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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Best Car for a Teen Driver Under $5,000

Choosing a Car for My Teen Driver, Again

A couple years ago, I wrote a post about choosing a car for a teen driver.  I decided to buy a car for my son before he turned 16 so he could practice driving in winter conditions with the same car he would be driving on his own someday.  Here in Iowa, teens can get an Instruction Permit to drive with parents in the car starting at age 14.

It would have been cheaper to have him share my car or my wife's car while he was learning to drive, but that would not have worked out for very long.  We were planning for my son to drive to school on his own and take our youngest son as well.

The car we picked out for my oldest son is working out very well so far and now it is time to do it again.  My youngest son will be turning 16 in about a year.  He has driven some with the cars we have, but I am starting to decide what kind of car to get him.

Of course I could make my oldest son and youngest son share a car to save money, but soon my oldest son will be off to college and I think it would be good to have my son get some experience driving the same car that he will be driving with a parent in the car.

Best Cars For Teens Under $5,000

Our price range is under $5,000 again to avoid making car payments.  We are looking for the usual features: safety, reliability, enough room to haul stuff to college one day.  Even in high school, kids have all kinds of stuff they need to haul around- musical instruments, sporting equipment, science projects, etc.

I would give bonus points for a car with all-wheel drive to get around better on snow and ice.  I am not that worried about fuel economy since my kids will not be driving very many miles, and all of the cars we are considering are small vehicles with small engines.

There are lists around of good cars for teens, but these lists usually have a much higher price range than I could afford and look at much newer models than I can consider.  Finding a good car in the under $5,000 range takes some patience and willingness to go with a good find if it comes along.

I want my son to be excited about his first car, so I am interested in his preferences for color, style, etc.  As long as we get something that is under $5,000 and is safe and reliable I will be pretty happy.  We will be looking at a car about 10 years old, around the 2005 model year to meet our budget.  Based on my preference for something with a lot of cargo room and all-wheel drive, here are some of my favorite models to consider:

Pontiac Vibe / Toyota Matrix


Pontiac Vibe / Toyota Matrix
Pontiac Vibe / Toyota Matrix
The Pontiac version is called the Vibe and the Toyota version is called the Matrix, but they are very similar.  The Vibe / Matrix is a 4 door vehicle with a hatchback.  This makes it useful for hauling lots of stuff around.  All-wheel drive is an option, so I might be able to find one that has this.  This model went out of production in 2010, but that doesn't matter much since I am looking for a 2005 or so model year.

Honda Element
Honda Element
Honda Element
My wife and I used to drive a Honda Element years ago.  It has tons of room.  The rear doors are hinged at the back, so you can really open it up to get cargo in and out- plus it has a hatchback.  The Element we had came with all-wheel drive, so I know that is an option.  The main downside of the Element for us was that it only had 4 seats and we wanted to have 5 passenger capability.  The Element went out of production in 2011, but there are still plenty for sale.

Chrysler PT Cruiser
Chrysler PT Cruiser
Chrysler PT Cruiser
The PT Cruiser is a 4 door hatchback with retro styling.  This car has a lot of cargo room.  Some models have a turbo engine, which is recommended since one of the main complaints about the PT Cruiser is that it is under-powered.  PT Cruiser does not have an all-wheel drive option.  The PT Cruiser went out of production in 2010.  Some people like the styling of PT Cruiser and some do not- I think they are cool-looking and much more practical to own than a classic car.

Volvo V70 Station Wagon
Volvo V70 Wagon
Volvo V70 Wagon

The Volvo V70 has 4 doors and a hatchback.  Volvo has a good reputation for safety, and the V70 has an all-wheel drive option.  I am not sure how this will rate with my son for style, but I think this would be a good reliable car with lots of cargo capability.

Subaru Outback
Subaru Outback
Subaru Outback

All Subarus are all-wheel drive, so this is covered.  The Subaru Outback is a station wagon form of either a Subaru Legend or Subaru Impreza.  With 4 doors and a hatchback, an Outback would be good at handling some cargo.

Which Car Will We Choose For Our Teen Driver?

I think any of these would be good choices, and I am sure there are other good options as well.  I will work with my son to find out what he prefers and then zero in on a particular model to find one in great condition, with the options we want, and within our budget of $5,000.  And hopefully the right color, too...


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