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Car Talk Columns

What's the best, used car for a teen driver?
What is the best car to buy our sixteen year old daughter? Cost, while a factor, is a lower priority than air bags, reinforced doors, anti-lock brakes, and other safety features that will improve her chances of survival should she be in an accident. We live approximately five minutes from a major university, where there were five car wrecks on the first day of classes.

Why an old car is a lousy choice for a new driver
My husband and I believe you are all-knowing in the matter of all things automotive! Therefore, you are the perfect duo to answer this question for us. My grandpa has a Nash Rambler sitting on his farm. It has no rust, looks very good and supposedly just needs a new fuel pump. We have a 14-year-old daughter learning how to drive. In two years, she'll need a car.

Should a 16-year-old have her own car?
I'm about to turn 16 and I'm talking to my parents about getting a car. They seem to think that sending me to a good, expensive college is more important than buying me my own car, but I disagree. They have said I could use one of their cars, but I want a car of my own so I don't have to ask permission every time I want to go out somewhere.

One way to keep your teen safe
Am I a jerk or a genius? My son is now 18, and when he was 15, I wrote him a check for $1,500, postdated three years. I told him that if he managed to reach the date of the check without (1) receiving any tickets, (2) being involved in any accidents or (3) breaking any of our house driving rules, I'd cash the check for him.

Why SUVs are lousy for teens
My son has a '94 Ford Explorer. After we bought it, we found out that rollovers are not uncommon with this vehicle. Since the previous two cars he had during his short driving career were totaled, I would like to protect him the best I can. I've heard from a friend that you can get weights attached to rollover-prone SUVs that adjust the center of gravity and lessen the risk of a rollover.

Do you need a car in college?
I've heard one of you guys wax eloquent about the trials and tribulations of having a 19-year-old son. I have one who's a sophomore in college. He chose a small liberal-arts college because he wouldn't need a car there (and therefore, I could afford the much higher tuition versus the state university). But now he finds he absolutely can't survive without a car.

Why a VW van is a terrible choice for a young driver
My 20-year-old daughter, who drives my old, safe 1994 Volvo 960, has informed me that she just purchased a 1970 Volkswagen Bus to take camping. It has a picture of the "Purple Rain" album cover airbrushed on the back. She has a good job, and she paid for it with her own money. She attends the Colorado School of Mines, majoring in environmental chemistry, and she usually makes good decisions. However, I'm concerned about this one.