The Best Cars for Your Teenager

The opportunity to drive for the first time is one of the most exciting milestones of a teenager’s life. Being able to drive represents freedom, independence and the first step to adulthood, so that first car is a big deal. Your teen, of course, would love to have the most expensive, cool-looking, sporty new car on the market, but you have to be the voice of reason. Right?

Sinking a ton of money into a brand-new car for your child is not recommended for many reasons. One, teenage drivers get into accidents at the highest rate, meaning not only can you expect to pay insanely high insurance premiums on a new car for a teen, but there’s a better-than-average chance that the car won’t survive (while in pristine condition) long enough to justify the expense. Two, the cost of your teen’s car is probably coming out of the family budget, which is often already strained by things like the cost of the car or cars you already have.

Finally, there are plenty of dependable, very reliable used cars on the market to choose from that can be a great value. But how do you know which ones they are? What are the best cars for teens when looking for used cars?

What Is the Safest Used Car for Teenage Drivers?

If you’re like most parents, your No. 1 priority when it comes to finding your teen a used car is safety. A cool-looking car will surely make your teen happy, but you need to know they’re in a car that gives them the best chance of coming through an accident relatively unscathed, or better yet, avoiding one altogether.

For this reason, you probably shouldn’t be looking for an SUV or a pickup nor a sporty compact — the former, because a large vehicle may prove to be too much car to control for your teen, and the latter because smaller cars provide much less protection in a crash. If safety is a priority, you should be looking at a midsize or large sedan. If your child must have an SUV, a crossover or other smaller SUV is preferable.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the safest cars include the 2011 or later Volvo S60, the 2013 or later Volkswagen Passat and the 2013 Ford Fusion. The most affordable of these is usually the Passat. If you’re going to go for a larger car, the 2007 Volvo S80 is an extremely affordable and safe full-sized sedan, while the 2013 and newer Ford Taurus or the 2015 and later Chevy Impala is also a good, safe option.

If your teen must have an SUV or a pickup, safer options are the 2014 and newer Mazda CX-5, the 2014 and later Nissan Rogue, the 2016 and later Fiat 500X, the 2005 and up Volvo XC90 and the 2016 and newer Toyota Tacoma Access Cab.

If possible, look for a used car that is 2012 or later. These cars are more likely to have modern safety features standard, particularly electronic stability control (ESC), which is a requirement for models that are 2012 or later. Other important safety features are forward-collision warning (FCW) and automatic emergency braking (AEB).

What Are the Best Used Cars for New Drivers When it Comes to Reliability?

Reliability is crucial to you when you are looking for a first used car for your teen because you are buying a car that will already have a few miles on it, so you want a car that’s built to last. Ideally, this car will last your teen at least through their college years, so reliability is a key factor. You don’t want to go to the effort of finding a great price on a used car only to have that car die on you before you have the chance to celebrate your superior deal-finding skills.

It’s hard to know what has happened with a used car before it comes to you, but there are certain makes of cars that tend to be more reliable. If possible, you should also try to buy a used car that is no more than five years old. Not only do these cars tend to have more standard safety features, but they tend to be more likely to last longer as well.

Many car companies are famous for reliability, including Volvo and Volkswagen, but it’s tough to go wrong with a Japanese car when it comes to reliability. Car manufacturers like Honda, Mazda, Toyota and Subaru are known for making some of the most long-lasting and reliable vehicles on the market.

If you have your heart set on an American car as your teen’s first used car, a great choice is the Ford Fusion. This vehicle, particularly the 2013 and up, gets extremely high marks for reliability and is a great first car for a teen, as it also has powerful safety features and is usually relatively affordable.

Among those Japanese cars, some of the most reliable are the Honda Civic and Honda Accord, the Toyota Camry and the Subaru Forrester, the Subaru Impreza and the Subaru Legacy.

What Are the Most Affordable Teenagers’ First Cars?

Once you have safety and reliability down, your next goal is to save as much money as possible. That’s why you’re buying a used car in the first place, right? Keeping in mind that you are staying away from the smallest and largest cars for safety reasons and the sportiest cars for insurance cost reasons, some of the best used cars you can find for under $20,000 according to Consumer Reports include:

  • 2009-2014 Acura TL and Acura TSX (Except the 2013 Acura TL)
  • 2009-2016 Honda Accord
  • 2009-2015 Honda CR-V
  • 2009-2013 Infiniti G
  • 2011-2015 Lexus CT 200h
  • 2009-2013 Lexus ES
  • 2009-2010 Lexus LS
  • 2009-2012 Lexus RX
  • 2009-2017 Mazda6 (Except 2013)
  • 20013-2017 Mazda CX-5
  • 2009-2015 Toyota Avalon
  • 2009-2017 Toyota Camry
  • 2010-2011 Toyota 4Runner
  • 2012-2015 Toyota Prius V
  • 2009-2015 Toyota Venza
  • 2009-2013 Toyota Highlander
  • 2009-2016 Toyota Rav4
  • 2010 Toyota Sequoia

When talking about used cars, proper protection matters to keep the car running as well as possible. We know, because we talk to customers all the time about new drivers and used cars, especially problems that crop up with some used cars. To that end, for information on finding the best oil and coolant supplements to extend the life and improve the performance of your teen’s car, contact Hy-per Lube today.