluxe, some GTs, convertibles) are also in that pricing sweet spot. Not that I want my kid in a GT for a first car, but a manual tied to that 4 liter V6 might be a fun, yet not too fast, choice.

    • 0 avatar
      Zoom

      16 years old and two doors are not a good insurance combination.

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      This is what I got for mine. About $8k, 90k miles, auto. Good two-owner history. I had to drive a couple hours to get the best of the bunch (some have had many, many owners, paint rubbed off all the dash buttons, busted interiors, etc.). Of course, it has generally dropped parts along the road since then (electrics and interior bits especially), but she only drives a few miles in any direction. It is a bit sketchy in the rain for a new driver, as that 4.0 was/is a truck motor and has plenty of torque. Any ice at all and she’s riding with mom/dad. Still, she loves it and wants to be a Mustang owner for life.

  • avatar
    Orangecar Blackheart

    Have you driven a manual CR-Z? Apparently you have not. They aren’t sporty. They aren’t efficient. They are heavy and slow and uncomfortable.

    It was one of the most disappointing drives of my life, as someone whose first car was a Honda Prelude.

    This is a car once lauded as “122 HP, 33 MPG, Worst Of All Worlds” by another site, one who adores hot hatches.

    Get her the Civic, or better yet – let her make up her own mind, and stop forcing “manual brown wagon” upon your daughter who might prefer a DCT green convertible or something.

    • 0 avatar
      yamahog

      I have about 500 miles in a CRZ and if they had 4 doors, I’d have one. Generally a 7-9k CRZ is in much better condition (i.e half the miles and a clean title) than a Honda Civic Si with a comparable price. My first two motorcycles were Hondas and the CRZ rocked – it’s zippy, its much punchier down low than most Hondas, I got really good milage for the type of driving 37 mpg either going 75 mph or sitting in stop and go traffic. And rowing the gears with its smooth transmission is a lot of fun. What is a Honda if not enjoyable to row the gears in?

      At the end of the day, the 2 door aspect is unfavorable and no back seats is a finishing move.

      The only problem (for a person who has it as their only car) is that the Fit is also cheap, gets comparable milage, and has much more room for moving apartments / bulky things.

      They’re not for everyone but they’re not bad cars. They’re just not great and they’re weird for Honda cars (but if you rode a NC700 or any of the modern 500s you’d see what they were getting at with the CRZ).

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        ^this, thank you sir. Its a different sort of appreciation the car requires. Some have it, some don’t.

        Although I don’t share your love of motorcycles, there is one tiny Honda with a motorcycle engine Is dearly love to have: 1970s Z600 Coupe. Advacado green please.

  • avatar
    mattmers

    You can get a very nice SAAB or Volvo for 10k and they are known for safety.

  • avatar
    bludragon

    I like the Civic Si enough to own one. However, I would steer clear of the one linked in the article. Instead, try to find one without any low-budget go-faster bits applied. There are a few around, possibly taken in as trades.

    A Mazda3 would be my number 1 pick. Compared to the civic, you can get a newer one, in better condition for the same money. Find one with a hatch and it adds a level of flexibility that could be useful over the next few years as well. While the civic si engine is more fun, the steering and brake feel of the mazda3 are better (IMHO).

    Perhaps a newer focus, or a fiesta would be a good choice as well?

    For a less “sensible” choice, how about an RX-8 with a recently rebuilt or replaced engine? They are going for well under 10k now. Put a little of the 10k budget aside to replace coils, plugs and pay the insurance and the only downside then becomes the gas mileage. The other stipulation with this one is that it she has to autocross the car to avoid the temptation to race it on the street. Actually, that should be a stipulation for any car she gets…

    The other sports car option is of course a Miata. An NC would be ideal, but I’m not sure if a good one can be found within budget.

    Of course, no one on here has any idea what your daughter would actually like, and that might be the most important consideration!

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      Yeah, what she wants seems like a really important consideration. At the very least, we’d have a better idea of what good ideas might get approval.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    2010 Tacoma, base regular cab. Besides all, you’ve always wanted a pickup in the fleet. Plus there’s no 2nd row of friends to distract.

    It won’t lose much value if she wants a “car” at 18.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      If you find a 2010 Taco under $10000 it probably has 300,000 miles or a salvage title. Or both.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        $13,995 asking, for normal miles at dealers, isn’t out of the ordinary. Base strippers, clean, one owners. The point is, it wont loose much value, whatever you pay for it. They sold for $18K when new, full MSRP.

  • avatar
    LS1Fan

    I’m going to break with tradition here.

    A 16 year old car enthusiast needs the slowest, boringest, non enthusiast vehicle money can buy.

    I’m thinking used Camry or Altima here. 6 cylinder engines need not apply. Or (I know) a used CUV.

    New drivers by nature dont know what they don’t know when it comes to vehicle control in the Real World. Some lessons can only be taught by experience. The less power available a teen has when Lady Experience holds court on the road, the better.

    After five years of dodging snowdrifts, speed traps and Instagrammers shell have not just experience but the practical appreciation also for an enthusiast oriented car- and better resources for dealing with maintenance headaches .

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      I’ll go one further – as the Camry is going to be sold at a premium for a vehicle that statistically had a high chance of being wrecked.

      GM W-body – Impala or Grand Prix, base 3.8L V6 (200 HP) with optional side airbags . Stupid cheap to buy, stupid cheap to maintain/repair, wide parts availability, stupid cheap to insure, and the NA Series III 3.8L V6 attached to the 4-speed auto is as reliable as the sunrise. Can buy nice examples that are one or two owner cars all day long for under $7K.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Lightly used Fiesta S with a manual (rare beast but they are out there). You should be able to pick up one for around $10,000. Not as fun as some other choices out there, but then again, it’s a satisfying car to drive, and the concept of a zillion airbags and ABS should be appealing to any parent.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Just don’t buy a Veloster.

    • 0 avatar

      I think we can all agree on this.

    • 0 avatar
      scwmcan

      Is there something so bad about the veloster that it is a horrible choice?
      I’m not saying it is a great choice, but it would seem to fit the bill, looks sort of sporty, but isn’t overpowered, handles okay (basically the same as the accent, so not the best but not horrible) is actually practice with the hatch, and gets decent fuel economy, and should even be decent with the price, with all the tech for connecting the phone, and full complement of air bags and safety tech.
      I know it isn’t the CRX take two that some people wanted it to be, but it isn’t the horrible car that they make it out to be either. I know I may be biased as we do have one (not mine my parteners) gut when we bought it we did test drive other cars, and though it doesn’t have a lot of excess power it is actually kind of fun to drive, again probably no civic si, but also not as likely t get a new driver into trouble
      all that said I don’t think it would be a hoorible choice if his daughter likes it, no worse than some of the other recommendations.

  • avatar
    pb35

    In

  • avatar
    JMII

    As a first car I would avoid anything RWD, its just asking to put into a ditch on a rainy day. My first car was a painfully slow 1981 Mustang and I looped it around making a tight turn. A Civic, Focus or Mazda 3 is perfect. While not super powerful these cars are fun to toss about. A Mini or Golf ups the fun factor but takes a ding in the reliability department. Just congratulate your daughter on doing her part to save the manuals! To this day my wife gets the “you DRIVE a stick!” shock from just about everyone who rides in her car.

    Speaking of which… my wife’s out of the box choice: a Volvo C30. Its basically the perfect city car. 3 door hatch that can seat 4. The T5 engine isn’t great on gas but its quick, yet still Volvo safe. Its been expensive to maintain mainly because its pretty rare.

    • 0 avatar
      pbxtech

      Good call on the “no RWD.” That was a mistake I made. I bought a used Cougar from my folks and my daughter tossed it on its side in a ditch. Stay away from pickup trucks too, for that same reason.

  • avatar
    Zoom

    If there is any kind of weather involved, a new drivers first car should be front wheel drive, and four doors for better insurance rates. Mazda3 is the best choice.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    The smallest vehicle I want my teenagers driving is a midsized sedan. I spent way too much time and money raising them to see them killed by some drunk idiot.

    Once they are skilled, defensive drivers in their late 20’s they can get whatever small fun car they like.

    • 0 avatar
      a5ehren

      In most states now it is illegal for teens to be out driving at the times of day when DUI crashes are most likely. The best thing you can do for their safety is to minimize the distractions (aka other people) in the car.

  • avatar
    pbxtech

    As a father of several daughters, I recommend something safe, reliable and cheap to insure. In that order. I’d go with an automatic for the first car too. Those first few years are so dangerous statistically. Don’t kid yourself into thinking there won’t be others driving or risks taken. I know, she’s not like the others, but it only takes one bad day.

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      So, so, so true. Mine has friends at her high school with 2011+ Mustang GTs. At least one has been rolled and caused major injuries to passengers.

      Our Mustang took a hit when she didn’t anticipate enough on wet pavement. Now it has an ugly nose, but she’s safe.

    • 0 avatar
      oleladycarnut

      This! Once your daughter is older and a more experienced driver, then she can get herself a fun little two seater if she wants. But, as a mother myself, my daughter not only helped pay for her first car, but she was “forced to” get a 1996 Ford Taurus (this was in 1998.) The car was a tank and took her through her last two years of high school and college. Typical Ford transmission blow out at 60k, but I didn’t know that was an issue at the time. The car died in the line of duty protecting my son in a rear end crash on I-5 at 160,000k.

      Teens, and I teach them, all want a “cool car.” What they need is a safe car, a reliable car and one that is cheap to insure.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      One plus that a manual brings to the table – it is near impossible to screw with a cell phone and row your own at the same time. I get your substituting a distraction for a distraction — but one engages the driver, the other can lead to disaster.

      The cell phone deterrent is why the daughter unit’s first car will be row your own.

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        my car is a manual and I can do pretty much everything I could want to but shouldn’t do on the phone while driving. I’m all for manuals but don’t think its gonna keep her off her phone if that’s what she’s determined to do.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    The CRZ doesn’t have much space and the mpg is disappointing for a hybrid. Also, Honda, of all the manufacturers out there, doesn’t have the best reputation for battery life in their hybrids.

    Your article prompted me to look into the car and wonder why I didn’t look into the car when I bought my Fiat and I would have seen minimal fuel economy improvement over my 500 Abarth while having less space and less fun. Which makes brings me to the Fiat. You probably won’t find an Abarth worth buying for under $10k, but there are n/a models readily available thanks to the atrocious depreciation. The first owners loss is your gain. It’s slow car fun to drive, underpowered enough keep her out of trouble, eminently practical, gets great mpg, readily available with a stick, and has the sort of style a teenage girl will likely enjoy. if you manage to get one from a Fiat dealer, they offer fantastic extended warranties, and the standard 4 year/48k is an extra year up from what most mainstream carmakers offer. Conversely, you could go the Doug Demuro route, buy one from carmax, and put their warranty on it. It’s a shame she can’t go a big higher. Our local Fiat dealer has new 2015 Pops and Sports for $14k-15k.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Ok another dad chiming in here, no to the mustang, no to the civic Si, insurance rates are sky high, my policy doubled when I added a 17 year old driver w they own car and that was with a Volvo wagon! You want size around a kid who is just learning to drive, I went Volvo XC wagon but maybe a Volvo C30 for a hatch back they are out there in this price range, I like the saab suggestion but they are not for everyone, I would go a used Golf, a mazda 3 any scion, if you need AWD ( 90% of folks do not ) I would consider a used Subie but check wisely the head gasket is a very pricey repair. If you think your snowflake is a great driver , remember they will be places where there are other teen agers drives so it will get banged up, size and safety win out over cool.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Upon reflection the parents in the neighbourhood that I grew up in were right. The biggest, most boring, heaviest vehicle available with the smallest possible engine.

    Particularly for young ‘car enthusiasts’ who are more than likely to push the vehicle past their driving capabilities.

    Plus insurance on a ‘sporty’ model will have an annual cost of more than 50% of the purchase price of the vehicle. At least in Southern Ontario.

    Therefore, Dodge Journey!

    Cheap to buy nearly new, big enough to be safe and slow and boring enough to ensure that it is not pushed too hard.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    huh. I just sold my awful to drive, but great for a kid 11′ accord MT for right in this guys price range. The guy who bought it said it was for his 16 year old kid.

    Accord four door is reasonable to insure, safe (assuming Claymor mine airbags have been swapped out) reliable and good on gas. With a MT you could make the argument they are fun to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      oleladycarnut

      I live in the world of teens (8th graders) all excited about getting their learner’s permits. I only half jokingly tell them I’ll be sure to wave and stay out of their way on the road.

      There seems to be a lot of adult projection in these comments on what the adult would want, not what the teen needs to be safe on the road. That 11 Accord would make a great car for a 16 year old driver.

  • avatar
    IAhawkeye

    I like the TC recommendation. My little sister got a ’12 Corrola when she turned 15 so she could drive to school, and in nearly 2 years it’s held up to her abuse pretty well. Just don’t get anything too pretty, in my experience high school cars are gonna get some bumper/door scars.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    Kudos to all the Dads that chimed in saying a boring, safe, big car is the ONLY way to go. Do you really want your daughter in a small car with all those crazies in huge SUVs cutting in and out of traffic. I don’t. Used Fusion, Camry, Accord, Altima would be the smallest I would go. And make sure the airbags have been fixed.

    • 0 avatar
      210delray

      100% agree with Cap’n Obvious! One of these midsize cars (add in the Legacy as consideration) with all the latest safety features, including side airbags and electronic stability control (standard since at least 2012) and good crash test ratings. Miata is NOT the answer here. Forget the manual transmission also. While I personally love manuals, they are not available or rare as hens’ teeth in these cars. I’d avoid any car with Takata airbags under recall — it could be years before they will be fixable.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    I know people will be disappointed if I don’t nominate the Ford C-Max. It’s not manual, but the CVT in the C-MAX feels almost like direct drive when you are driving it. The acceleration is very linear. Safe? My daughter walked away unharmed from an accident that totalled my first C-Max. You can get an SE with reasonably low miles for under $10k if you forego the MyFordTouch. (I like MFT though, and I think it adds a lot to the character of the car.) My son, at age 16 became an expert hypermiler for all of his nighttime driving, often returning the car with top notch fuel economy scores. Not a bad way to keep your teenager from hooning. (It’s easier to hypermile at night when there is no traffic, nobody to get annoyed when you pulse-glide.)

    If not the CMAX, I like the Focus a lot and the Fiesta a little. (I am concerned about the safety of the Fiesta.)

    I want to also say that it is okay if you want to buy a new vehicle for yourself and pass your current vehicle down to her. Beggars can’t be choosers.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Reading these American used car prices is ‘killing’ me. The least expensive C-Max in the Toronto area is listed at $15,500.

      For a Cruze with 20,000 miles the asking prices are starting at $16k and upwards.

  • avatar
    Mathias

    The manual transmission is a great choice. It’s not a distraction, it helps avoid distractions and keeps the driver grounded. My kid drives one of our cars, and both of them are stick. After some initial grumbling, she’s happy with it.
    For $10k I’d go with a 6MT Chevy Cruze with the 1.8 ecotec engine. I’m leasing one now and it’s a great learner’s car. It’s heavy, fast enough, and depreciates horribly. My 2016 LS will go back next summer with 20k on the clock and I doubt it’ll pull $10 at the auction… I might try to buy it for that from the dealer.
    That’s a heck of a lot of car for the money.
    The Civic Si suggestion is silly, unless the girl in question is totally temptation-proof. That’s too much power for a new driver, never mind the insurance cost.
    Speaking of which, the Cruze is relatively expensive as well, at least here in MI. I’d recommend shopping insurance along with the car. First-generation Fusions came with manuals, and those are cheap as well and should be cheaper to insure.

  • avatar
    dogn

    Subaru anyone? Come on! How can you not immediately buy her a WRX? It hits all the marks.

    1. safe
    2. fun
    3. manual available
    4. something
    5. Subaru!

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    You can get a decent 2010 Miata in your budget. Other suggestions offered make sense, too.

    My nominee is a really old fashioned chick car – a 2001 Honda Prelude for $4-5k plus another $2-3+ k to refurbish. It may be hard to find a proper example, but consider what you might have in the end. Classics are classier than old used cars.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    A brand new Versa S sedan for $7500! Been shilling these all week lol

    6 airbags, brand new car warranty (new tires, brakes, shocks, that can be considered safety too!), air conditioning, auxiliary input, 5spd manual. Midsize car sized trunk.

    If not that, then I suppose a used Mazda3 or ’13ish Focus with a 5spd.

    I just sold my ’12 Civic with 53k miles for $11k earlier this summer, something like that would have been a solid choice as well. Fun to zip around with thanks for the excellent shifter and smooth engine. Suspension tuning is soft but still playful IMO. Obviously good reliability, fuel economy, and resale value.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Our youngest just got her license this month, at 17. Damn proud of her. And her car is a 6-speed stick. When she got it in February she didnt even know how to start it. Now she’s got a skill she can be proud of.

    Don’t count out the Kia Soul, especially for kids. The 2012-13 were the best years for it if you want a manual because you could still get the 2.0. Gas mileage isn’t great, but it’s a blast to drive. The kid loves it and it broke my heart when she finished drivers ed because now I don’t get to drive it anymore.

    8 grand can buy a memory you’ll cherish for a lifetime, just sayin’. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=tD99y3liVjQ

  • avatar
    DuffMan

    Wow, sounds like I could have have this asked this question. We live in Oshawa so we do get snow, salt etc and my daughter will be driving the car locally for about a year before she leaves for University. All the schools she is looking at are either in Canada or northern U.S. I was thinking about a Mazda 2. Manual, Bluetooth, airbags….any thoughts?

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      So, I’ve had a ’14 2 for 2 years now, and have put almost 50k kms on it. The good? It’s been reliable (which seems to match up with others’ experiences – it’s simple enough there’s not much to go wrong). It’s decent on gas (I do almost all urban driving, fairly aggressively, and still average over 30mpg), fairly usable for being so small (although the trunk is definitely tiny), and it’s fun to toss around town. On the other hand, it’s not an ideal highway car (it’s fine, but that’s not playing to its strengths), the headlights are a little weak (barely stronger than the daytime running lights), 100hp is just adequate (which is probably fine for a teenager’s car), and bluetooth was a dealer accessory, so I’m not sure how common it is.

  • avatar
    pb35

    Back in 1992 I was preparing to move to Ann Arbor to be with my girlfriend. As a result, I was getting rid of as many of my possessions as possible including my 1984 Thunderbird.

    I put an ad in the local paper for $1000 I think, and the calls started rolling in. One of the first ones was a dad looking for a first car for his daughter.

    “Sir, this car has no grille, hubcaps or seatbelts. You need to slam your shoulder into the drivers door to get it to open. This is not a car for anyone’s daughter.”

    He thanked me for my honesty and we hung up. It was probably the only time someone was honest selling a car on Long Island. I sold it the next day to a sleazy wholesaler dude. I had to follow him to his BHPH lot to drop the car off. He gave me $500 and a joint for my time.

    Note: Apologies for my abandoned post up thread. I was on my phone yesterday.

  • avatar
    VajazzleMcDildertits

    2012 Nissan Leaf. 8 grand, safe, “fuel” efficient, easy to run, and no matter what happens, they will never ever be able to take it anywhere without your expressed approval, since it probably won’t get there otherwise.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    hey Bark! I know I’m a day late to the party but I’m hoping you’ll reply anyway:
    Was there a specific reason for not considering the Miata? It meets a few of the criteria you mention; not too many seats and not too powerful specifically. My girl’s 9 and right now a Miata in the 10k range in 7 years is my top answer. I’m not looking to argue, I just want to hear what the reasons against are if it was considered and rejected.

  • avatar
    Lichtronamo

    Hi Bark, I just saw this posted. I wasn’t expecting you to get to my inquiry after your post about your overstuffed in box. I appreciate the reply. And, yes, the search for a $10,000 car has been a lot of fun for both me an my daughter – so many options. Yes, I could go with the suggestion of some of the commenters to buy the biggest, most boring thing on wheels I could find, but there are options that are safe, reliable and practical all without being dull. As to the feedback from you and the commenters:

    1. A Honda Civic coupe is a good option, but not a fan of the 2011 regression that makes it less desirable than it should be for a Honda. Although the coupe didn’t suffer as much as the sedan.

    2. I thought of an Acura RSX, which in base trim/engine is not overpowering. Car is somewhat difficult to find and mileage is usually high. Modifications are also a concern.

    3. We’ve looked at a Focus, but she has difficulty seeing out of it and didn’t like the oversized dash.

    4. Scion tC has always been in the back of my mind. Looks sporting like a Honda Civic coupe with the versatility of a hatchback and Toyota’s conservative mechanical and reliability.

    Thank you all for your input – the search continues. At least she wants a car with a manual transmission and not a crossover. Lately, she has been pointing out Ford F-150s suggesting I get one of those to drive and she’ll take over my GTI…

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