The Best Cars for Each Stage of Your Life

We've all got those cars that we dream about, drool over, and dread the idea of paying bills on. They're normally fancier, sportier, or more impractical than we should consider. Even if you can't get the car you imagine yourself in somewhere down the road, you can find the perfect car for whatever stage of life you're in right now. With budget, style, and purpose in mind, these 10 cars are ideal for each step of your life, from the first to the last.

  1. Moving on to big-kid underwear

    This classic car has been perfect for cruising for more than 30 years; if you didn't have one as a kid, we just feel sorry for you. The red and yellow Little Tikes Cozy Coupe is ideal for toddlers, and was one of the top-selling cars in the '90s — or it would've been if it was a real automobile. The newer models still let you drive the car Flintstones-style with your feet, but have remote controlled sounds of doors locking, horn blaring, and engine starting. This car has spawned many a good driver in the past few decades.

  2. Learning to drive

    For most people, you'll be stuck learning to drive on whatever car your parents love the least. But if you had the chance to take any car out for your first spin around the neighborhood, the Honda Fit would be a great choice. Getting a slightly older model might make you feel less nervous about causing any dents or dings, and it'd be a smart move to opt for the manual transmission. Even though the majority of cars sold today are automatic, knowing how to drive a manual might come in handy someday, or at least boost your street cred. The Fit's clutch and gearshift are considered to be easier than many manual cars' equipment, so it's a good starting point for beginners.

  3. Getting your driver's license

    When you finally get to drive all on your own, you probably want the cutest or coolest car to show off your new skills. That is probably the last thing you should be concerned with. We're not saying you've got to drive your grandma's Lincoln Town Car, but your priorities should be safety and cost. Appearance is much lower on the list. Trucks and SUVs aren't recommended for young drivers since they have a higher chance of rolling over, and sports cars are frowned upon since they will make kids feel more bad-ass than they are. A good choice is a sedan like the Nissan Sentra or Ford Focus, which are reliable and come standard with important safety equipment like stability control, air bags, and antilock brakes.

  4. Moving off to college

    Word of advice: do not get a truck. Unless you want every friend you ever make during your four years in school to be guilting you into helping them move, stay away from the pick-ups. You're still going to want enough space to move some of your own stuff, start making your own trips to the grocery store, and tote your buddies around. The Hyundai Elantra is perfect, since it's one of the roomiest small cars, but not roomy enough to move someone's couch. It's also easy on the wallet with a base price of less than $16,000 and will let you travel home and back on fewer tanks of gas since it gets 40 highway mpg.

  5. Going green

    You decided to become a vegan, join Greenpeace, and live in the woods — or you're just trying to reduce your carbon footprint. It's not a bad move since environmentally friendly cars are also budget friendly in the long run. But if you're just getting into the greener options, you might need to be pointed in the right direction. The Toyota Prius Hybrid is a reliable option, since it's been known for its environmentally friendly status for the past 10 years. If you really want to make the jump to a green car, the Nissan Leaf is an all-electric car that has all the amenities you'd want in a vehicle without any greenhouse gases or exhaust pollution.

  1. Rolling in the dough and macking on the ladies

    Once you've hit that point in your life where you've made it big in your career and have cash to spare, you might want to throw a little of it toward wooing a woman (or man — dudes may be even more impressed by a girl driving an awesome car). Owning a nice car isn't a guarantee to win over every woman, but it definitely shows that you can take care of yourself. Something like the BMW MG Coupe is luxurious and fast enough to impress potential dates, but it doesn't look over-the-top impractical like other similar-grade cars, so you avoid looking like a complete tool. The more ridiculously macho cars are perfect for your later mid-life crisis.

  2. Getting married

    You're making the biggest commitment of your life: tethering yourself to another person until one of you dies. This isn't a moment to be taken lightly, and your getaway car choice should reflect the importance of the occasion. A vintage car like a 1940 Buick Special Convertible Sedan or a '40s or '50s Hudson will make the day memorable for you, your new spouse, and for the guests at your wedding. The old classic cars are perfect for the car nerd in the groom and have a romantic air that the bride will love.

  3. Toting kids to soccer practice

    Once your family's grown to include a kid or few, you're almost certainly going to want more room than a sedan offers. Even babies come with a boatload of accessories you need to keep them quiet, clean, and comfortable. You'll definitely want to find the safest options (after all, you've invested thousands of dollars in these little bundles of joy) with the maximum space. The Toyota Highlander and Sequoia are great choices for the family on the go. The family SUVs have room for sports equipment, science projects, and suitcases, in addition to the space for the kids themselves. The Highlander has seating for seven, Sequoia for eight. If you're looking for better fuel economy, go with the Highlander.

  4. Finally retiring

    Now that your daily commute is over, you can choose a car you'll really enjoy without worrying about sitting for hours each day in stop-and-go traffic. You'll still want something affordable since you've got to stretch your money for the rest of your long life, but there are plenty of options for the smart retiree who wants to drive in comfort. The Chevy Malibu is perfect for someone who wants a smooth, stylish mid-size sedan with plenty of trunk room for picnic baskets or golf clubs. If you're in the market for an SUV, the Honda CR-V is one that won't take up too much real estate in your garage (you know, since you're using your workbench more now) but still gives you room for the grandkids and all their stuff.

  5. Going out with a bang

    You're obviously not going to be around to care how stylish your ride to the cemetery is, but it's satisfying now to think about all your friends and family remembering you as the guy who made a graceful exit in a classic Rolls Royce hearse. You might want to start looking into the options now so you can write it into your will or give your family very, very specific instructions, but there's no reason you shouldn't have the hearse of your dreams. The Rolls Silver Cloud 1 is a good possibility, as well as finding a vintage Rolls that has been refurbished as a hearse.

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