Would a Jeep Wrangler make a good first car for this teen?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 2000

Dear Tom and Ray:

I'm 16-1/2 years old and get my license in less than six months, so my parents and I are looking for a good car for me. I am in love with the Jeep Wrangler. My best friend has one, and I have grown to love it. It seems safe to me, but my parents think that it wouldn't be a good car for me because they say it rolls over too easily. I think they are wrong but thought I would ask you guys for your opinion. -- Courtney

TOM: Well, you're going to think WE'RE wrong, too, Courtney, because we agree with your parents 100 percent.

RAY: In our opinion, the Wrangler has only one thing going for it. It's cute.

TOM: Like me!

RAY: And it has no body hair. But other than cuteness, what's it got going for it? It rides like a Conestoga wagon. It's got no interior room. It uses plastic flaps for windows on some models and flimsy slabs of sheet metal for doors. It gets lousy gas mileage, and it doesn't have a real good reliability record.

TOM: And even if we were willing to overlook all of those things, there's one thing we can't overlook. It's got a short wheelbase and a high center of gravity, which does make it easier to tip over than other vehicles on the road. And when a kid has no or little experience driving a car, she shouldn't be driving a car that can roll over on top of her if she swerves too fast, drives up an embankment by accident or gets hit the wrong way by the wrong vehicle.

RAY: We sometimes get calls or letters from people who want to buy Wranglers, and we tell them to go right ahead. It IS a fun car to drive -- in a barbaric sort of way. Every time we test one, I enjoy it. And if you're willing to accept its drawbacks, it's a free country, and you can drive whatever you like. Have fun.

TOM: But it's not a good car for a kid, Courtney. Kids -- even the few kids who AREN'T suffering from hormonal-induced insanity -- make mistakes when they're new drivers. That's why teen-agers should have solid, safe cars with low centers of gravity.

RAY: I know you want to beat us over the head right now with a parking meter for ruining your life, Courtney. We can take it. But you'll have to get in line behind our own kids. Sorry, Court.

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