Buying a car for a teen driver is a big decision. At the end of the day you want to feel confident about the car your kid is buzzing around in. That means while car shopping, the safety features, crash test scores, and reliability should come before the car’s cool factor. It may seem like white noise, but safety ratings and features are incredibly important.
According to the CDC, every day six teens aged 16 to 19 die from motor vehicle injuries, and drivers aged 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely to be in a fatal car crash than drivers aged 20 and older. The bottom line: you want a car with outstanding safety features that can make up for what your inexperienced driver lacks.
Knowing that safety and reliability are the must-haves, every vehicle on this list has continuously received high safety ratings and good reviews. Practical price range was factored in next. For most of us, buying a brand new car for a brand new driver doesn’t really make sense. Buying used will definitely save you some cash and because safety features have come a long, long way, there’s a lot of used car options to choose from that you can feel confident putting your teen in.
In no particular order, here are the top ten used cars for teen drivers in 2020.
1. Honda Accord – 2013 and newer
Full disclosure: this was actually my first car ever (and no that isn’t why it’s at the top of the list). My sister and I “shared” the car, which really means the first time I ever got to drive it was when she went off to college. When she bought her own car, guess what she bought? Yep — a Honda Accord.
Honda Accord has been considered the gold standard for mid-size sedans for years and for good reason. They can seemingly run forever with little problems and are extremely reliable commuting cars. 2016 models and newer come with an awesome standard safety package that includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and lane and road departure intervention. The Accord also is an IIHS Top Safety Pick and has been for over 30 years. Its moderate price point doesn’t hurt either.
2. Toyota Prius – 2016 and newer
Looking for a good car that can be both the commuter car and your kid’s escape car? Consider a Toyota Prius. In addition to amazing fuel economy (like 50+ MPG amazing), it has near perfect safety scores from IIHS and a five-star rating from NHTSA. You can equip the car with Toyota Safety Sense which includes lane departure alert, a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, automatic high beams, blind spot monitors, rear cross traffic-alert, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
Another selling point is the impressive cargo space. With 27.1 cubic feet behind the back seat and 65.5 cubic feet with rear seats folded there’s more than enough room to haul gear, sports equipment and even that science project your kid spent the entire night putting together.
3. Toyota Camry – 2016 or newer
Toyotas are notoriously reliable vehicles (hence two different models making the list) and the practicality and price point of the Toyota Camry is hard to beat. Though the Camry is a midsize car, it’s very spacious inside and has user-friendly technology that won’t take your teen’s eyes off the road.
Awarded a Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS, the Camry has a standard rearview camera and has a host of other safety features available like blind spot monitoring, forward collision warnings, automatic emergency braking and rear cross-traffic warnings. If you are looking for a no-frills reliable car and won’t break the bank, the Toyota Camry is it.
4. Buick LaCrosse – 2016 or newer
Some people steer towards smaller, compact cars for their teens. The Buick LaCrosse can change those minds. With excellent scores in safety and reliability, the LaCrosse has been deemed the best large cars for teen drivers. It was awarded a five-star overall safety rating by NHTSA and IIHS gave it the highest possible rating in all the crash tests.
Go beyond the LaCrosse’s impressive safety features with “Teen Driver” mode. Teen Driver is enabled as soon as your teen enters the vehicle with their personal key fob, which implements all the features that you choose like maximum speed limit, configurable audio volume limit, and more. Basically, those eyes on the back of your head are in the car now.
5. Mazda CX-5 – 2013 or newer
The Mazda CX-5 is one of the best crossovers in terms of safety and budget. It’s a sporty compact SUV and has excellent handling, so your teen can get that “Zoom Zoom” feeling while you can rest assured knowing the car stands out for being safe. Plus, the interior is quiet and comfortable for a steady ride leaving your teen feeling confident and in control.
The CX-5 has earned a coveted Top Safety Pick+ designation from IIHS and a perfect crash test rating from NHTSA. Like all cars, the newer the model, the more safety features available. In the newest models, forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection are standard.
6. Subaru Forester – 2014 or newer
Subarus are super popular in areas of the country that get a variety of weather. The Forester is a practical car that comes standard with all-wheel drive, a rarity for a compact SUV. The roomy crossover earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating and received near perfect scores in NHTSA crash testing.
Subaru Forester is a great compact SUV for those who value practicality over style and are especially popular for hauling around gear and precious cargo.
7. Toyota RAV4 – 2015 or newer
Toyota RAV4 is an excellent compact crossover. It’s earned a Top Safety Pick from IIHS and is known for being reliable and stylish. It has been popular with younger drivers since its inception and the car’s excellent handling and safety features bring peace of mind to parents. The optional all-wheel drive is fantastic for driving in varying weather conditions or heavy winters.
If you are looking to give your new driver a sense of confidence with the size and handling of a smaller SUV, be sure to consider the Toyota RAV4.
8. Hyundai Tucson – 2015 or newer
The Hyundai Tucson is a top-notch small SUV with the best safety features available. Forward collision warning, automatic braking, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and parking sensors are available to the 2016 and newer models. The 2015 model still has some assistance, like lane departure warning and rear-cross traffic alert.
The Tucson also earned the highest score in every crash test and was named a Top Safety Pick+ by IIHS. Known for being super reliable and a great price point, The Hyundai Tucson is a must-consider for compact SUVs.
9. Chevrolet Equinox – 2015 or newer
While the Chevy Equinox is a compact SUV, it feels like a full-size on the inside. The “multi-flex” second row can be stowed to open up the Equinox, making it an amazing choice for active teens. The newer models also have optional Teen Driver mode, which allows parents to coach their new driver by setting speed alerts, volume limits, tailgate warnings and more. The system has an in-vehicle report card, aimed to help new drivers improve performance over time.
Chevy Equinox is your go-to for lots of room, excellent handling and good gas mileage at an average price point.
10. Hyundai Santa Fe – 2014 or newer
In addition to being safe, the Hyundai Santa Fe is sleek and sporty. It’s earned Top Safety Pick+ rating from IIHS and has safety features available including rear-cross traffic alert, blind spot detection and a safe exit assist system that makes it safer to exit the vehicle.
The Santa Fe has an upscale interior and lots of features, and the newer the model the better they get. The Sport model is a solid option for those that need two rows of seating. Alternatively the 3-row Santa Fe is one of the least expensive of its kind, but the third seat isn’t very roomy and significantly limits cargo space. Overall, it’s a good option for teens on the go.
When it comes to buying your teen’s first car, you want to take your time and not rush into a decision. With FlipRide, you can spend your energy finding the perfect car for your family. Once you’re ready to buy, things are easy with simple payment and document transfers.
Having a new driver on the road is enough to worry about. Make ownership simple and painless with a little help from FlipRide.