Today: Best Car for a 16 Year Old Boy?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 03, 2013

Dear Tom and Ray:

I'm turning 16, and I'm looking at buying a 1998 Jeep Wrangler Sport. Do you think this is a good car for me? A safe car? I know it's in good shape. It has only 20,000 miles on it, and it has a brand-new transmission. It has a soft top and a hard top. I'll base my decision on what you guys say, so your opinion would really help me.

-- Alec

RAY: The answers to your questions are "no," and "no."

TOM: It's not a good car for you BECAUSE, in our opinion, it's not a particularly safe car.

RAY: It's got a short wheelbase, so it bounces all over the road. It's got an ancient type of suspension system, so it's like driving a basketball. It's top-heavy, has flimsy doors, has no stability control and has an old-style four-wheel-drive system that can contribute to a rollover if used incorrectly.

TOM: This car -- in our opinion -- basically gives a 16-year-old male driver every tool he needs to flip over on a highway, roll down a ravine and end up operating his motorized wheelchair with his lips for the rest of his life. But other than that, it's a great idea, Alec.

RAY: I'm sure we're disappointing you terribly, because we do understand the appeal of the Jeep Wrangler. It screams "adventure."

TOM: Which is appropriate, because driving this thing IS an adventure!

RAY: Well, we do understand why that appeals to you, Alec. The primary concern of every 16-year-old boy is getting dates, so you're obviously convinced that this adventurous enhancement to your image will help you in that arena.

TOM: But don't be so sure. My brother always had cool cars, and he never got any dates. The girls just asked to borrow his car every Friday and Saturday night.

RAY: So if you were my son, I'd much rather see you in something more boring and safer: a sedan with a normal center of gravity, stability control and side and curtain air bags, if possible.

TOM: Not to mention something that didn't need a new transmission at 20,000 miles!

RAY: I know it's hard for you to believe, but girls don't care nearly as much about cars as guys do. You'd be much better off with a clean, modest car, and a warm, friendly smile.

TOM: A Fender Stratocaster that you could play like Jimi Hendrix wouldn't hurt either. Good luck, Alec.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One