Top 10 Best New and Used Cars for Your Teenage Driver

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Check out our top ten vehicles for teenage drivers based on price, safety, and fuel economy.

It’s happening, your teenager is getting a driver’s license. And you’re in search of the perfect car that will safely transport them to and from school, work, extracurricular activities, and social events. Since there are countless vehicles on the market, you might be overwhelmed and unsure of how to choose the right option.

We’ve done the heavy lifting for you and compiled a list of the best cars for teens. Whether you prefer a budget-friendly used vehicle or want top-of-the-line safety features of a new model, our roundup of the best cars for teens is sure to help.

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Factors To Consider 

While shopping for your teenager’s first car, there are some important factors to consider:

  • Price: Used cars often have the advantage when it comes to affordability. However, deciding to pay more for a new car with a high safety rating and advanced features could be worth the extra peace of mind. Still, you don’t want a vehicle that will break the bank.
  • Safety Features: Due to their minimal experience behind the wheel, young drivers are more likely to get into accidents than older drivers. That’s why it’s important to look for  a car that’s well-equipped with safety features like a comprehensive airbag system, backup camera, automatic emergency braking blind-spot detection, traction and stability control, forward collision warning, and rear-cross traffic alert.
  • Fuel Economy: Even when gas prices are low, the cost of fuel can add up quickly. Ideally, you’d find a vehicle that’s efficient on city and highway roads, especially if your teen will be driving often and you want them to save money at the pump.

Buying a New vs. Used Car for Teen Drivers

One of the greatest dilemmas you’ll likely face when you shop for a vehicle for your teen is whether to buy new or used. On the one hand, a new vehicle with the latest safety and tech features, a plethora of customization options, and comprehensive warranty coverage seems like the way to go.

On the other hand, however, you’d rather save some money and buy a used model with a slower depreciation rate and lower car insurance costs, even if it means your teen won’t have the most advanced features and there may be some hidden issues. As long as you consider your budget and priorities and weigh the pros and cons of each option, you’ll find it easier to make a decision.

Buying New

Pros

  • More advanced safety and tech features
  • Ability to customize the vehicle
  • Comprehensive warranty coverage
Cons

  • Higher cost
  • Fast depreciation
  • Expensive to insure

Buying Used

Pros

  • Lower cost
  • Slower depreciation
  • Less expensive to insure
Cons

  • Older safety and tech features
  • Limited customization options
  • Potential for hidden issues
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The Best Cars for Teenage Drivers in 2022

We considered a number of factors, such as price, safety features, performance, and fuel economy to compile our top ten picks for the best used and new cars for teen drivers.

black 2018 Honda Civic

1. 2018 Honda Civic

  • MPG:  Up to 28 city / 34 highway
  • Average MSRP:  $18,940
 Why It Stands Out: 
  •  Fuel-efficient 
  •  Choice of coupe or hatchback 
  •  Honda Sensing suite of advanced safety technologies 

For a spacious, fuel-efficient sedan for your teen, the 2018 Honda Civic, which is available as a coupe or hatchback, is the way to go. You’ll love its full suite of safety features, including adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, and automatic high beams. While the 2018 Civic isn’t necessarily the most stylish or fun to drive car out there, it’s safe and reliable.

white 2011 Toyota Camry

2. 2011 Toyota Camry

  • MPG: Up to 22 city / 32 highway
  • Average MSRP: $10,000
 Why It Stands Out: 
  •  Spacious interior 
  •  Quiet ride 
  •  Generous lineup of standard safety features 

The 2011 Toyota Camry is a comfortable midsize car with a base 169-horsepower four-cylinder engine and roomy interior. While standard features include a six-speaker audio system with auxiliary ports, some models take it up a notch with an eight-speaker audio system, navigation, and Bluetooth connectivity. Safety systems on this used car like a pre-collision warning system, adaptive cruise control, and lane departure warning with driver assistance are also included with every 2011 Camry.

grey 2018 Kia Soul

3. 2018 Kia Soul

  • MPG: Up to 26 city / 31 highway
  • Average MSRP:  $17,000
 Why It Stands Out: 
  •  Stylish exterior 
  •  Generous cargo space 
  •  Many standard and optional features 

If you’re looking for a stylish, practical alternative to an SUV, the 2018 Kia Soul should be on your radar. This small SUV comes in a unique cube shape that provides plenty of cabin and cargo space for your teen’s friends and gear. While many features come standard, there is no shortage of add-on features that can take it to the next level. The Soul’s impressive crash test score rating is an added bonus.

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red 2016 Mazda CX-5

4. 2016 Mazda CX-5

  • MPG:  Up to 26 city / 34 highway
  • Average MSRP: $20,279
 Why It Stands Out: 
  •  Top Safety Pick + award from the IIHS 
  •  Sporty look and feel 
  •  Spacious interior 

The 2016 Mazda CX-5 is a sporty compact SUV that has plenty of room for your teen and their friends. This crossover earned a Top Safety Pick+ award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) as well as high ratings of “Good” in all IIHS crash tests. The CX-5 is available with many high-tech comfort and safety features like LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert and lane departure warning.

grey 2017 VW Jetta

5. 2017 Volkswagen Jetta

  • MPG:  Up to 28 city / 40 highway
  • Starting MSRP: $18,715
 Why It Stands Out: 
  •  Plenty of cabin and trunk room 
  •  Three engine options 
  •  Long list of standard safety features 

Despite the fact the 2017 Volkswagen Jetta is considered a compact sedan, it offers a spacious cabin and ample trunk space your teen is sure to appreciate. Available in three engines, this car excels in the gas mileage department. All trim levels are well-furnished with a plethora of standard safety features like a rearview camera, traction and stability control, antilock disc brakes, and six airbags.

maroon 2013 Honda CR-V

6. 2013 Honda CR-V

  • MPG:  Up to 23 city / 30 highway
  • Starting MSRP: $23,500 
 Why It Stands Out: 
  •  Performs well in all weather conditions 
  •  Strong crash test ratings 
  •  Advanced technology comes standard 

With the 2013 Honda CR-V, you get a practical, compact SUV that can handle snow, ice, mud, and just about any other weather condition. Pair that with high crash test ratings and tech features like Bluetooth connectivity with music streaming, SMS text-messaging capability,  a Pandora Internet radio interface, a ​​multi-angle reversing camera and an Intelligent Multi-Information Display and your teen will have everything they need to safely cruise around in style.

red 2022 Chevy Trailblazer

7. 2022 Chevrolet Trailblazer

  • MPG: Up to 29 city / 33 highway
  • Starting MSRP: $22,795
 Why It Stands Out: 
  •  Unique exterior look 
  •  Latest tech and safety features 
  •  All-wheel drive available 

Stylish and functional, the 2022 Chevy Trailblazer is loaded with standard safety features like

automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection and lane-departure warning.  Your teen will also love the standard 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. If you live in an area with harsh winters, rest assured you can upgrade the all-wheel drive 2022 Trailblazer for about $2,000 more.

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grey 2021 Lexus IS

8. 2022 Lexus IS

  • MPG: Up to 21 city / 31 highway
  • Starting MSRP: $40,200
 Why It Stands Out: 
  •  IIHS Top Safety Pick 
  •  Smooth ride 
  •  Leading safety features 

If you don’t mind spending a bit more on something luxurious for your young driver, the 2022 Lexus IS could be a good fit. Not only has this SUV been rated an IIHS Top Safety Pick, it comes standard with cutting-edge safety features like vehicle-to-vehicle automated emergency braking, lane tracing assist, and road sign assist. Compared to other German vehicles, the 2022 will give you more bang for your buck. We can’t forget its smooth, comfortable ride and nimble handling.

blue 2022 Toyota Rav4

9. 2022 Toyota RAV4

  • MPG:   Up to 27 city / 35 highway
  • Starting MSRP: $26,975
 Why It Stands Out: 
  •  Variety of trims 
  •  Smooth ride 
  •  No shortage of standard safety features 

The Toyota RAV4 is the one of the best-selling vehicles on the market for good reason. If you’d like your teen to drive a compact SUV with a smooth ride and roomy interior, the 2022 RAV4 won’t disappoint. Our favorite RAV4 safety features include pre-collision with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, and blind-spot monitoring. Whether you choose the budget-friendly base model or highest trim, which is equipped with just every feature you can think of, your teen will be in for a real treat.

red 2022 Subaru Legacy

10. 2022 Subaru Legacy

  • MPG:  Up to 27 city / 35 highway
  • Starting MSRP: $23,495
 Why It Stands Out: 
  •  Standard all-wheel drive 
  •  IIHS Top Safety Pick 
  •  Spacious interior 

If you’d like your teen to drive a midsize sedan, the 2022 Subaru Legacy is worth exploring. It’s the only vehicle in its class to come with standard all-wheel drive and offers the unique EyeSight System, which includes lane departure intervention and emergency automatic braking for an imminent front crash. It has a five-star safety rating from the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.) And if that isn’t enough, the fact that the Legacy has been named a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS for ten years in a row should seal the deal.

The Best Car For Your Young Driver Is Out There

There are countless vehicles to consider for the new driver in your life. Do your own research and use our list above to find several that pique your interest. Then, shop around and compare. Once you’ve narrowed it down to two or three options, take your teenager to test drive a few models to choose the right fit.

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About The Author


Anna Baluch

Anna has written for Credit Karma, LendingTree, Experian, Freedom Debt Relief, among many other publications. She is passionate about helping people from all walks of life make good financial decisions. Anna lives in a suburb of sunny Cleveland, OH and enjoys working out, trying new restaurants, and volunteering.


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