2008 Audi A3 Named Best Car for Teenagers in Strange Parallel Universe

By Jacob Brown | March 27, 2012
Website CarInsurance.com mulled many a $15,000 car (or less, supposedly), attempting to come up with the perfect list of 20 cars to buy teens. It waded through cars that were considered pretty darn reliable, ranked as Top Safety Picks by the Insurance Institute of  Highway Safety, and cost the least to insure. And at the end of the day, its editors ranked the 2008 Audi A3 the site's top choice for a teenager's car. But to be honest, even with their reasoning we're a little baffled by their picks. Take, for instance, the winning 2008 Audi A3. The site used one of our competitors' value determinants to get it under $15,000, but the national average price for the 2008 Audi A3 is approximately $21,000. Sure, there are some out there at that price, but that's the exception more than the norm. You can also find a $400,000 Maybach sedan for $60,000 if you try hard enough. But that doesn't mean it'll be in good condition, much less have doors left on it.
Searching through most of CarInsurance.com's list, we find this to be the case, if only because the prices they used seem to be off—way off—from most people pay for cars. Many of the cars also have go-fast variants, which weren't considered in the insurance factor, that could cripple the bank account of an unwitting parent footing the bill. Cars like a Honda Civic Si, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, Subaru Impreza WRX, or Volkswagen GTI weren't differentiated from tamer versions of the same vehicles, nor were they even discussed. We'd also like to point out that among its list of 20 vehicles it included the 2008 Saab 9-3. That should be an automatic credibility loser for the whole compilation. The entry-level luxury sedan might fit all of the site's criteria on paper, but not only is the Saab 9-3 by far the most trouble-prone of any vehicle on the list, but it's not even made anymore. In fact, Saab is completely out of business, with many of its parts shared with European General Motors vehicles that weren't even sold in the U.S. That could translate to long waits with expensive repair bills when the time comes for maintenance. Some vehicles on the list make sense—like the Honda Civic, Subaru Impreza, and Ford Escape—but many don't. It seems a little haphazard, if not hastily made in its research. Most are good vehicles; few fit all of CarInsurance.com's own criteria. That's not even including the fact that not a whole lot of parents can afford to randomly fork out $15,000 for a barely used car. CarInsurance.com also includes some advice at the end that we have some issues with:
  • Assign new drivers the cheapest-to-insure car. That usually won't be a 2008 or 2009 model unless your family is chock-full of brand-new cars.
  • Buy the new driver a beater car. That completely contradicts the whole point of the list. In fact, how many people have $15,000 beaters?
  • Insure the beater separately and exclude the teen from the family policy. That may make a family policy cheaper, Johnny or Susie will probably be pulling double shifts for their insurance money at McDonald's, leaving them little time for the books. Expect to be put into a senior home someday without any visitors if you ever do this to your kids.
  • Buy the new driver a late-model used car. CarInsurance.com recommends this if at all possible, but it doesn't give any recommendations if you can't. In Not-Bizarro World, sometimes teens have to go it alone for their cars, or they have a lot less than a $15,000 budget from their parents.
Automotive.com's take: There's a lot of misleading, if not dangerous, advice on the internet. While we'd buy no means categorize this list as dangerous, it certainly is impractical for many parents to afford more expensive cars for their new drivers to thrash. We'll provide you with the link at the end of this post to check out CarInsurance.com's list of cars, but if you're a parent looking for advice, we suggest you ignore most of it. Instead, here's our own list:
  • DO look at IIHS and NHTSA car safety scores. Buying a big, bulky vehicle doesn't always ensure it's a safe vehicle. Conversely, most of today's compact cars are surprisingly very safe.
  • DO buy a car that has a combination of his or her needs fulfilled, such as good fuel economy, reliability, practicality, or hauling ability if said offspring needs to transport people or cargo. It's always going to be a compromise.
  • DO enforce the idea that a teen with a car is a privilege—not a right.
  • DO check cost of ownership and insurance quotes on sites like Intellichoice or Car-Insurance.com (unrelated to above site) before making a purchase decision.
  • DON'T buy your teen a vehicle that he or she will not be able to respect. You don't need a slew of accidents or tickets driving up your family's rate.
  • DON'T look at an age or a mileage of a car that could exceed your comfortable budget for a teen's car.
As with any major purchase, plenty of research and not rushing a buying decision will always yield the best results.
Source: CarInsurance.com

Good advice and suggestions. Last summer my sixteen year old daughter got herself a 95 Audi S6 that was within her budget (~$3k). After another $500 or so to refurbish shocks and other minor details, she's got a very good car. Plus, the stick shift makes it virtually undriveable by her friends. Finally, dad's always glad to trade cars with her for a day!