What’s The Perfect First Car?

Jalopnik writes a weekly article called "What Car Should You Buy."  It's a brilliant concept.  This week the Jalopnik staff was helping a 16-year old looking for his first car.  It got me thinking, what is the perfect first car?  

My first car was a 1991 Nissan Sentra SE-R and it cost $800.  While a brilliant car it’s not everyones cup of tea.

It was love at first sight for me, and still is...
It was love at first sight for me, and still is…

Here are his requirements:

1) Budget: up to $10,000
2) Daily Driver: Yes
3) Average Miles Per-Week: Less than 100.
4) Wants: Fun, Cheap, Something he can modify.
5) Doesn’t want: Something too old or anything that is going to make his parents nervous.

What Should Be Your First Car?

Ok, let’s get this out of the way — what kind of 16-year old has a $10,000 budget for a car?  I’m thirty and my cars don’t even cost that much.  Less is more, and you can get your first car for much less.   You are also much more likely to crash your first car, so why not get a beater that you don’t mind banging around.  I might have ignored his requirements a bit, but playing by the rules is not fun at all.

Definition of a chick magnet car
Definition of a chick magnet car

My recommendation for a first car is a Toyota Tercel SR5 4WD Wagon.  Yes folks a ’80s Toyota Wagon – it doesn’t get much cooler then that.  I know safety was a major parent concern, but this car has safety in spades (look at those bumpers) and is four-wheel-drive. He’ll be able to show his car at show and tell for his high-school history class because driving a five-speed is a lost art. With a 1.5-liter I4 engine that produces 62-horsepower, you will never get a speeding ticket.  Even if you tried to break the speed limit you couldn’t.  Seriously it’s that slow.

tercel-interior
Can you beat that interior? Plaid seats, I think not.

Plus it’s the opposite of a chick magnet car.  So in actuality you’ll get the girl that doesn’t like you for your possessions, but actually your personality (that’s an odd concept).  And if they can look beyond you driving a ’80s Toyota Tercel Wagon, gosh, that’s true love right there.  Lastly, they are cheap.  You can pick up a amazing example for less then $4,000.  That gives you a budget of $6,000 to turn it into a rally monster, or buy that girl a wedding ring.  Your choice.

Just look at that wagon!
Just look at that wagon!

Really Mike, this is the best you can do? Yes.

If I can’t sell you, then watch this 1984 Toyota Tercel Wagon SR5 4WD just destroy the snow of the Northeast in this Retro Review Motor Week video.