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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So my oldest son has just turned 16. He is going to go for his permit on the 22nd of June. I've had my Insight for going on six years now and, I have to admit, it's one of my favorite cars. Like many Insight owners, I've started a collection of them. I currently have four. Two twin 2000s, a 2006, and a nice 2000 citrus that I bought last year. I daily my Insight 500 miles a week doing a rather hellacious commute. One of the reasons I have a collection is I'm anticipating hitting a deer one of these days and I would like a fall back Insight. I am planning on letting my son earn one of the Insights (probably the twin 2000) with some sweat equity. I have a list of things that need to be done with the car. EGR clean, adjust the valves, replace the IMA batt, repair the transmission etc etc. This will allow him to learn how to do some basic car stuff and "invest" him in the car.

So my question is; do you think the Insight is a good first car? My reasons are this: it's slow, it only fits two people, it's manual so he will learn how to drive a stick, it's pretty simple, it gets amazing MPG (good for a kid who does not have a lot of money), cheapish insurance???. The downside is its weight and small size. I think it's a pretty safe car but if you tangle with an SUV things could get ugly. My wife is concerned.

I would appreciate any advice or input.
 

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My first car was a 1998 Ford Escort. In 2008, through no direct fault of my own, it got totaled. At the time, I tried to convince my Dad to help me purchase an Insight, but he was like, you need a more practical car than a two seater. We settled on a manual transmission 2004 Civic Hybrid. I got a hybrid and he got a 4 door sedan.

Driving the HCH took all the spirited driving out of me. Suddenly, I was more interested in watching the FCD gauge and figuring out ways to drive more efficiently instead of faster.
 

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I've taught my 3 sons to drive, all on the same 1998 Civic. We've owned it 7-8 years, I bought it, #1 bought it from me, sold back to me when he joined the USAF, #2 bought it from me, sold it back to me when he joined the USAF, #3 bought it from me and is about to join the USAF this summer and will sell it back to me.

So, small car....we've had no issues. No wrecks. Back seats were irrelevant because new drivers can't have non-family in the car so passenger capacity was not an issue. Sure if a truck or SUV hits it it wouldn't hold up the way a larger vehicle would. My wife had the same reservations but we've been fine. That said a deer or drunk driver could change things in a minute no matter how safe your son is driving.

It's a gamble, sure he would be safer in something larger but how much should we over-insure ourselves to feel better?

If you want good cheap transportation that will bring a bit more safety, get him a minivan.
 

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Safe and practical would be a mid 2000s Volvo XC70, but around town you're going to see about 20 mpg.
Not available in a stick. Super comfy seats. Great visibility for the driver. AWD for winter road and very nice brakes/crash worthiness.

They'll run for hundreds of thousands of miles if maintained. Stay away from anything earlier than 2004 or so.

I've been on the roads around Beacon and if he'd going to stay pretty much local, SUVs and deer would be biggest threats. Plus, you know what a**holes tri-state area driver's can be.

XC70 can be run somewhat economically if you buy your parts at FCPeuro.com (lifetime warranty on everything they sell) and there is a super helpful owners' forum at www.matthewsvolvosite.com.

All that having been said, I'd have two reservations about an Insight - 1) manual tranny with such tall gearing could be a lot to manage for a new driver (It's not like a '68 Beetle gearbox) and 2) if it is Silverstone, they almost seem to be invisible to other drivers so I'd think about putting an air horn in it.

Oh yeah, the XC70 is ugly with the plastic cladding, but you don't have to look at it from the driver's seat and that might not matter to you once you drive one. They drive really well. One downside for the P2 (platform name) XC70, you should run premium gas since it has a turbo so if your son will be buying his own gas, it would cost him literally half as much in fuel cost to run an Insight.

There's an XC on Craigslist in Goshen right now for $3,500 with c. 180k miles (just nicely broken in). Claimed to need tires (about $500 plus mount and balance) and a grill. You could do worse. Disclaimer: I have no interest in, or connection to, the Goshen XC.
 

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If you do the Insight, I'd keep full coverage on it if I were you, if NY insurance law is anything like NJ law. In short, insurer in NJ has to give you a check for which you could purchase a replacement vehicle at dealer retail from current stock. How many dealer advertised G1's can you find? The arbitrage opportunity here is: get your check, buy replacement G1 private, and use the difference to buy a new IMA pack.
 

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I wouldn't have any concerns about the Insight's size and weight. It's still a relatively safe car - there's a lot of crumple in them. I feel your reasoning is sound.
 

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My first car was a used Karmann Ghia which is far slower with less acceleration, and far less safety than a G1. We didn't have SUVs and such back then, but we did have huge cars that weighed at least 3 times as much, which were just as bad when your gas tank's in the front and all you have to stop it is your legs.

The #1 thing I found in the Silverstone G1 was that people just didn't seem to see the car. Driving with the lights on helped. Your concern about them being "slow" is only on the getting-up-to-speed end of things. Once you're there, you can do a hundred, if you'd like. But slow acceleration teaches you to think before you go.

As far as accidents go... they can't be predicted. We all take our chances. Everyday. Heck, I still worry about my kids driving and they're all grown up and out of the house for years, now.

I know you want your kids to be as safe as possible. I have twins and so taught two in the same time frame. I got rid of an old-style Cherokee that I loved because I was certain my kids were going to roll it before they learned that the laws of physics do apply. They ended up driving either a bright-red used Jetta (which my daughter called "Zoomy") or a used plastic maroon Saturn SL ("Uncle Pete"). Neither of them liked the Saturn, but it was a perfect car: it felt obviously dangerous at anything above 60mph and was perfectly average in every repect.

Looking back, I'd let my kids drive a G1, but I'd fear for the clutch and tranny, especially with my daughter. She's hell on wheels!
 
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for all the replies thus far. To put things into perspective I was a New York State Trooper for 25 years and I've seen my share of accidents. Quite a few involving young men driving too fast with their friends in the car. The results were often devastating. The appeal of the Insight is that it really can't get out of its own way. It can get up to speed on the highway but it takes a while to get there. Around town, you'd be hard-pressed to accelerate light to light or get going too fast into a bend (I understand the ability of a teenaged boy to defy the laws of physics but it would be harder to do in an Insight). It also has a very Honda-like feeling of knowing where the four corners are which keeps an inexperienced driver from sideswiping another car or a curb. The Volvo is appealing but it's pretty big. I've also seen Subarus that have tangled with much larger cars and come out with an intact passenger compartment (the Legacy specifically). I will let all know how it works out.
 

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Tough call. I made my kids drive a Taurus station wagon until they demonstrated they were not "crashers." The SUV problem is unsolvable. Probably you should buy him a Tesla Model S. :)
 

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Alex from Kingston here. The Insight is a brilliantly engineered car as we all know, but I personally find it less than optimal as an everyday, all-round option. Nothing beats it as an efficient and fun to drive highway commuter - I drive mine 135 miles every day on the interstate (86.2 mpg yesterday ), but around town I prefer a Honda Fit or Civic. A Fit Sport can be had in a manual transmission, and is a great all-around car. We also drove the Fit to San Francisco and back, sleeping in the back sometimes, and you'd be amazed what you can bring home from Craigslist or Lowes in the back.
Another consideration is that an inexperienced driver may get into situations that the Insight is a bit quirky to respond to fast enough to avoid trouble. With the post-COVID population explosion of former city-dwellers careening around in massive SUVs around here, that might be a point to consider.
 

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I'd say I wouldnt put a new driver in an insight without brand new struts, gaz shocks, Scott's springs all around and poly rear bushings. The insight likes to get "upset" handling wise pretty easily. Experience tells me to just take it easy and it will be fine. A new driver is likely to react to it and cause a crash.
 

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CVT probably. Stick, probably not with the Insight's tall gearing and synchro issues.
 

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All three of my kids went through the local school district's driver training course, which used automatic transmission equipped cars.

Then I taught them manual transmission ops with a 1994 Isuzu Trooper. Easy trans gearing and clutch, lots of glass area so they can see around them, visible to other cars and plenty of structure around them. Downside is tall and tippy, though not as bad as Consumer Reports make them sound. Reliable and cheap!
 

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What does HE think about driving it? If he don't like it he'll probably beat on it and something will give out soon. Is he fairly tall? Seating position is low and rear visibility poor if you are on the short side.
 

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For first time drivers, I would suggest a safer vehicle that also has less of a blind spot. But I would also factor in the type of area you live in regarding population density and driver types. Over here in SoCA, I would suggest a tank for first time drivers.


Random quick query on a search engine for older statistics... Tips and Statistics (safetyinsurance.com)

"Driver Statistics
  • At least 77 percent of traffic accidents are the result of driver error.
  • Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death for 16-24 year olds at 48.5 percent - the next highest cause, homicide, follows at 15.2 percent.
  • Nationwide, 43 percent of first-year drivers and 37 percent of second-year drivers are involved in car crashes.
  • Advanced Driver Training has reduced that rate to 4.6 percent of first-year drivers, as determined in a four-year study.
  • Individuals 15 to 20 years old make up 6.7 percent of the total driving population, but are involved in 20 percent of all crashes and 14 percent of motor vehicle deaths.
  • Of teens involved in crashes in 2000, 58 percent were speeding at the time of the crash.
  • 65 percent of teen passenger deaths occur when another teenager is driving.
  • Nearly half of the fatal crashes involving 16-year-old drivers were single vehicle crashes.
  • In the last decade, over 68,000 teens have died in car crashes."
 

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No.

Bad visibility for backing and changing lanes, hard to find parts, very different from driving a normal car. Get a Civic or Toyota that's cheaper to fix and doesn't have distracting IMA, charge, MPG and other stuff going on with it. People should learn on a normal car before they add in extra stuff, especially if you value your synchros on a manual.
 

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Hah, well, my first car wouldn't be a good comparo since I'm older than dirt. I started my daughter though in a base Volvo 240 wagon B21 4 cyl manual trans (no turbo).
 

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I think a lot depends on the individual young, new driver (and the parent/s if they're buying), so much so that it's pretty much impossible to say from a distance what's right or not.

Generally speaking, I think the gist of what hexadecimus says is about right. All else being equal, a new driver should start with a more basic car, I'd say an automatic, too...

But, the Insight isn't so off the mark that it'd be out of the question. "So off the mark" would be something like an earlier Porsche 911 Turbo, cars that can be really tricky to just drive...

If I thought my son or daughter could handle its quirks, including how other drivers respond to it (like tailgating and general contempt), and they liked the car, I'd want them to have one.
 
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