The Ten Best First Cars For A Teenage Gearhead

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The IIHS' list of best cars for a teenager recommended some safe cars, but not much in the way for fun. These are the ten best for a young auto enthusiast.

10.) Ford Crown Victoria


One of the cheapest ways to get rear wheel drive and a V8. Cheap to buy, plenty on the market, easy to work on, and they'll can last for hundreds of thousands of miles.

Suggested By: primalzer, Photo Credit: Ford

9.) A Small Pickup Truck


A small pickup like an older Dodge Dakota, Chevrolet S10, or a Ford Ranger can be a great option for a young gearhead, provide they can drive a truck safely. You can find them with almost any type of engine, automatic or manual gearbox, and two or four wheel drive.

Suggested By: One Quick Turbo Brick, Photo Credit: DiamondBack Truck Covers

8.) Volkswagen Golf (Mk4)


I didn't make any friends with the Volkswagen community when I put the Mk. IV Golf on our list of the ten worst german cars so let's call this a bit of a redemption. Reliability woes aside they're fun to drive without being too fast, and they have a great support community.

Suggested By: Ash78, Sheik of Al-Abama, Photo Credit: Volkswagen

7.) Something Big And Old


Reader Andrew Neir bought a 1953 Pontiac Catalina Custom Coupe as his first car. While something big and old might not be the safest car for a young driver, they'll certainly learn a lot about maintenance and how to drive something that takes real skill.

Suggested By: Andrew Neir, Photo Credit: Born1945

6.) Porsche 924/944


A Porsche might not seem like a sensible choice for a teenager, a good 924 or 944 will be dead reliable, easy to work on, and beautifully balanced. Plus, 924s can be had for not a ton of money and the later 924S had a detuned 944 engine. Just avoid turbo versions of both.

Suggested By: Patrick Frawley, Photo Credit: Vetatur Fumare

5.) BMW 3-Series (E36)


The E36 generation 3-Series has modern safety features as well as a beautiful rear wheel drive chassis. My recommendation is the generally unloved 318ti – they're a lot cheaper than their sedan counterparts and have the added practicality of a hatchback. Personally, I think they look great as well.

Suggested By: e30s2k, Photo Credit: BMW

4.) Mazda 3


The Mazda3 is basically a Miata with back seats and a hatchback. Of course it isn't rear wheel drive, but it's still a fun car to drive that is also a very sensible option.

Suggested By: Patrick George, Photo Credit: Lee Cannon

3.) Jeep Wrangler/Cherokee


Older Wranglers and Cherokees are great, affordable ways for young drivers to get into off roading. They're cheap to buy and own, and they have an amazing enthusiast community for support.

Suggested By: Viperfan1, Photo Credit: Sinead Friel

2.) Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS


The Impreza 2.5 RS is a lot more attainable (and insurable) than a WRX for a teenage gearhead, but you still get some all wheel drive fun. I'll let our man Tavarish over at Car Buying explain why you need to buy one. Just make sure it's blue with gold wheels.

Suggested By: RS Hole, a really nice guy, Photo Credit: Clifton

1.) Mazda Miata


This is Jalopnik. Did you expect us to put anything but the Miata as the best choice for a teenage gearhead? I'll let our resident Miata expert Travis explain why the Miata is so great if you're still not convinced.

"Like everyone else, I had prejudices against the Miata when my Dad suggested it as a first car. "It's a girls car!" and "It's too small!" were frequent refrains in my house. However, after researching Miatas, they started to make a modicum of sense. There isn't room to fit 20 people that can distract you. Girls love convertibles…it's a great date car (forget about missing a back seat)! And on a nice day, what's better than leaving high school with the top down and blasting some Huey Lewis? Also, since they're slow in a straight line and handle great, it's pretty tough to get in a crash."


Suggested By: HarvestmanMan, Photo Credit: Mazda

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Top Photo Credit: Grant.C