Safe and sound: The case behind luxury cars for teenagers

Shopping for cars often involves many considerations, especially when its for a first car. Most shoppers will look into many brands, which should potentially include luxury offerings like Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Volvo.
Shopping for cars often involves many considerations, especially when it’s for a first car. Most shoppers will look into many brands, which should potentially include luxury offerings like Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Volvo.
Staff Graphic by Seth Steiner

When it comes to car shopping for teenagers, a few important thoughts come to mind before following through with the big purchase: safety, reliability and a low price. Generally, high costs and questionable reliability make the idea of buying a luxury car, such as a Mercedes or BMW, seem very out of the realm of possibilities, but this isn’t always the case.

The idea that nicer cars will have more expensive problems can be largely chalked up to the notion that a few unfortunate experiences stereotype all of these cars to be unreliable, while in reality, they’re some of the best-built cars on the roads. Since 2006, Mercedes-Benz has averaged 81 out of 100 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index, with their best year being 2013, where they scored 88 out of 100. The consistency of the satisfaction of these owners lines up with reviews left on, where many luxury cars like BMWs, Lexus’, Audis and various other makes and models all managed to obtain average ratings over four out of five stars in categories like reliability and comfort. 

Additionally, safety is a huge key in the development process of most cars to luxury manufacturers, like Volvo. Not only were they responsible for the development and release of the modern three-point seatbelts found in all cars today, but they also currently have some of the most rigorous crash testing in the industry, and have committed themselves to pushing the envelope forward in terms of automotive safety. This applies for other luxury brands too, with Mercedes inventing modern Antilock Braking Systems, better known as ABS, along with modern electronic traction control. It’s apparent that luxury and safety go hand in hand, making a luxury car an appealing choice for concerned parents of the world.

It’s apparent that luxury and safety go hand in hand, making a luxury car an appealing choice for concerned parents of the world.

All of this does beg the question though, what are some good choices for luxury cars? Well, there’s lots of different choices which all fit different needs. Models like the Lexus RX and Acura MDX are both great SUV choices, providing ample space, seating for five or more, stellar reliability and good looks. 2011 through 2014 are the best years for the Lexus RX, with any year from 2006 to 2013 being the best for Acura MDX models. Spending between $8,000 and $12,000 will get buyers a solid model of either car.

For shoppers looking to get into a sedan with great looks and solid build quality, the 2004 to 2009 Mercedes-Benz E-Class and 2006 through 2016 Volvo S80 are both excellent vehicles. The E-Class featured a number of engine options, like the 3.2 or 3.5 liter V6s found in the E320 and E350 or the 5.0 and 5.5 liter V8s found in the E500 and E550. There are also diesel and high-performance options, although these are uncommon. 

The S80 comes with the option of a 3.2 liter inline six-cylinder or a rare 4.4 liter V8. For the Mercedes, the best model choice depends on the year of the vehicle, with the E320 being a great choice from 2004 to 2005, the E500 being best in 2006 and the E350 from 2007 to 2009. Meanwhile, both engines in the Volvo are great, but most models for sale will be equipped with the inline six. S80 models from 2010 to 2016 are the best in terms of reliability and are the recommended examples to look for. Both the Volvo and Mercedes can be acquired for anywhere from $5,000 to around $13,000 for the nicest models.

Lastly, for shoppers looking for a smaller vehicle, the 2009 to 2016 Audi A4 and 2008 to 2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class are some of the safest and most reliable choices. The A4 came with one main engine option, being the 2.0 liter turbocharged inline four, which provides ample power and comes standard with all wheel drive. This powertrain is generally reliable as long as maintenance is kept up with, especially oil changes. On the other hand, the C-Class has many options, like a four cylinder in the C250, which generally should be avoided over reliability concerns, and multiple V6 options in the C300 and more powerful C350, with these being the most reliable and easiest models to find. 

Both cars tout a small size and easy driving dynamics, while still having plenty of interior space and not cutting any corners when it comes to safety. Both Mercedes and Audi earned the International Institute for Highway Safety, or IIHS, Top Safety Pick. This recognition means both cars ranked above comparable cars in several different safety tests. In all, $8,000 to $12,000 opens up the likelihood of finding a solid C-Class or A4, with the $8,000 vehicles being more likely to have higher mileage or a little more wear than more expensive units.

One final benefit to giving young drivers a nice car comes in the ways it impacts them as a vehicle owner. With a nicer car comes nicer care and attention to detail from the owner in keeping their car clean and in good shape. The simple idea that they drive a nice, premium car serves as motivation to not only take care of their car, but also gives them a sense of importance, largely thanks to the placebo effect associated with owning something that is nicer than alternative objects of the same category. 

With the case for used luxury cars being made clear, the inherent safety and ownership benefits of a premium vehicle make them compelling as first car choices. As a high schooler who personally owns a Mercedes, I’ve been sure to take good care of the car, and it has taken good care of me. Despite the fact that there is no such thing as a perfect car, finding the car that best fits one’s needs has never been easier, and it’s become more and more common for this car to fit a higher standard of quality for lower and lower prices.

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