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What’s the Best First Car for a Car Enthusiast?

Hello and welcome to this week’s Ask Doug, which is everyone’s favorite weekly feature here on Oversteer. The way this works is, each week you ask Doug some questions, and then Doug considers his answers for a while before ultimately deciding he does not like you.

If you’d like to participate in Ask Doug, you can! Just email me at, and I will be happy to consider your question for an actual column here on Oversteer. I may also read your question and laugh at it, as I consume copious amounts of tater tots dipped in sour cream. I make no guarantees.

Anyway, today’s letter comes from a reader I’ve named Zevu, because I am sick of normal names like Roger. Zevu writes:

Good afternoon Mr. Doug,

My question is: "What is the perfect first car for a first-time driver but also car enthusiast?"

Yours truly,


Excellent question, Zevu, and I’ve got just the answer for you. And the answer is: Whatever you do, don’t buy an enthusiast vehicle for your first car.

OK, this isn’t necessarily my full opinion on this topic, but it’s sort of how I feel. Here’s the thing: When you are 16 years old, you make really stupid decisions. And as a 16-year-old, you don’t feel these decisions are stupid yet — but that’s kind of the problem. People who are older, even in their 20s, look back on the things they did at 16 and they laugh, and they think: "How did I live through that?" Meanwhile, 16-year-olds confront the exact same problem, and they think: "This is a great idea!" And then they light their hair on fire.

So my point here, Zevu, is that you shouldn’t necessarily get something you’re going to use to drive very fast, or carry out any crazy stunts, because you probably won’t make the best decisions about when to use your speed. For instance: I, a very reasonable 29-year-old with a 520-horsepower AMG Mercedes-Benz vehicle, almost never accelerate dangerously (which I did very often when I was 16). Last night, I took my AMG Mercedes-Benz on a 2-hour drive, and I switched into "AMG Mode" one total time, for the first time in months. What happened was, I pressed "AMG," then I floored it on a brief stretch of open, straight highway — once — and then I switched back into "Comfort" mode, where I will most likely stay for another few months.

Anyway, all of this is to say that you first car should be the following: practical, reliable and safe. My first car was a 1996 Volvo 850 Turbo, which was probably a bit more powerful than it needed to be, and it was wonderfully safe, and wonderfully practical, and I only got into a little trouble with it. You, on the other hand, should have even less power. Have you considered a 2001 Lexus RX300? It’s practical; it’s reliable; it’s safe. It has some nice features. You’ll like it.

Now, Zevu, I know you’ll be upset with me, because I didn’t tell you to go out and get a 240SX drift car, or an NA Miata, but the thing is this: If you get a 2001 RX300 instead, then you’ll learn the basics of car control, and driving, and all those things, and then you’ll be ready to get into a sports car when you’re a little more mature. It may seem like agony when you’re 16, but I promise you this: When you’re 21, or whatever, and you buy your first car with money from your first job, and it’s a fun car you actually want, it feels a lot more satisfying than getting it from your parents when you’re 16 and crashing it into a ditch a few weeks later.

You will thank me for this advice someday, when you are 35, and you’re still alive, and your hair was never, at any point in your life, set on fire. Find a car for sale

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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