The car I got from my dad at the age of 18 was a 1983 Fiat 131 Supermirafiori. It had four doors, a DOHC engine with roughly 95 horsepower, a five-speed manual and rear-wheel drive. And rust. Still, what better way to start driving? Here's ten.
10.) Early 80s Toyota Celica
First generation Celicas are getting rare and expensive, and anything younger than a 1984 model will have front-wheel drive. That's why the best choice is a Celica from the early eighties with a five-speed manual and the power sent to the rear.
You can use them as daily drivers, or tune them for some track day fun. Either way, good times.
I got my sister's 85 Celica GT 5-speed as my winter car in high school. That thing was perfect for a first-time driver: manual, RWD, good on gas, decently quick, small/nimble, and absolutely indestructible. I'd drive one now if I could.
I was very nearly set to receive my parents' old 1984 GT Hatchback 5-speed, and I'd agree. I got my grandfather's old 1993 GT Hatchback 5-speed instead, which was just about as fun, although not quite with the FWD instead.
Still, any Celica Hatchback is a great car to be handed down, as they are damn useful at transporting things as well.
9.) Mercedes-Benz W123
Name one thing apart from acceleration that this Benz won't do! If properly maintained, these cars will take you there and back, as many times as you want.
When we were looking for a good "first car" for one of my kids, we went looking for a diesel W123. Local Mercedes mechanic said "those things are so damn slow he'll probably get rear-ended."
Still, I'd love to have one to restore...
8.) Plymouth Valiant
While not the most reliable, having an old American car can be a lot of fun without too much headache.
My first hand me down was a 72 Dodge Valiant. Fantastic car. Only had one speaker, so you were out of luck with anything broadcast in stereo. That little 6 banger would have lived forever.
One problem, the engine had a tendency to "diesel" if you kept it above 90mph for more than a minute or so. I would have to shut the engine off just to slow down. I guess it wasn't that good after all!
7.) Honda Accord
Yes, Accords can be pretty boring. So what? It's a reliable coupe that's fun to drive. That ticks the right boxes.
Let's be realist; a new driver needs something reliable, with low power, low cost maintenance and that won't incite him to "autocross" in a parking lot at 3am (and crashing in a light post).
A hand-me-down should not be a fun beater, it should be about safety and going from point A to B.
Thus, the best Hand-Me-Down car would be 10+ years Toyota Corolla/Camry or Honda Accord (not Civic, unless you want him to swap rims and add neons everywhere).
After a year of learning in a boring Hand-Me-Down, he/she will be ready to upgrade to something fun!
6.) Mazda Miata
And talking of fun...
Reliable, simple and cheap to fix, and teaches young'ins to drive defensive and fear everything on the road.
It also teaches you how to drive properly.
5.) Mercury Marauder
The rules are simple: Anything Panther, plus points for the Mercury.
Anything Panther...big enough for friends, huge trunk, comfy and if it can withstand Police and Taxi duty it can survive novice driver abuse.
Bonus points if it's a Mercury Marauder.
I learned to drive in a 1994 Crown Vic LX. I wish it had gotten passed down to me, unfortunately I got pops' 1987 Cavalier
4.) Jeep Cherokee
The best all-rounder.
Cheap to run, cheap to fix, will fit 5 people in relative comfort, with all your stuff in the hatch area. 4WD to go anywhere and great reliability. Gas mileage isn't even THAT bad on the highway.
All the abilities of a soccer mom mobile with the coolness of a first car!
It's my hand me down! And my fathers hand me down! And my grandfathers hand me down! I love these Jeeps. My 5MT 4.0 hasn't needed anything but a new fuel injector and routine maintenance.
3.) Volkswagen Beetle
The thing about underpowered cars is that they make you learn to think ahead on the road. The Beetle is a fun classic and pretty easy to fix with minimal mechanical skill.
I'd have to second this. The first car I drove was a hand-me-down '68 Beetle. They're virtually indestructible. You can drive one with a broken clutch cable, or running on 3 cylinders until you have a chance to fix it. Parts are rather cheap for them still (thanks to the fact they sold so many of them).
They're also great for learning to drive in. They teach you how to drive a manual transmission. They teach you how to plan your moves on the road (this isn't the car you use if you plan to speed up to beat someone to an exit). They're a great car to learn the mechanical workings of a vehicle, cause there's no frills to them at all. I don't think there's a better hand-me-down car than a Beetle.
2.) Volvo 850
The shape, the Scandinavian vibe, everything about it.
The thing is a tank, you could roll it and be totally alright, your kid can carry their stuff off to college and back, and it's not terrible.
If your kid thinks that it's not a cool car, tell them that they used to race them.
1.) Subaru Outback Sport
Subie outback sport. Bug eye edition. Rugged, stick, AWD, wagon. Adaqute power without getting you in trouble.
Do you really need anything else?
No, you don't.
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