Is a Dodge Charger a Good First Car? (8 Crucial Factors)

V6 and V8 Dodge Chargers are richly powerful full-size sedans at affordable prices, but they have poor first car credentials.

They demand serious consideration because Chargers aren’t suitable for most new drivers.

is the dodge charger a good first car

The 8 Factors You Need to Consider

#1 Powerful V6 and Potent V8

Some V6 vehicles can still be average first cars, especially the older ones (although the condition is a concern).

V8 engines move the vehicle firmly into a teen’s forbidden territory because they are powerful beyond the driver’s ability to control safely.

Depending on the model year, a regular Dodge Charger’s V6 produces between 250 and 292 horsepower.

The newer and almighty SRT Hellcat and its V8 can pump out a monstrous 700-plus horsepower, enough to qualify one on the NASCAR grid.

A four-cylinder engine will suffice for first cars.

#2 Rear-Wheel-Drive Increases Risks

Like many sports and sporty cars, all Dodge Chargers sit on the rear-wheel-drive architecture.

RWD vehicles pose an increased safety risk for new drivers because the car’s backend tends to step out when the power sent to the rear wheels exceeds the available grip on the pavement.

It’s less of an issue for drivers living in sunny regions but a hazard for those in snowy or wet climates.

#3 Thirsty Engines

Muscle cars are well-known gas guzzlers.

The base V6 Charger returns low-20s mpg in combined driving, and the thirstier V8 Hellcat can only average a meager 15mpg.

Good first cars should ideally achieve an average of high-20s to 30s mpg – like the Honda Civic (33 mpg), Toyota Camry (32 mpg), Volkswagen Golf (32 mpg), or even the MINI Cooper (31 mpg).

Driving a Dodge Charger will make you a regular at the gas station.

#4 Above-Average Upkeep Cost

According to RepairPal, the Dodge Charger costs approximately $652 annually to maintain; the figure is above full-size cars’ average of $590 a year.

If you’re considering a used Dodge Charger for your first car, the year-on-year increase in annual maintenance costs (below) should help you decide.

The regular Honda Civic sedan is an excellent yardstick because it’s one of the best first cars with low ownership costs.

YearAnnual Costs (Charger)Annual Costs (Civic)
Dodge Charger vs. Honda Civic annual upkeep costs (CarEdge)

The probability of major repair also increases with the Charger’s age:

  • 2.36% in year 1,
  • 11.13$ in year 5,
  • 22.92% in year 10, and
  • 44.16% in year 12.

That said, used car conditions can vary significantly depending on its care history, directly affecting your upkeep expenses to keep it running.

#5 Poor to Average Visibility

The Dodge Charger’s coupe-like form cuts in on the rear and side visibility.

The beltline is relatively high, further shrinking the height of the side windows.

The view straight ahead is slightly better, especially since the 2011 redesign.

Still, visibility in any Charger is challenging with the big dashboard and long hood in front of you.

New drivers need better visibility all around the car to aid safety.

#6 Hefty Car to Drive and Park

The Dodge Charger classes as a full-size car.

It is a big and heavy car that makes driving challenging for inexperienced drivers.

Dodge Chargers weigh a portly 4,000 lbs to 4,600 lbs, including the bigger-engine Hellcat.

For comparison, the large Toyota Avalon sedan tips the scales at 3,500 lbs, and the compact Honda Civic is considerably lighter at 2,700 lbs.

Although the brakes are reassuringly strong, the Charger’s poor visibility further compromises maneuverability in heavy city traffic and tight urban spaces.

Parking a Charger will be daunting for a new driver – at least initially.

#7 Low Ground Clearance

The ground clearance under the Chargers measures approx. 5 inches.

That height may not seem problematic, considering the large Toyota Avalon has 5.3 inches and the midsize Toyota Camry clears 5.7 inches.

But the Charger’s wheelbase at 120 inches is considerably longer than the Avalon (113 in.) and Camry (111 in.).

In this case, the Dodge Charger is more prone to hitting speed bumps and less agile in city traffic.

#8 Poor Ride Comfort

If you need space, refinement, and comfort in your first car, the Dodge Charger is not for you.

The stiff suspension setting lets you feel just about every bump on the road.

The standard Charger rides a little more softly, but the fair amount of road and tire noise can make long journeys tiring.

Plus, the Charger’s interior quality lags behind the competition.

Does the Dodge Charger Hold Value?

Value retention in the Dodge Charger is below-average, losing 48% of its value after five years and 75% after ten years.

The table below assumes a brand-new Dodge Charger GT that retails for approx. $37,000.

Vehicle AgeDepreciationValue LostResale Value
Dodge Charger 10-year depreciation.

The Dodge Charger comes with:

  • 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty.
  • 5-year/60,000-mile roadside warranty.
  • 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

As such, Dodge Chargers typically see a relatively sharper decline in their value around the five-year mark when the warranty expires.

The depreciation rate stabilizes for seven-year-old Chargers and older, so they are the better deal when getting a used Dodge Charger – although an extended warranty is necessary to avoid paying for costly repairs.

If you compare it to a fast-depreciating luxury vehicle like the BMW 3-Series, the Dodge Charger looks to hold value reasonably well.

However, the Dodge Charger is one of the worst performers among similar high-performance cars.

 5-yr Depreciation10-yr Depreciation
Honda Civic39%71%
Subaru WRX40%70%
Chevy Camaro40%62%
Dodge Challenger40%61%
Ford Mustang43%66%
Dodge Charger48%75%
BMW 3-Series55%78%
Dodge Charger depreciation compared to other cars.

The Subaru WRX, Chevrolet Camaro, and Dodge Challenger have stronger value retention than the Dodge Charger.

Insuring a Dodge Charger for Teenagers

Powerful sports and muscle cars are generally expensive to insure, especially for teenagers.

Plus, male drivers are more likely to get into an accident than female drivers, pointing to a costlier coverage for the former.

Full coverage for a Dodge Charger costs approx. $6,097 per year or $508 each month for teen drivers (see bottom-of-page link).

As it’s only an average, note that the vehicle’s age, specifications, and driver’s age affect the premium – 16-year-olds are the most expensive to insure.

The base SE or SXT models are the cheapest to insure, while the GT and highest-trim SRT Hellcat cost more.

However, insurance costs are location-dependant and can vary significantly.

The most expensive zip codes can be 2x to 3x the insurance cost of the cheapest, so take the afore-quoted figure only as a guide.

It’s best to request quotes from multiple insurers for an accurate estimate.

Dodge Charger Worst Year (If Any)

Table Guide:

  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests average.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Fuel Economy: mpg city/highway/combined (base trim).
  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems (JD Power).
  • Complaints: total reported problems (CarComplaints).
Model YearSafety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)Fuel Econ.ReliabilityComplaints
2022 Charger3.6/45/519/30/2383/100
2021 Charger3.6/45/519/30/2383/1004
2020 Charger3.6/45/519/30/2384/100
2019 Charger3.6/45/519/30/2379/1006
2018 Charger3.6/45/519/30/2378/1004
2017 Charger3.6/45/519/30/2376/1006
2016 Charger3.6/45/519/31/2379/10026
2015 Charger3.6/4NA19/31/2383/10044
2014 Charger4/45/518/27/2182/10066
2013 Charger4/45/518/27/2180/10054
2012 Charger4/45/518/27/2179/10086
2011 Charger4/4NA18/27/2191/100131
2010 Charger2.6/4NA18/26/2177/10026
2009 Charger2.3/4NA18/26/2184/10023
2008 Charger2.3/4NA18/26/2182/10088
2007 Charger2/4NA18/26/2183/100124
2006 ChargerNANA17/24/20NA188
Dodge Charger model years comparison.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rated the 2015 and newer Chargers ‘Good’ in front-moderate-overlap, side, rear, and roof tests – but only ‘Marginal’ in the front small overlap driver-side test, hence the less-than-perfect overall score.

However, 2011, 2012, and 2013 Dodge Chargers won IIHS’s Top Safety Pick award, underlining the car’s top-notch crash safety.

Avoid the problematic 2006 Dodge Charger as it recorded the most complaints.

Its most-reported problem includes premature engine failure, which requires repairs or engine replacement.

If you want the safest Charger, as far as crash safety goes, opt for 2011, 2012, or 2013 Dodge Charger.

The V6 engine in the standard Dodge Charger is the most fuel-efficient in the 2015 model and newer.

Dodge Charger Compared with Better First Cars

Several sporty cars with less powerful engines, FWD or AWD, and higher fuel efficiency are attractive alternatives to the Dodge Charger.

Table Guide:

  • Fuel Economy: mpg combined (base trim).
  • Maintenance Costs: per year avg. (RepairPal).
  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests average.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Visibility: excellent, good, average, poor.
 HorsepowerFuel Econ.Maint. CostsSafety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)Visibility
Dodge Charger250-292 hp23$6523.6/45/5Average
Chevy Camaro275-323 hp22$5853.8/45/5Poor
Subaru BRZ205-228 hp24$6723.8/4NAGood
Mazda Miata116-181 hp29$429NANAAverage
VW Golf GTI210-228 hp27$7913.8/45/5Good
Mazda 3 Turbo227 hp27$433+4/45/5Average
Honda Civic Si197-205 hp30$368+4/45/5Good
Honda Civic110-158 hp33$3684/45/5Good
Dodge Charger comparison with better first cars.

The Subaru BRZ is also rear-wheel-driven like the Dodge Charger, but it’s considerably less powerful and returns marginally higher mpg.

That said, the BRZ has equally expensive upkeep.

If you don’t fancy the regular sedan body style for your first car – like the Honda Civic – the Mazda Miata two-seat roadster is a compelling option.

The Miata may have the same rear-wheel-drive system as the Charger, but it has a less powerful four-cylinder engine that delivers an equally engaging drive.

The Mazda MX-5 Miata is one of the most fuel-efficient sports cars and remarkably enjoyable to drive.

The Mazda 3 variant with a turbocharged engine introduced in 2021 produces 227 horsepower and sharp handling, making it a fun daily driver.

Crucially, the Mazda 3 is more fuel-efficient, cheaper to maintain, and comes with an all-wheel-drive system for extra traction.

You’ll need to pay more for an AWD Dodge Charger in the higher-trim SXT or GT.

If you value sporty handling in a small package, the VW Golf and Golf GTI are better first cars than the Dodge Charger.

Golf GTI is one of the best-handling front-wheel-drive cars on the road.

The Honda Civic Si provides the best overall combination for an excellent sporty first car – high fuel efficiency, low maintenance cost, and an engaging drive.

Plus, the Civic Si has a more-practical four-door layout and is dependable as any Honda.

The regular Honda Civic remains one of the best cars for teenagers.

Is the SRT Hellcat a Good First Car?

The SRT Hellcat receives performance upgrades over the base model, which puts it firmly in the terrible first car category:

  • Excessive horsepower – over 700 horsepower is beyond most seasoned drivers’ safe handling.
  • V8 engine – no teenager needs a thirsty V8 in their first car.
  • Abysmal fuel economy – 15 mpg combined, or thereabout, is the best you can hope for in combined driving.
  • Low ground clearance – around 4.5 inches, lower than the regular Charger’s 5.2 inches.

You should seriously consider getting a less potent first car.

SRT Hellcat Compared to the base Dodge Charger

 EngineHorsepowerFuel Econ.Fuel Type
Dodge Charger HellcatV8717 hp15 mpg combinedPremium
Dodge ChargerV6250-292 hp23 mpg combinedRegular
SRT Hellcat vs. base Dodge Charger.

The SRT Hellcat may be the higher trim of the same car.

Still, it has a considerably more powerful V8, returns significantly lower mpg, and requires premium gas, rendering it thoroughly unsuitable for new drivers.

SRT Hellcat Compared with Better First Cars

Table Guide:

  • Fuel Economy: mpg combined (base trim).
  • Maintenance Costs: per year avg. (RepairPal).
  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests average.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Visibility: excellent, good, average, poor.
 HorsepowerFuel Econ.Maint. CostsSafety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)Visibility
Dodge Charger Hellcat717 hp15$652+3.6/45/5Average
Chevy Camaro SS455 hp19NA3.8/45/5Poor
Mazda Miata116-181 hp29$429NANAAverage
Subaru WRX230-271 hp23$6824/45/5Good
Honda Civic Si197-205 hp30$368+4/45/5Good
SRT Hellcat comparison with better first cars.

If you want a vehicle in a stylish body style, the Mazda Miata is a significantly better first car than the Charger Hellcat.

It has decent horsepower output and excellent fuel economy for a sports car.

The Subaru WRX may not be ideal for most new drivers, but it comes with an all-wheel-drive system for better traction, lower horsepower, and thriftier on fuel.

Alternatively, the four-door Honda Civic Si will ably serve your practical needs while maintaining an adequate level of driving enjoyment.