Mustang for Your First Car? (7 Crucial Factors to Consider)
Ford Mustangs aren’t suitable for new drivers because they are powerful muscle cars, high on fuel consumption, and expensive to maintain.
However, older and less-potent Mustangs may be reasonable first cars if they’re in good condition.
The 7 Factors You Need to Consider
New drivers generally lack experience behind the wheel, but each shopper’s requirements and priorities in their first car may differ.
#1 Varying Power Output
The Mustangs of the 90s barely produce 200 horsepower, making it relatively manageable for young drivers.
(See Mustang model years comparison later in the post.)
But hunting for an old but healthy Mustang will be challenging but not impossible considering their sustained popularity.
If you prefer a newer Mustang post-2000, the V6 Mustang or EcoBoost is better for a first car with less power than the GT variant.
Still, they are pony cars.
#2 Unideal Drivetrain
Rear-wheel-drive (RWD) vehicles provide faster acceleration than front-wheel-drive (FWD) vehicles due to the rearward weight transfer.
The RWD system places all the weight on the rear axle and thus has relatively more traction under hard acceleration.
However, a machine that races well off the line is hardly a first car requirement.
FWD cars are cheaper and get higher gas mileage because they are typically lighter than RWDs and AWDs, other specifications being equal.
The lower expense of an FWD covers the vehicle price and maintenance cost.
#3 Costly Upkeep (Even Among Muscle Cars)
Ford Mustangs cost an average of $709 a year to maintain, higher than the average of $526 for midsize cars.
For comparison, the compact Honda Civic, one of the best cars for teenagers, only costs half that at $368 annually.
These figures are averages, so let’s see how they differ from year to year.
|Year||Annual Costs (Mustang)||Annual Costs (Civic)|
The probability of major repair also increases with the Mustang’s age:
- 2.14% in year 1,
- 10.10$ in year 5,
- 20.79% in year 10, and
- 40.06% in year 12.
Crucially, Mustangs are some of the costliest to upkeep among muscle cars.
|Avg. Maint. Cost|
That said, a used car’s condition can vary significantly depending on its service history, directly affecting your upkeep expenses to keep it running.
Plus, purchasing an extended or third-party warranty is crucial to avoid expensive out-of-pocket repairs.
#4 Subpar Fuel Economy for a First Car
Fuel efficiency is a crucial consideration for a first car.
It is a significant component in managing a vehicle’s running costs, besides repairs and general upkeep.
If you plan to drive your Mustang daily, you’ll become a frequent visitor to the pump with the Mustang’s mediocre fuel economy.
Most Mustangs average approx. 20mpg in combined driving, depending on the trim and model year.
That said, the EcoBoost Mustang with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine is the better choice for your first car, returning 24 to 26 mpg combined.
The table comparing the various Mustang models towards the end of the post should give a better picture of where each one stands in power and fuel efficiency.
#5 Relatively Good Visibility
Compared to other muscle cars like the Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger, the Mustang is easier to see out of.
Its relatively slim roof pillars and decent-sized windows are a welcome relief from most muscle and sports cars with severely compromised outward views.
That said, the Dodge Charger can provide a similar level of visibility as the Mustang.
Good outward visibility is essential for a safer drive, especially for new drivers.
It helps make changing lanes safer and parking easier.
#6 Reasonably Practical
As far as sports coupes and pony cars go, the Mustang makes the better choice for teen drivers as it provides good drivability, ease of access, and adequate visibility.
The front seats are supportive, and the ride quality is agreeable in the regular Mustang.
Plus, road and wind noise are generally subdued in the newer Mustangs.
These qualities mean daily driving a Mustang is possible and comfortable.
But still, the Mustang is a coupe or convertible, so the rear seat and cargo space are limited.
#7 Safe Vehicles
Safety is crucial for any vehicle, but especially for first cars.
Cars with poor crash safety are typically more expensive to insure across all driver age groups.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded the 2015 and newer Ford Mustangs 5 out of 5 stars overall.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rated the Ford Mustang as follows:
|Small overlap front: driver-side||Acceptable|
|Moderate overlap front||Good|
|Head restraints & seats||Good|
IIHS test scores aren’t available for pre-2010 Mustangs.
Does the Ford Mustang Hold Value?
The Ford Mustang’s value retention is average, losing 43% of its value after five years and 66% after ten years.
The table below assumes a brand-new Mustang Ecoboost Premium that retails for approx. $34,000.
|Vehicle Age||Depreciation||Value Lost||Resale Value|
The Ford Mustang comes with industry-average:
- 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty.
- 5-year/60,000-mile roadside warranty.
- 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Mustangs experience a sharp decline in their value within the first year, but the depreciation rate slows and stabilizes after that.
So, opting for a used Mustang of any age is good value – a well-maintained old Mustang may even re-sell for the same price you bought it.
If you compare it to a fast-depreciating luxury vehicle like the BMW 3-Series, Ford Mustang looks to hold value reasonably well.
|5-yr Depreciation||10-yr Depreciation|
The Subaru WRX, Chevrolet Camaro, and Dodge Challenger have stronger value retention than the Ford Mustang.
Insuring a Ford Mustang for Teenagers
Powerful muscle cars are generally expensive to insure, especially for male teens, due to their statistically-higher probability of getting into a collision.
Full coverage for a Ford Mustang costs approx. $11,892 a year or $991 each month for a 16-year-old (see bottom-of-page link).
In contrast, an 18-year-old can expect to pay around $9,278 per year or $773 every month.
Lower trims and older Mustangs are cheaper to insure.
That said, insurance costs are heavily location-dependent and can vary significantly.
The most expensive zip codes can be up to 3x the insurance cost of the cheapest, so take the figures above merely as a guide.
It’s best to request quotes from a few insurers for an accurate estimate.
Ford Mustang Worst Year (If Any)
- 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 Year||Safety (IIHS)||Safety (NHTSA)||Fuel Econ.||Reliability||Complaints|
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rated the 2015 and newer Mustangs ‘Good’ in front-moderate-overlap, side, rear, and roof tests – but only ‘Marginal’ in the small front overlap driver-side test, hence the less-than-perfect overall score.
Pre-2015 Mustangs aren’t better in crash safety, achieving only 4 out of 5 stars in the NHTSA crash tests.
That said, the 2021 and 2022 Mustang Mach-E SUV received IIHS’s Top Safety Pick award.
The 2016 Ford Mustang has the most overall complaints with problems that include:
- Body paint (bubbling),
- Electrical (battery draining continually),
- Engine (stalls while driving), and
- Transmission (failure).
If you want the most fuel-efficient Mustang (as efficient as a muscle car can be), the Mustang EcoBoost with its four-cylinder turbo engine is available from 2015.
See the Mustang models comparison at the end of the post.
Ford Mustang Compared with Better First Cars
Several sporty cars with less powerful engines, FWD or AWD, and higher fuel efficiency are attractive alternatives to the Ford Mustang.
- 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.
|Horsepower||Fuel Econ.||Maint. Costs||Safety (IIHS)||Safety (NHTSA)||Visibility|
|Ford Mustang||145-300 hp||22||$709||3.8/4||5/5||Average|
|Chevy Camaro||275-323 hp||22||$585||3.8/4||5/5||Poor|
|Dodge Challenger||250-305 hp||23||$650||3.2/4||5/5||Poor|
|Dodge Charger||250-292 hp||23||$652||3.6/4||5/5||Average|
|Subaru WRX||230-271 hp||23||$682||4/4||5/5||Good|
|Subaru BRZ||205-228 hp||24||$672||3.8/4||NA||Good|
|Mazda Miata||116-181 hp||29||$429||NA||NA||Average|
|VW Golf GTI||210-228 hp||27||$791||3.8/4||5/5||Good|
|Mazda 3 Turbo||227 hp||27||$433+||4/4||5/5||Average|
|Honda Civic Si||197-205 hp||30||$368+||4/4||5/5||Good|
|Honda Civic||110-158 hp||33||$368||4/4||5/5||Good|
Chevrolet Camaro and the Dodges (Charger and Challenger) are similarly powerful muscle cars with high fuel consumption.
Plus, they have poor outward visibility.
But if you need to choose a pony car with the best visibility, the newer Ford Mustang is probably the better pick.
If you want something different from a regular sedan for your first car, the Subaru BRZ coupe and Mazda MX-5 Miata two-seat roadster are compelling options.
The Miata may have the same rear-wheel-drive system as the Mustang, but it has a less powerful four-cylinder engine that is fuel-efficient and can deliver an equally engaging drive.
If you value sporty handling in a small package, the VW Golf and Golf GTI are better choices for teenagers than the muscle cars.
Golf GTI is one of the best-handling front-wheel-drive cars that money can buy.
Meanwhile, the Civic Si provides excellent fuel economy, inexpensive upkeep, and is engaging to drive, although the base Honda Civic remains one of the best cars for teenagers.
Plus, they are Hondas and the more affordable and dependable automaker.
Is the Mustang GT a Good First Car?
The GT is the most expensive trim with the biggest engine.
Mustang GT models are a terrible choice for a first car due to their powerful and thirsty V8 powertrain needing premium fuel (manufacturer-recommended).
That said, pre-2000 Mustang GTs are still V8s but produce significantly less horsepower (200-plus hp).
Is the Mustang Cobra a Good First Car?
Ford produced the Cobra from 1993 to 2004.
As far as first car options go, the Mustang SVT Cobra is a poor choice because of its powerful V8, poor fuel economy, and the absence of crash test scores, making it difficult to judge its safety credentials.
Plus, they are decades old now, so upkeep will be costly.
Ford Mustang Models Comparison
|Engine||Horsepower||Fuel Econ.||Fuel Type|
|Mustang EcoBoost||i4 Turbo||310 hp (’15-now)||24-26 mpg combined||Prem (rec.)|
|Mustang (base)||V6||300 hp (’15-’17) 305 hp (’11-’14) 210 hp (’05-‘10 190 hp (’02-’04) 193 hp (’01) 190 hp (’99-’00) 150 hp (’96-’98) 145 hp (’94-’95)||20-22 mpg combined||Regular (’94-’17)|
|Mustang GT||V8||460 hp (’18-now) 435 hp (’15-’17) 420 hp (’13-‘14 412 hp (’11-’12) 315 hp (’00- 300 hp (’05-’09) 260 hp (’99-’04) 225 hp(’98) 215 hp (’94-’97)||18-20 mpg combined||Prem (rec.) (’11-now) Regular (’94-’10)|
The regular Mustang is the more-popular model with its entry-level price and reasonably powerful V6.
Although its fuel economy is middling for pony cars, it still takes regular gas, making the decision to get one easier.
The newer EcoBoost with turbocharged four-cylinder powertrain is your go-to option if you want improved fuel consumption in your Mustang.
Note, however, that Ford recommends the higher-octane premium fuel for the EcoBoost.