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Inexpensive safe car for teen driver's first car

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta


We generally keep a car for a long time, so it has to be reliable. We own a 1993 Toyota Camry V6 SE (purchased used at 3 months old when it already had 31,000 miles on it) before we had kids. Now our teenage son is driving the car (for the past 3 years). We also have a 2011 VW Tiguan and a 2012 VW Tiguan. My first car was a 1971 VW Super Beetle, so Volkswagen is kind of in the blood. Our daughter just got her driver's license and we've been considering either a VW Jetta or VW Passat for her, but my new mechanic (neither of us likes our local dealer) said, "If it were my teenage daughter, I'd buy Japanese..." So now we're undecided. Most everything I've read about VWs are horror stories on reliability. But we've had good luck with the 2 we own now. And I've driven Hondas before that felt too plastic, like driving a toaster. And I really like imports for their resale value. We're looking strictly for a car - not an SUV, not a CUV, not a wagon and not a truck. Black exterior with gray interior, and it can even have manual transmission (I can teach her that). Can you recommend a great starter [used] car that she'd be able to drive for the next 6 - 8 years with minimal service costs?

Priorities: Safety & braking / Price or payments / Reliability & durability / Brand reputation & image / Exterior styling

Preferred Bodystyle(s): Sedan

Car Needs: Daily commuter

Primary Driver(s): New driver / Tall driver

Need minimum of 5 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 50000
Maximum age: 6 years

Maximum price: US $ 13000

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Response from mkaresh

1:51 pm August 15, 2014

VWs from about 2008 on are more reliable than earlier ones. But six to eight years could be iffy for these as well--it's too soon to tell. The 2006s and 2007s were often fairly reliable until they reached that point. Even these are rarely awful. The worst horror stories usually involve a VW that's 2005 or earlier.

On the other hand, a Honda or Toyota seems most necessary for people who plan to keep a car for ten or more years and/or who want the best odds of virtually no repairs. If you won't keep a car this long, and can deal with a (usually minor) repair once every year or two, this isn't as necessary.

So, if you really like VWs, I'd look for a Rabbit / Golf with the non-turbo engine of the most recent model year that fits within your budget.

Few cars you can buy will be worth a lot after eight years, so I'm not sure that should be a major consideration. German cars aren't great here. Hondas and Toyotas hold their value best when 8+ years old.

One outside possibility: the Acura TSX was developed for the European market, so it feels much more solid than a Civic, and it's very fun to drive with a manual. If you can find one of these that's not too old and without too many miles within your budget it could be a good way to go.


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Volkswagen Golf / Rabbit / GTI
Acura TSX
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