All of you, whether you have an affinity for cars or not, have thought about what you want your first car to be. With the array of supercars like the Audi R8, Aston Martin Vanquish, Corvette Stingray, Bugatti Veyron, and Jaguar F-Type, it is easy to subconsciously raise your standards for your first car, only to have them shattered once you see the price tags for those bar-setters. But one of the biggest misconceptions a teenager can have about buying their first car is that they can either have a car with a great interior or an attractive exterior, but they cannot acquire both. I’m here to tell you that it’s not impossible to find a car that performs just as beautifully as it looks, without making your piggy bank squeal from an empty stomach. Using a simple online search I was able to easily find affordable cars for teens.
There’s a great car out there for you, but in order to find it, you have to know what you want and where to look for it. Otherwise, the car hunt can be an overwhelming endeavor. Buying used is the best way to go for your first car, and what you want to find is something modestly priced with great performance, reliability, looks, and durability. That sounds like a lot, but once you begin your search, you’ll find that cars with each aforementioned characteristic are easy to come by. Here’s a list I’ve compiled of eight cars that meet those standards.
While going to a dealer can be a good way to test drive cars, I believe that the most efficient, economical way to buy a car is via the Internet. Autotrader.com is my favorite site to search for great used cars because that’s where I found mine. For each of these makes and models, I used these four criteria on Autotrader.com:
Minimum price: Any Price
Maximum price: $15,000
Mileage: Under 100,000
Distance: Within 500 miles (It’s worth going the distance to get a great car)
1. Volkswagen GTI 2008–2010
Price Used: $8,500–$14,000
This car boasts great looks, performance, and gas mileage. It’s agile on the road, which makes it fun to drive. I’m partial to manuals since that’s what I drive, but their models with automatic transmissions are still enjoyable, not to mention user-friendly.
2. Subaru Outback 2007-2011
Price Used: $8,900–14,995
For the adventurous sort who enjoys exploring mountainous terrains and taking spontaneous weekend adventures with friends and family, look no further than the Subaru Outback. In their commercials, it’s portrayed as a fun, reliable car that parents trust in to keep their children safe on the road. This should certainly appeal to mom and dad if they are helping you buy your first set of wheels.
3. Acura RSX 2003-2006
Price Used: $6,999–10,499
For the sporty car aficionados, this one offers an exhilarating ride, great gas mileage, handsome exterior, and the reliability that Honda is famous for. My brother has driven one with a manual transmission for seven years, and it has only had a few inexpensive mechanical issues within that time period.
4. Nissan Xterra 2007-2012
Price Used: $9,995–14,900
This car is great for utility and has the ability to tow while sporting a fairly attractive exterior. It rides like a midsize SUV while also having the feel of a truck, and combined with its suspension, the driver is able to take it “mudding” if they so desire. If you don’t know what “mudding” is, you probably don’t live in the South. With its seating and space, the Xterra is ideal to take on a trip to the mountains or beach with friends and family.
5. BMW 330i 2001–2006
Price Used: $6,919–$14,490
Seeing BMW on this list probably confuses you because the general impression is that it’s far too expensive for a teen to own. While models such as the M performance BMWs will be way outside of your price range, there are other models that are affordable for the average teenager. I can confidently say this because I drive this model, and I got it for less than $9k. Considering the mileage, beautiful condition at 15 years old, and all of the performance upgrades from Dinan, a manufacturer of BMW performance upgrades and tuning software, it was the deal of the century.
Personally, I believe that getting an automatic instead of a manual defeats the purpose of driving one of these because that’s 90% of the fun, but if you get just as much joy not shifting gears on your own, go for the automatic. It’s a great car for the throttle-happy yet responsible driver.
6. Ford Fusion 2009–2013
Price Used: $7,200–$14,000
Even though I am a proponent of European engineering, specifically German, Ford is certainly on my list of favorite makes. Built “Ford tough,” this car holds up well against age and mileage, and is an exciting car for a teen to drive. I know someone who drives this to and from her horse barn almost every day and takes it on trips all over the U.S. for competitions. It’s been very reliable through the years.
7. Acura TL 2006–2008
Price Used: $6,995–$12,974
This sedan shares the inherent reliability of the RSX since they’re brothers in the Honda family tree. Its sporty looks, handling, and performance make it an exciting car to take to high school, the first day of college, and the first day at a new job. Its looks are cool without ever getting immature. I’ve seen people from age 16–50 driving this car on the road. Its popularity among drivers of all ages makes it very desirable.
8. Mazda3 2008–2013
Price Used: $7,991–$14,000
A zippy set a wheels, the Mazda3 is great for anyone who wants to hug the curves of a twisty road and get great gas mileage while doing it. Mazda is known for exhilarating, sporty cars like the timeless Mazda Miata, so you won’t grow bored with this ride.
Each one of these cars was chosen because of their exceptional performance, reliability, durability, and looks, but primarily for their modest price tags, which make cars of that caliber accessible to teenagers. Any one of these would make a great first car, but they each have their own personality to mesh with the personality of the driver. If you value utility over sportiness, buy the Xterra instead of the GTI. If you want the looks and performance of a street-legal racecar, get the 330ci over the Outback.
Everyone has a car soul mate. Sometimes, you find that perfect match early on in a first car, sometimes you find it later in life, and other times, it finds you. Personally, I’m still waiting for the day when I wake up and an Aston Martin Vanquish has found its way to my garage. Just keep in mind that no matter what you choose, the best view of a car is from behind the wheel.
and on that bombshell,
it’s time to end,