Dear Car Talk:
My wife and I are at odds over what vehicle to get our 16-year-old daughter. I am currently driving a 10-year-old Mercedes-Benz E350 with 81,000 miles and am interested in moving up to possibly Tesla's model S. I love the E350 and have maintained it faithfully, and think it would be a good, safe car for a teen girl. Yes, I know I spoil her terribly, but from a practical point of view, what's wrong with this idea?
My wife has made it VERY clear that under no circumstances will our daughter be getting a Mercedes. I think she is relating back to her own days in high school where she got a beater VW. Should I just sell it and buy our daughter something else, or let her drive my old ride? -- Michael
Well, if she goes to Beverly Hills High School, then you can give her the Mercedes, Michael. In fact, you might have to trade it in and get her an S-Class.
You're right that it's certainly a safe vehicle, and that's the top priority for teen drivers. And the fact that you know the car, and have kept it well-maintained increases the chances she won't get stranded in it. But I fear that everyone at her high school will hate her. Especially the teachers, who are all driving 16-year-old Hyundais. And your wife does have a good point about leaving her something to aspire to in life. If she starts out driving a Mercedes, what incentive does she have to lie, cheat, steal and inside-trade later in life to get one?
In my opinion, the best cars for teenagers are very safe, and very ugly. You want something that will protect her when she has her first accident (when, not if). But you also want to give her some reason to apply herself, and work for a better future. So it's a tough call here, Michael. The car itself, the Mercedes, will certainly protect her. But do you want to burden her with being "the kid the who drives a Mercedes"?
Here's my solution: Give her the Mercedes, but first, take a sledgehammer and put at least one big dent on each side. Then drive it into the garage, making sure you scrape the passenger side against the garage door opening for at least 6 feet. Then put two "Ask Me About My Grandchildren" bumper stickers on the back. Then give her the keys.