First Car a Benz? Really?

When I turned 16, I wanted a Toyota 4Runner. I’d be able to go anywhere, get over any obstacle in my way (because there are a lot of those when you live a block and a half from the school), plus they were just cool. I wasn’t completely impractical, I told my parents I’d settle for something used – a 1990 would be just right (this was in 1991). Needless to say, I didn’t get my 1990 4Runner when I turned 16. I did buy one somewhere around 32, though, and it’s still in my driveway… It’s not that cool anymore, though.

My students may hate me after this, but… I’ll have to live with it. I just came across an odd little article about The 10 Best Used Cars for Teens. It’s definitely more of a subjective list than anything based on factual reality. At least the reality of growing up in a home financed by a youth pastor’s salary – sorry kids. You can check out the full list here, but here are a few of their suggestions:

  • 2007 Volvo S40
  • 2006 Mercedes Benz C230
  • 2009 Volkswagen Jetta
  • 2010 Hyundai Sonata

I’ll spare you the Porsche Boxter reference, or the shoutout to the Mini Cooper… (oops, guess I didn’t). It’s actually a good list. I’d rather have any of the cars on the list than what I currently drive. The problem I have with the list is this: you don’t have to spend $15,000 (the price point used in this article) on a car to keep your kids safe behind the wheel. Maybe I’m just bitter because the combined value of all 3 vehicles in my stable wouldn’t touch $15,000… Maybe this bugs me because my first car was a Dodge Colt with a gutless guinea pig barking orders under the hood… (when it got wrecked by my experienced, responsibly driving parents who borrowed it when I was out of town on a church trip, I got upgraded to an Omni… ooohhh).

Honestly, I’m not bitter, I’m just cheap. I don’t want any of my students, or my own kids in a few more years, to get hurt driving or hurt someone else. But don’t think that just because you bought your kid a “well equipped” Volvo that he’s safer than my kid running around in well worn Pinto… ok, maybe the Pinto takes things too far, but you get the point.

Here’s what you need to do with this list:

  1. If your child is currently hunting for a vehicle – throw the list away. None of these cars are a good option for a first vehicle – unless you have way more money than brains. You don’t need to spend $15,000 to keep your offspring safely behind the wheel. You need to actually teach them to drive. Sorry, that was rude. If you’d like to spend $15,000 dollars on a car for your kid that’s none of my business, but don’t do it thinking they’re going to be more safe. Statistically speaking, my guess is that there’s very little relationship between the price of a used car and its relative safety when operated by a new driver.
  2. If your child is in Jr. High – Keep the list. In 3 or 4 years when your child starts driving, go shopping for yourself and save yourself the trade-in headache. Give him your old car (unless you’re currently driving a Boxster or something). 
  3. If your child is in 1st Grade today, this is a great list. Print out the list of cars and let him hang it up on his wall, right next to his bed. Let him spend the next 9 years dreaming about that fun little Jetta. Let him get a job he can walk to when he’s old enough. Teach him how to actually save money, and let him buy himself the car of his dreams when he’s 16 – year, make, & model!
What was your first car? You did survive it, right…

2 Replies to “First Car a Benz? Really?”

  1. My first car was a hand-me-down from my grandparents: a 1975 Ford Granada. When I went to college and the Granada wasn’t healthy enough to join me, I traded “up” (which simply meant “probably wasn’t going to die on the highway”) for my grandparents’ hand-me-down 1974 Chevy Nova. At least I was older than my first 2 cars…barely!

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