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lou's garage

I regularly receive calls from parents looking for advice on what car to buy their teenager. Last week I fielded three such calls, all from parents of teen boys who let them pick out their car. A 2019 Audi S3, a 2018 Volkswagen Golf R and a 2017 Nissan Sentra. I understand that a child may want to assert their independence and establish their own identity, but I must admit, I was a bit shocked at the first two as both are easily more than $35,000. I get it, there are those who have a higher income and it’s not my place to judge how much a parent should spend on a car for their child. But they were asking for my advice, so here goes. Setting cost aside, the S3 and the Golf R are way more car than any new driver may be able to handle as both are incredibly powerful, quick cars. I’ve heard too many stories about mom and dad buying junior a high-powered sports car only have the story end in a crash because of excessive speed and recklessness.

From my conversations with the first two parents, I got the impression that they knew the car choice wasn’t right. They were looking for my support to help them thwart the relentless enthusiasm for a sports car. The young man seeking the Golf R was trying to convince his mom it wasn’t a sports car, but just a normal Golf that happened to feature all-wheel drive. Apparently, an all-wheel drive was needed because he was heading off to college in Northern Ontario. Seems to me like mom was the one being taken for a ride as I’m sure there are more than a few residents of northern Ontario who don’t have an all-wheel-drive vehicle and are just fine.

The criteria for a first car in my opinion are safety, reliability, fuel consumption, reasonable maintenance and upfront costs. These are the criteria for most people, but with an additional layer of complexity for a new driver. Buying a car that is too powerful or has too many gadgets can lead to distractions while driving and subsequent trouble with police.

Most parents footing the bill are looking for vehicles that don’t cost that much. Finding the sweet spot can sometimes be challenging, especially because most parents let the child do the leg work. Of course, they are always going to set their sights on something unrealistic.

My advice is to first call your insurance company before you go shopping. Your agent can direct you away from models that carry a hefty premium for new drivers. All they need is transportation. Get involved, spend more time guiding them toward realistic vehicles like the Sentra, and not sport sedans and coupes that will be far more costly to maintain. Many parents do the right thing and make their children bring in their potential purchases for a pre-purchase inspection. But please, stay away from older European vehicles that are a dozen-plus years old with hundreds of thousands of kilometres. They usually require thousands of dollars to become road worthy.

Your automotive questions answered


My 2012 Chevrolet Equinox with a 3.3-litre engine and all-wheel drive has 240,000 kilometres on it. It’s still a reliable car, but rust is appearing along several edges. I hope to drive it another year or two. Aesthetics aside, when do you know when to trade in for a newer car? Is there anything I can do you extend the life of the body now?

C.A., New Brunswick

Everyone trades in or upgrades for their own reasons, but in my experience one of the most common reasons is boredom. Assuming boredom is not your main reason, then I don’t see the value in trading in a reliable car in this postpandemic over-inflated market. If you can live with it for a year or two more, I think you will be happy you did. It will be worth less in two years, but hopefully the market will be more balanced for both buying and selling.

As far as a way to extend the life of the body. Rust that has perforated through the metal will usually require a body shop to get right. Light surface corrosion can be easily dealt with by you in your driveway though. There are videos online that can show you how to do small repairs that don’t require expensive tools or experience. On top of that, it’s never too late to start with some rust preventative treatments.

My new Toyota’s condenser leaked gas. Right after it was filled, it leaked again. It finally was fixed, but now the battery switches to HV mode for no reason. It doesn’t return to EV mode for 15 minutes even if the battery has 40 per cent power left. What is wrong?


I gather you have something like a Prius or Rav 4 hybrid that is now acting up after an A/C repair. I doubt an air conditioning repair has anything to directly do with the performance of the hybrid system. During extremely hot days the internal combustion engine may run a bit longer to cool the vehicle’s cabin, but this shouldn’t be any different than it was before the repair. Is it possible that when the repair was completed that something else was disturbed in the process? Sorry that I can’t be more help, but you are going to have to return to the shop or visit your local dealer to figure this out.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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