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I am a -year-old high-school student who is car shopping...

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Dear Tom and Ray:



I am a 16-year-old high-school student who is car shopping. I had convinced myself that I wanted a small SUV, like a Honda CR-V or a Toyota RAV4. But then I started considering the likelihood of a rollover, and I've hit a dead end. No matter who you ask, everyone has a different recommendation for a safe car, but my godparents told me that you are the experts. Can you recommend a safe car for a 16-year-old with a severe fear of future accidents and a limited price range ($10K-$12K)? I need a solution before my mom and I stop speaking over this whole ordeal. Thanks! -- Barb

RAY: Boy, are you in luck, Barb! Sometimes the planets just happen to line up perfectly, and this is one of those times.

TOM: As you might know, Volvo has long been known for making very safe, but very ugly, cars. But through some interplanetary magnetic shift, Volvos have recently become "cool" cars among high-school and college kids. Why? We don't know. Maybe ugly is in.

RAY: My brother certainly hopes so. He's been waiting for ugly to come into fashion his entire life.

TOM: For $10,000-$12,000, you'll have many choices. You can easily get a late-'90s Volvo 850 or S70 (they're the same car -- Volvo just changed the name in 1998). For that money, you should be able to get a 1996-'98 with a moderate number of miles on it (something with 50,000-60,000 would be ideal). And don't spend all of your money on the car. Save some for maintenance and repairs.

RAY: Or you can get an older, classic Volvo, like a 240, which is a real tank. In that case, you'll spend a lot less on the car, but you'll need a bit more of the savings to cover the inevitable repairs. So hang on to it.

TOM: And whatever you do, make sure any car you're seriously interested in is thoroughly inspected by a mechanic of your choice -- preferably one who knows and works on Volvos. There are plenty of used cars to choose from, and you want to be sure that the one you're buying doesn't have any major problems.

RAY: But that's a very safe car, Barb. And who would've thought that one day, you'd be able to use a Volvo to get dates?

TOM: Yeah, it never worked for me.

RAY: Well, you're not a good test case, Tommy. After all, Mom had to tie a pork chop around your neck just to get the dog to play with you.

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