There is a big difference when someone wrecks a brand new $30,000 2018 Jeep Wrangler vs when someone wrecks a $400 1997 Ford Taurus.
It seems to me that every other week I hear a reoccurring story, a rookie driver whose parents got him a really nice, new, sporty car as his first car and he totaled it. I believe that for a first car new drivers should always start out with a somewhat reliable beater with a heater.
One huge difference in these brand new sporty cars and a classic beater with a heater is simply the price. Even buying a newish car can cost upwards of $5,000 used, when people can buy an older car that is priced in the hundreds. A perfect example of this is my daily driver. In April, I bought a 2002 Hyundai Elantra GT 5 Speed that somewhat runs for only $120. Although I absolutely love this little car, if I were to go out and the car was totaled, I would not be all that sad as I would only be out $120. People sell old, cheap, reliable cars all the time, whether it has really high mileage or they just simply want to get rid of it.
Reliability is something that is key when it comes to a car. It does no good if drivers are left stranded on the side of I-65 every other week, but just because a car is cheap does not mean it is unreliable. My $120 car has only left me stranded a couple of times, and most of the time, it was a really cheap and easy fix. Yeah, the brake lights might be out and I might have to put a quart of oil in it every week, but I still can rely on my car to get me from A to B. From my experience, it seems that newer, more expensive cars have their own list of problems. Most of the time, it can be a lot more expensive and take up a lot more of their time. The older the car is generally the more cheap aftermarket parts are available. Apart of the issues I see is that young drivers are just inexperienced when it comes to maintenance and do not know properly how to take care of their car. Insurance is also generally much cheaper for older cars than newer models.
When it comes to taking care of a car, people can have a lot more fun in a car and not worry about tearing it up too badly. Want to do some donuts in the parking lot after school? No problem. Have a fender bender and scratch the paint? No problem. Just go to Rural King and buy some spray paint, and she will look good as new. Hit a fire hydrant leaving the neighborhood on the way to school because the roads were icy and super slippery? No problem. It probably was not even the teen’s fault, but a neighbor will probably give him weird looks every time he drives by; I know this from experience.
Maintenance is generally really cheap, and teens will not worry as much when they get in fender benders or accidents, fix it or just roll with a new-dented front bumper, it is up to him but either way with a cheap car, minor damage is not nearly as big of a deal.
Something else, people do not have to worry about getting the car dirty. Most cars, especially if they have been in Indiana for awhile, are covered in rust and chipping paint, so getting a little dirt on it is not a problem. As for the interior, hauling pets, messy or dirty objects or just objects that may damage to the seats or interior are perfect for a cheap car.
When teens get older and have a lot more driving experience under their belts, there is not really a problem with owning a nice, expensive car. But for the first couple of years, a beater with a heater is the way to go.