Best car for teens? We prioritize safety.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Feb 01, 1996

Dear Tom and Ray:

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. Alcohol plays a large role in most wrecks in our area (probably in all areas) and we are more concerned about the "other guys" being careless than we are about our daughter's driving ability and judgement. What would you recommend, preferably second hand, for our daughter.

TOM: You want a second hand recommendation? What if I tell my brother and HE tells you?

RAY: My brother recommends an early 90's Volvo, Irv. It's hard to beat a Volvo for passive safety. It's heavy, structurally strong, and if you don't go back too many years, you can get one with at least a driver's airbag and probably ABS, too.

TOM: The only significant safety improvement that has come along since then is the limited introduction of side impact air bags, which you can get on newer Volvos and some Mercedes and BMW models. The cheapest of that bunch is probably a new Volvo 850, which'll cost you about $30,000. And my guess is your daughter will need a hefty hike in her allowance to make the payments on that baby.

RAY: So I'd suggest either an early 90s Volvo 240 or 740 if snow is not an issue where you live. Or a '93 or '94 Volvo 850 is snow is a factor, since the 850 is front wheel drive. Those are all very safe cars. Plus, none of them is terribly flashy, so she won't attract undue attention.

TOM: And trust me, Irv. As the father of a formerly 16 year old daughter, she'll be attracting enough unwanted attention (at least from your point of view) without a flashy set of wheels. Good luck to both of you.

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