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Hey all. My DF's oldest son (Future Step-Son or FSS)is taking his behind the wheel test next week. Naturally, DF has already taken FSS car-browsing. <insert eye roll from me here>

When they came home talking about the nice Saab 9-3 hardtop and the Mistubishi Eclipse convertible they'd seen, I put on my wicked step-monster hat and went a tiny bit ballistic. Turns out DF had never considered the fact that insurance for a teenage boy driving a convertible or a sports car will probably cost more than the car itself, per year!

Okay, so maybe I exaggerated that tiny bit. However, FSS is also, shall we say....not the most attentive kid in the world, and it seems they had a couple near-misses in the car just earlier today, with DF in the passenger seat as FSS drove, practicing for his test.

So, my questions are two-pronged:
1. what types of cars have the lowest insurance costs for teen drivers, and
2. what types of cars are safest AND least likely to get damaged or totaled?

I'm going to call our insurance company Monday morning as well, but so far DF and I have been discussing things like Toyota/Honda small SUV's, for reliability....and now I'm actually picturing something like a 20+-year-old Mercedes Benz that won't crumple in the school parking lot.

I want FSS to be safe, but I don't want to spend $4000-$5000 on an economy plastic car for him that will be undriveable if he backs into another kid's car at school. If he damages something, or has a minor accident, I want him to come out safe, AND have to drive a crunched-but-still-safe car because we aren't in a position to buy him another one.

There is a M-B garage about a mile from our house that always has some 90's-era MB's for sale in the $4000-$5000 range, that's what got me thinking about the possibility.

Thanks for any and all thoughts and info!
kasha
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20+-year-old Mercedes Benz that won't crumple in the school parking lot.

It is my understanding Mercedes Benz are very expensive to fix. That parts cost are out of sight.

Now for a safe car peruse here:http://www.iihs.org/ratings/default.aspx
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Counter intuitive, but something like a 2 seat Miata may be safest for a teen. Biggest issue with teens is distraction.....and having a ton of them in a car is a big distraction. 2 seater's are not used for dragging your friends around.

Obviously a 400HP 2 seater nulls all I've posted.
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It is my understanding Mercedes Benz are very expensive to fix. That parts cost are out of sight.

Ahh, but if it's crinkled but still drive-able, we wouldn't be fixing it! ;-) If he crunches the car, well, thems the breaks, I guess he drives a crunched and crinkled car and hopefully next time he looks a bit more carefully before hitting the gas.

What I'm hoping for is something safe, but still strong enough to withstand some bangs without shredding or completely crumpling up into a Ruffle.

Thanks for the safety link! When we narrow down the choices, we'll definitely take a look at the ratings.

kasha
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A 20+ year old Mercedes or most any car that old will not have all the newer safety features so those are likely not a smart choice. They would also likely not get the kid through college so you may be looking at replacing the car too before the kid gets out on his own.

You can get information about car safety ratings here;
http://www.safercar.gov/Safety+Ratings

The problem with wanting to pay $4,000 or $5,000 for a used Honda or Toyota right now is that everyone and their brother wants one of those so you will not get much car for your money. It would be a lot better to keep an open mind and look to see what other acceptable car models that might not be your first choice are available in that price range.
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I would look at a 6 cylinder Buick. They are safe, inexpensive and never stolen.

Buick's are insurance friendly.

Troy
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I agree with Troy's suggestion. Somthing like a Buick Century, LeSabre, Park Avenue or a Chevy Impala or Ford Crown Victory. The later 2 have often been used pretty extensively in fleets. Parts are pretty readily available and they tend to be pretty resistant to damage in crashes.

As for insurance premiums, it's more a matter of what not to get. Sports cars like Mustangs and Camaros will tend to cost more. SUVs, and other vehicles, with 4WD tend to cost more for insurance. I'd also put the title to the vehicle in the son's name, to reduce his parents' exposure to lawsuite. If more control is wanted/needed, list the parent as a lienholder on the title - That way the parent can reposess the vehicle, if warranted. Keep an extra set of keys, and a steering wheel lock, if necessary.

If he's not being attentitive, he really needs more supervised practice before getting his license. Getting his license and priviledge to drive on his own should be a "right of passage" that is extended only after it is duly earned. School grades should not suffer and assigned chores should be completed responsibly. If he works, he should handle his job with responsibility. Job longevity will also help keep his insurance premiums lower with a number of insurers. And, the further he goes in school, the better his chances of getting a lower premium with some insurers. Insurers tend to look for stability and responsibility.

Bob
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Bob, thanks for the great info really: liability limitation amounting car in kid's name. He will be 18 at end of May, so that is when that will become a possibility. I didn't know of the parent as a lienholder on title trick, that's handy, but hopefully, of course, won't be necessary in the case of this one.

It does raise a new question: if car is in kid's name, are we Still limited in liability he is on our insurance policy? Or would we have to get him an individual policy in his name alone?

Lastly, I agree 100% with your assessment of responsibilities and grades and needing more practice if he is inattentive....but I don't get much input on those matters. Not my Kid. I can try to influence, cajole, persuade, go all-out Crazy Bich but in the end, DF makes the call. I handle risk management as best as possible.

And thanks for the Buick recommendations...though there really do seem to be a lot of Buicks nearby in Oakland that are jacked up on 20" rims and loaded with subwoofers that rock the entire block...I Guess the Kid will just have to steer clear of Oakland!
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...I'd also put the title to the vehicle in the son's name, to reduce his parents' exposure to lawsuite...


Keeping it in your name will mean that it will also be covered under your umbrella insurance policy and may get lower insurance rates for the car. If he has separate insurance then the insurance rates on your cars may still go up ayway if he is living at home.


If you give him the car and he is in a major accident the there is still a good chance that they will try to sue you. They may very will not be successful but you would still have to pay to defend yourself.


Also be sure to price the insurance with a reasonable level of coverage. Some state minimums are ridiculously low and he could be in debt for years if it hits a Mercedes or Porsche much less hurts someone.
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It does raise a new question: if car is in kid's name, are we Still limited in liability he is on our insurance policy? Or would we have to get him an individual policy in his name alone?

Titled ownership of the vehicle is what is important. Some insurers will allow carrying a vehicle titled in his name on your household policy(ies). With others, he will need to get a policy in his own name.

With some insurers, you can assign drivers to vehicles operated, but with most the highest rated driver is assigned to and rated on the highest rated vehicle, and so on/

Some insurers will insure him to drive other vehicles in the household w/o an additional charge, if he has a vehicle insured in his name. Others won't.

Bob
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That is the best piece of advice in this thread.

No one wants to steal a 2002 Lesabre. The 3800 Buick V6 is a good, durable, reasonably fuel efficient engine. Parts are inexpensive, everyone knows how to work on them. Zero cool factor.
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1. what types of cars have the lowest insurance costs for teen drivers, and
Thinking back to my teen years, it didn't seem to matter all that much. I imagine a good 80% of the cost is fixed, due to the liability of a young, inexperienced, male driver. Things that will run up the cost are high performance cars, two seaters (don't ask me why), and convertibles.

2. what types of cars are safest AND least likely to get damaged or totaled?
Modern cars are going to be the safest. Anything say 2000 and up will have airbags, side impact beams, crush/crumple zones, etc. But keep in mind, energy absorbing crush zones actually INCREASE the odds of a totaled vehicle in an accident. They protect you by deforming to absorb crash energy, but in doing so, they are one time use, if you know what I mean.

so far DF and I have been discussing things like Toyota/Honda small SUV's, for reliability....
Be careful of small SUVs with spare tires hanging off the rear hatch. Back into a pole or taller vehicle, and the rear window is often shattered. A rather pricey repair. In my experience, teens are rarely skilled at driving it reverse.

and now I'm actually picturing something like a 20+-year-old Mercedes Benz that won't crumple in the school parking lot.
If you have financial concerns about repairing/replacing a $4-5k vehicle, It is extremely unlikely that you will want to pay to keep a 20 year old german car on the road.

If it were my kid, I'd probably be looking for a basic Civic/Carolla maybe 8-10 years old. Find a clean one that hasn't been modded or beat on, and it should go 200k miles easy with very little money put into it.
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Obviously a 400HP 2 seater nulls all I've posted.

Yes, but they're oh-so-much-fun!
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I've been involved in buying several vehicles off craigslist in the last three or four years.

A few tips.

Know what the market is. You can send an email to sellers with cars in your price range a week or so after they are listed. If the cars are still for sale, you'll probably get a quick reply. If they are not, you'll either not hear back at all or get a response that the car is gone. Fairly priced cars sell quickly. Once you have an idea what sort of car your budget will buy, you will be a better informed consumer.

Be prepared to act quickly. If you want an inspection, have a place lined up. Have your money readily available. I helped my stepson buy a used Altima three years or so ago. It was listed mid-afternoon, we looked at it late afternoon, and paid for it the next day. The seller, who seemed to be a pretty credible guy, claimed to have gotten several phone calls that evening. I bought a Honda Civic about two and a half years ago. We closed the deal about 24 hours after the car was listed. The seller, again a credible seeming guy, said plainly that he he had received multiple inquiries that day and that he wasn't interested in negotiation.

Finally, recognize your role in this. I helped raise two stepsons, and it took me a while to figure out what was worth getting wound up for. Some things are just losers. If your soon to be husband wants to buy his kid a sports car, it might just be best to go for a pedicure or whatever you do when it rains on parade.
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If it were my kid, I'd probably be looking for a basic Civic/Carolla maybe 8-10 years old. Find a clean one that hasn't been modded or beat on, and it should go 200k miles easy with very little money put into it.

jeffbrig, if it were MY kid, I would be looking for exactly the same thing! I couldn't agree with you more, LOL.

For lurkers' benefit (if any), I called our insurance company this morning and learned some very interesting things. For example, a 1996 Chrysler Sebring convertible and a 2003 Toyota RAV4 2x4 OR 4x4 will cost us exactly the same amount to insure, which really shocked me. What also shocked me is that it will be about $600/year CHEAPER to insure him on a car of his own than as an incidental driver of either of our newer cars. We own a 2006 BMW X5 and a 2009 Mazda6, I guess the risk of him damaging either of those is less to cover than the risk/cost of insuring him on an older car he would be driving all the time. It makes sense, but it's not exactly self-intuitive. :-/

kasha
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Dean, you made me LOL and I thank you for it! We've already been discussing what kind of shoes I'll be getting when this whole cluster is straightened out. Well, I've been thinking about the shoes and he has been telling me they will be bought on a day trip to SF. :-)

As always, I'm a slow learner when it comes to social and familial interaction. If there was an instruction manual, I'd be much further ahead on the learning curve!

kasha
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My understanding is Ford Panther platform vehicles (Crown Vic) are cheap to insure, reliable, cheap to repair, and safe in an accident.

I know that GM W-Body sedans without the supercharger, Impala, Grand Prix, Regal (through 2004 IIRC) are all reliable, relatively safe, cheap to fix, and easy to repair. Avoid anything with a 3.1 or 3.4 under the hood and go with the 3.8. If you baby the gas you can get 20/30 MPG for real.

I've ready articles that say SWB regular cab short bed pickup trucks are cheap to insure - however they aren't the safest thing.

You can do a web search and if you work with an independent insurance agent, they can help you also.

Low performance <> cheap to insure

Power <> expensive to insure

There are lots of things insurance companies consider. Cost of repair, chances of injury and severity in an accident, availability of parts, shops to do work (longer a car is down, longer they are paying alternatives).

Yes a Corvette isn't going to be cheap to insure

However there are some surprises out there to. A V6 Camry SE can roast a lot of other cars out there - won't be that expensive to insure. For that matter the 3.8L V6 GM W-bodies above have almost diesel engine like torque but again, enjoy cheap insurance.

A 4-banger 5-door Mazda 6 sedan you'd think would be cheap to ensure - nope - rated as a "sports car"

Pontiac G8 GT - surprise - rated as a family truckster (although collision rates keep going up - body work is insanely expensive on them)

Best bet - ask your agent.
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