Is a Mustang a Good First Car? Safe, but too fast!


Buying your first car is a big deal. If you are buying it – or someone else is – there are things we need to consider before you race out and buy a Mustang.

A Ford Mustang is a safe, reliable car, but also very powerful and as such, it’s not a good first car for a teen or new driver. Mustang insurance, maintenance, and gas will cost significantly more than a standard sedan or hatchback.

How can it be, if the car is safe and reliable but not a good first car? Well, let’s look at that further to see exactly why.

Is a Mustang Easy To Drive?

So what’s it like to drive a Mustang? Exciting!! The Eco-boost engine is powerful, the Turbo kicks in and it really gets up there. It’s smooth too, and that combination means you can quickly find yourself exceeding the speed limit.

A Mustang needs respect, it’s Rear Wheel Drive (RWD) which is quite different from Front Wheel Drive (FWD). Although all cars come standard with stability systems they aren’t perfect, it’s still possible to get the tail out on a Mustang.

The brakes are good and it handles like it’s on train tracks. Basically, a Mustang is easy to drive, the transmission smooth except around town.

Visibility is good unless you’re looking backward. A Mustang rear window is limited. This becomes an issue when parking or reversing of any kind and for some new drivers, this can be problematic.

Is A Mustang Safe?

The safety aspects of your new car should be your priority, whether buying a new car or a used car. No parent wants to put their teen into a car that’s not safe but a car is only as safe as the driver behind the wheel. 

Is your teen going to be responsible? Are they going to be racing other drivers? Are they going to be burning tires or doing doughnuts? They are of course going to say no to all of these questions, but they are less likely to be doing any of these in a Honda or a Chevy.

But that doesn’t mean that a Mustang is not a safe car. It means you need to decide how trustworthy your teen is.

Let’s look at the safety aspects of a 2017 Mustang S197.

Airbags – Front (Driver and Passenger)

  • Side
  • Overhead
  • Knee

Eight airbags in total. Not all models have side airbags but can be easily checked by locating the tag on the driver seat top. 

ABS – this kicks in when the car is under extreme braking to prevent skids from occurring

Stability – Engine Power reduced if handling limits are exceeded

NHTSA: Frontal Crash 5* Rating

All in all a safe car.

A safer car than a Jeep or SUV. A Mustang is less likely to topple as it’s low to the ground and safer than a jeep if it were to roll over.

The Cost of a Mustang

Yellow Ford Mustang

The cost of your first car is definitely high on the list. Everyone has a budget, no matter if you’re financing it yourself or if parents are purchasing it for you.

I definitely recommend that your son or daughter buys their first car or at least finance most of the cost. When a teen has skin in the game, they are more likely to take better care of it, both in the way they drive it and how much time they spend cleaning it.

The cost of a Mustang is not cheap. The starter S197 V6 – (which was replaced in 2018 by the EcoBoost) is a good solid car, but 2015 is going to set you back $15-20k. This compares to a Ford Focus of the same age for $5k. 

A huge price difference but a Mustang is seen as a Sportscar, and so this is reflected in the cost.

A new Mustang GT can start at $40k and go skywards from there depending on the add ons, of which there are plenty.

I’m not sure about you but I certainly didn’t spend $40k on my first car or anything like it.

As I say a second-hand Mustang is going to cost less, and the outstanding bonus is if you have learned to drive in a stick or manual, then the cost is even less, however, they are much harder to sell on.

You could reduce your cost by up to $5k by choosing a stick.

The newest model S197 V6 that you can purchase is a 2017 or older. As I say, this model was around for decades and then Ford decided to replace it with the EcoBoost. The EcoBoost is a V4 hybrid engine and just not the same as driving the original V6. But the alternative in a new car is a V8, and that’s a lot of engines for a first-time car.

Maintenance and Other Costs

If you go ahead and choose a Mustang there are other costs that need to be considered day to day.

General service for a Mustang starts at 10,000 miles with an oil change. This then becomes oil and filters at 20,000. This is pretty standard nowadays for new cars.

The service costs are pretty average as well. An oil change will run to $150 approx. Over the years, oil and filters for your Mustang will cost an average of $700, which is a couple of hundred more than a Toyota but on a par with a Chevrolet.

As all cars age, problems will start to manifest. The Mustang is no different.

2017 Costs for Common Repair Issues

  • Clutch Cost – $950 – $1000
  • Ball Joints – $250 – $300
  • Drive Belts – $125 – $150

These are all quite average costs, however, bear in mind that Ford no longer makes the V6 engine and some parts may be difficult to source, meaning more expensive.

Another cost that can add to your yearly outgoings is dependant on where you live. Mustangs don’t like the cold.

They sit very close to the ground (clearance 5.7”) and don’t travel in the snow. Snow gets caught in the wheel arches and before you know it your car is going nowhere.

But even in light snow, you are going to have to invest in some snow tires or at least winter tires. Mustangs are Rear Wheel Drive which is not at all compatible with snow and ice. They don’t have enough weight sitting over the drive wheels and so lose control and fishtail. You can add more weight in the trunk but if you live somewhere that gets a lot of cold weather I would strongly advise against a Mustang or any RWD car.

Insuring a Mustang

Mustang interior

Insurance on your first car is going to be pricey no matter what you choose. You’ve probably been on your parent’s policy and there may be the opportunity to add you on to theirs as a new policy.

But a Mustang at the end of the day is perceived as a Sports car and Insurance companies price a Mustang accordingly.

They don’t want a 17 or 18-year-old teen driving one. 17 and 18-year-old boys and girls are known to drive too fast, become excitable in a sports car and all in all, have little or no experience.

The cost of the insurance quote is proof of this.

  • Mustang – $6k / year
  • Honda – $4k / year

I would look at several cars of the same engine size and get quotes for all. The difference can be striking.

Even $4k is expensive for a Honda but we all have to get on the ladder somewhere but hopping on at $6k to me seems a bit crazy.

Insurance is also dependent on where you live. All states have different costs for insurance. In Missouri insurance is the cheapest for a first-time teen car owner but most expensive in New York or Michigan.

But even if you are a bit older 20+ insurance for a Mustang can still be as much as $4k. This is fine if you are in full-time employment but if you’re in college and working part-time, your job will be barely cover all your car costs.

Driving is all about the experience. The more you have, hopefully, the safer you are as a driver.

In conclusion, I would say a Mustang is just too much car for a new driver. Definitely not a good idea for a teen’s first car. Pick something easier to handle, give it a few years and consider buying one in the future.

But before buying a used Mustang or any vehicle, always run a VIN check for Mileage fraud, Salvage rebuild, Title washing, and Vin cloning. There are plenty in the business, it only costs a few dollars but could save you thousands. I’ve used VinAudit (links to VinAudit.com) several times and found them reliable and fast.

You may find the following links useful also:

Should my first car be a truck?

Is a tesla a good first car?

Classic car for first car?

Is driving hard?

Is a Volkswagen a good first car?

Is Honda Civic good first car?

Is Dodge Charger good first car?

Are muscle cars reliable?

John Cunningham

John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. I've been a mechanic for over twenty-five years, and I've worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Landrover, and Jaguar dealerships. My passion is cars. I use my knowledge and experience to write articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of car ownership, including buying advice, maintenance, and troubleshooting.

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