91 Explorer vs. 91 Maxima for 16 yo DD?

Laura_IAApril 18, 2005

I can't believe she's 16 already!

Hi all! We are in the market to buy a very used vehicle for my daughter who got her licence a couple months ago. We currently own a 97 Explorer and an '01 Aurora. She's mostly been driving the Explorer, but we want to get her her own vehicle so that I can actually drive mine again.

This weekend we went and looked at a lot of cars, but we are not really used to looking for vehicles in the $3k range. Doesn't buy much, I'll admit. We really want a safe, reliable vehcile that will hopefully last 3 or 4 years. Don't want to spend a lot since I imagine there could be some fender benders happening while she gains experience.

We did find at one lot a 91 Explorer Eddie Bauer with 125K miles and a 91 Nissan Maxima with 112K miles. They are both automatic, both loaded with all power, sunroof, etc. Both very clean and seem to be in very good shape, both priced at $3000. The Explorer is 4X4, the Nissan front wheel drive. We live in Iowa, so the 4X4 would come in handy occassionally in the winter. I know the Explorer would be more expensive to drive with gas prices the way they are, but I also can't help feeling it would be safer, and she's already been driving an Explorer, so it would be more familiar to her.

The high mileage on the Explorer doesn't bother me, as mine has 137K and it is still going very strong, but I'm not sure about the mileage on the Maxima. Will it last a while longer yet?

Help! I can't decide!

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My personal opinion is that you should opt for the Maxima over the Explorer. The Explorer, as it has a high center of gravity, will tend to roll over in a quick maneuver. Since your daughter is a new driver, she may not have the skills to properly control the SUV. The Maxima's handling will be more forgiving.

Here is a link that might be useful: Teen Drivers

    Bookmark   April 18, 2005 at 2:29PM
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I think the safety issue between the two is probably a case of six of one and half a dozen of the other. The Explorer would as said above have a greater chance of rolling over, but it might also fare better than the Maxima in a crash with another vehicle because of its larger size.

I don't think either model would be a bad choice. At the $3,000 price level, it all comes down to the individual vehicle: How well has it been taken care of, and what if any repairs is it likely to need soon. I'd suggest taking the one you decide on to a decent mechanic and having him or her look it over so you can at least make some decent attempt at answering these questions.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2005 at 6:01PM
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This is a car vs truck deal, obviously the car is more practical.

If a man needed to haul around a half ton of stuff for his business, then the choice would be the truck.

But it makes no sense at all for anyone to motor around in a fairly large vehicle such as a Nissan Maxima when all they need is a two passenger sedan..
But I am just guessing here.
About 6 years ago our daughter bought an '89 Volvo(low miles - less than 150K) for about 3 grand and she served well indeed, but being so large , the fuel economy was not that great.
Funny, with gasoline at near record highs, no one seems to care about operating expenses..

    Bookmark   April 19, 2005 at 6:20AM
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I'm probably a little weird about this right now, so forigve me if this sounds harsh.

My daughter and her classmates lost a friend in an accident 2 weeks ago. He was hit head-on by a truck going 55 mph that crossed the center line. When I saw the pictures of his car, which was a little Mustang, there was literally nothing left of the front end. Rationally, I know there are probably not many vehicles that could have withstood that crash, but there is no way I'm going to put her in one of these tiny fuel efficient cars with barely no front end and just hope for the best. I'm having a hard time trying to find the balance.

We were originally planning to get her a little Honda Civic and be done with it. Since the accident, every time I look at one I get queasy looking at how short and low the front end is. Of course she doesn't need an SUV or a bigger sedan. But right now, *I* need to feel that I at least tried to find her a safer vehicle, and I don't care how much gas it uses. I know that's not practical, but that's where I'm at.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2005 at 9:25AM
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No easy answer here. Once a car is large enough and well engineered enough, statistics say it has parity with the heavier truck/SUVs in keeping you safe. You probably are safer in the SUV in the accident that took your DD's friend's life, but probably are less safe if you have to swerve to avoid a deer or another driver doing something stupid. That type of manuever can lead to fatal accidents too. The mix of accident types determines the probabilities and perceived level of safety.
I think the truck/SUVs would be safer if people drove them like the trucks they are and slowed down relative to car speeds, but people drive them like they are cars. Then the high CG and handling compromises involved in 4WD and weight plus weight distribution make them less safe handling at a given speed. I am always amazed when I back off on a curve or going over a hill because I can't see and need the stopping distance - and get passed by someone with a feeling of invincibility in a truck or SUV. (I drive a sports car that I think has better brakes and handling than any SUV or truck.)
Its the person behind the wheel who determines the accident statistics. If your DD will drive like she's in a car regardless of whether its a truck, then I'd choose the car.


    Bookmark   April 19, 2005 at 10:42AM
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That young lady would look good in a 97 explorer. Someone has to keep the economy rolling, can you just get yourself a new one and give her the 97 explorer LOL If I had to make a decision between the old explorer and old maxima I would probably go with the Maxima but watch out for trans problems on these. A 14 year old explorer 4x4 with over 100k is probably due for some fairly costly maintanence items and IMO is more of a risk.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2005 at 3:06PM
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This is a no brainer = MAXIMA
It has at least another 200K miles in it.
Front wheel drive works great and it really goes in the snow.

Besides it is better to have a car that can actually be driven, looks good and has much better gas mileage - even with all of the oxygen sensors gone it will get 16-18 in the winter (with everyting OK in there) it should get closer to 18-26 mpg on the average) and in the summer about 30mpg on the highway!!!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2005 at 3:20PM
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Yep, buy the Maxima. It'll hands down outlast the Exploder. My uncle had one, it ran for 375k miles, and the only reason it isn't still running is 'cause my cousin totaled it....then walked away with nary a scratch.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2005 at 2:56PM
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Thanks for all your suggestions. We went back to take a second look and the Maxima is gone. I guess the search is back on.

Now I understand all the battles with my parents when I got my first car. I wanted "cute", they wanted safe. I'm right back in the same place, only this time I'm on the other side of the arguement. What goes around really does come around, doesn't it?!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2005 at 12:14PM
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You might also want to check with your insurance agent on the costs to insure the different cars. I expect the Explorer will be quite high.

FWIW, my teenaged driver drove 12,000 miles each year the past two years with no accidents. I attribute this to about 8,000 miles of driving with her back and forth to school while she had her permit for 9 months before she got her license. (And also a gurdian angel!) And this is in heavy Chicago traffic.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2005 at 9:30AM
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