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Best Cars for Teens Recommended by Consumer Reports

Best Cars for Teens Recommended by Consumer Reports

TEEN CAR CHOICES: IT’S ALL ABOUT SAFETY AND RELIABILITY

According to a recent collaboration between automotive analysts from Consumer Reports and experts from the Insurance Institute for Road Safety (IIHS), the most recent data shows that the number of fatal crashes per mile driven for teens is about four times higher than for drivers 20 years and older.

And while the numbers are largely attributed to many teens who don’t have the maturity and experience to drive safely, another factor is that not all vehicles are equally safe due to the lack of the latest safety features to prevent an accident… accident happen.

Teen Car Shopping Strategies

There are a number of strategies that parents use when it comes to providing a car to a teen with a driver’s license:

• Pass on the old family car because if something happens to it, it’s not so bad.
• Buy a cheap clunker for the same reason above.
• Lease a new vehicle for your teen.
• Buy a new car with the latest safety features.
• Buy a used car with at least some desired safety features.

The first three strategies mentioned are the least desirable for smart consumer choice. While older vehicles lose less value after an accident, they often don’t come with much more than seat belts and a safety feature for steering wheel airbags. Leased vehicles are a problem because renters face heavy fines for ANY dents or scratches on a leased vehicle.

The focus is therefore on the strategies for buying a new or used vehicle for a teenager, but with the caveat that not just any new or used vehicle will suffice. Rather, the focus on which car model possesses safety features and proven reliability to not only keep a teen safe, but also provide them with a car ownership experience that they will carry with them after they leave the nest and are alone.

In other words, start them off right with respect for their ride and how to properly operate and maintain a vehicle to make it last as long as possible. It’s one of those psychological things.

Recommended car models with safety features and reliability

To help parents find the right car model with safety features and reliability that qualify a used car as “a good” or a new car as “the best” choices, CR analysts with IIHS safety experts focused on the following criteria :

For a used car to qualify as “a good choice” CR analysts state that the vehicles must have:

• Above average reliability for the majority of the years mentioned, based on CR member surveys.
• Average or better scores on CR’s emergency treatment tests.
• Dry braking distances of less than 45 feet from 60 mph in CR’s braking tests.
• Good scores in four IIHS crashworthiness tests: moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints.
• Four or five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (if rated).
• Electronic stability control. ESC has significant crash prevention and life saving potential. It became standard on all passenger cars in 2012 and was standard on many models before that time. All vehicles have this important feature as standard equipment for the years mentioned.

To qualify a new car as “the BEST choice” for new cars, CR analysts state that the vehicles must have:

• Good scores in four IIHS crashworthiness tests: moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints.
• Standard front collision warning systems and automatic emergency braking systems.
• Average or better scores on CR’s emergency treatment tests.
• A rating of Good or Better by CR for controls that are easy to use.
• Four or five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (if rated).
• Dry braking distances of less than 140 feet from 60 mph in CR’s braking tests.
• Curb weight in excess of 2,750 pounds because small, light vehicles do not provide adequate protection in a multi-vehicle collision. Despite their mass, many large SUVs do not make the list, as they can be difficult to handle and often have long braking distances. Sports cars are also excluded because they can encourage dangerous driving.
• An indication like either a Top safety choice or Top Safety Choice Plus by the IIHS based on the model’s performance in key crash, accident avoidance and headlamp tests.
• A Consumer Reports recommendation, meaning it meets our rigorous standards for reliability, safety and road test performance, including meeting certain braking and handling thresholds.

THE BEST NEW AND USED CARS FOR TEEN DRIVERS LISTED

That said about safety and making informed smart buying decisions, here’s a roundup of the makes and models recommended by Consumer Reports starting with Best new cars followed by the Best used cars and then the Good used cars categories of recommended cars for teenage drivers with current expected prices and added reliability rating information:

BEST NEW CAR CHOICES FOR TEENAGER DRIVERS

New small car
• Mazda 3 / $21,200 / Reliability Rating: 3/5
• Honda Insight / $26,100 / Reliability Rating: 5/5

New mid-sized cars
• Subaru Legacy / $23,800 / Reliability Rating: 4/5
• Kia K5 / $24,700 / Reliability Rating: 3/5
• Lexus IS / $38,900 / Reliability Rating: 3/5

New small SUVs
• Chevrolet Trailblazer / $21,900 / Reliability Rating: 5/5
• Mazda CX-30 / $23,200 / Reliability Rating: 4/5
• Hyundai Tucson / $25,800 / Reliability Rating: 5/5
• Mazda CX-5 / $26,800 / Reliability Rating: 4/5
• Ford Bronco Sport / $28,200 / Reliability Rating: 5/5
• Buick Encore GX (Essence trim) / $28,800 / Reliability rating: 4/5
• Toyota RAV4 (XLE, XLE Premium, Adventure, Limited or TRD versions) / $30,300 / Reliability rating: 3/5
• Honda CR-V (Hybrid EX, Hybrid EX-L, Touring or Hybrid Touring finish) / $32,300 / Reliability rating: 4/5
• Lexus UX (with Triple Beam LED Auto Leveling Headlights) / $35.00 / Reliability Rating: 3/5

New mid-sized SUVs
• Subaru Outback / $27,500 / Reliability Rating: 3/5
• Hyundai Santa Fe (built after July 2021) / $27,800 / Reliability rating: 2/5
• Hyundai Palisade / $34,300 / Reliability Rating: 4/5
• Nissan Murano / $35,000 / Reliability Rating: 4/5
• Mazda CX-9 / $35,700 / Reliability Rating: 5/5
• Toyota Highlander / $37,100 / Reliability Rating: 5/5

New minibus
• Honda Odyssey / $33,300 / Reliability Rating: 3/5

BEST USED CAR CHOICES FOR TEENAGERS

(Note: reliability ratings are more accurate per search per year)

Used small cars
• Ford C-Max Hybrid (2014-2015) / $8,400
• Mazda 3 sedan or hatchback (2014 or newer) / $8700
• Chevrolet Volt (2014) / $10,500
• Subaru Impreza sedan or wagon (2015, 2018-2020) / $11,000
• Toyota Corolla hatchback (2019 or newer) / $18,700
• Honda Insight (2019 or newer) / $19,800
• Subaru Crosstrek (2018 or newer) / $19,900

Used Medium Cars
• Subaru Legacy (2013 or newer; built after August 2012) / $8,300
• Subaru Outback (2013 or newer; built after August 2012) / $8,800
• Volkswagen Passat (2015, 2017) / $10,400
• Mazda 6 (2014-19) / $10,800
• Toyota Prius V (2015-17) / $12,400
• Lincoln MKZ (2015 or newer) / $13.200
• Volvo S60 (2018) / $19,100
• Audi A6 (2016-19) / $19,400

Used big cars
• Toyota Avalon (2015 or newer) / $15,700
• Hyundai Genesis (2016) / $18,100

Used Small SUVs
• Mazda CX-5 (2014 or newer; built after October 2013) / $10,200
• Honda CR-V (2015 or newer) / $14,900
• Chevrolet Equinox (2017) / $15,600
• GMC Terrain (2017) / $16,000
• Hyundai Kona (2018, 2021) / $18,100
• Mazda CX-3 (2019) / $19,200
• Volvo XC60 (2017) / $19,400

Used Midsize SUVs
• Ford Edge (2015, 2020; built after May 2015) / $12,900
• Nissan Murano (2015 or newer) / $14,700
• Lexus NX (2015 or newer) / $16,700
• Hyundai Santa Fe (2017-19, built after March 2016) / $17,800
• Toyota Highlander (2014 or newer) / $17,800

Used minibuses
• Toyota Sienna (2015-18) / $14,700
• Kia Sedona (2017) / $15,200
• Honda Odyssey (2017, 2020 or newer) / $17,100

GOOD USED CAR CHOICES FOR TEENAGERS

(Note reliability ratings for more accurate search by year)

Used small cars
• Mazda 3 sedan or hatchback (2011-13; built after December 2010) / $6000
• Honda Civic sedan (2012-15, 2019 or newer) / $7,100
• Toyota Prius (2011 or newer) / $8100
• Chevrolet Volt (2013) / $8,800
• Toyota Corolla sedan (2014 or newer) / $10,900
• Lexus CT200h (2012-13) / $11,100

Used Medium Cars
• Toyota Prius V (2012-14) / $8,500
• Toyota Camry (2012 or newer) / $9,400
• Honda Accord sedan (2012 or newer) or coupe (2013 or newer) / $9,900
• Volkswagen Jetta (2016) $10,900
• Ford Fusion (2015, 2018) / $12,200
• BMW 3 Series Saloon (2016) / $14,500
• Nissan Altima (2017, 2020) / $14,700

Used big cars
• Ford Taurus (2011) / $6,300
• Hyundai Genesis (2011) / $6,900
• Toyota Avalon (2011-14) / $9,400

Used Small SUVs
• Nissan Rogue (2014-20) / $11,000

And finally…

Visit the CR website for a more detailed breakdown of the data. Keep in mind that while access to some information requires a CR membership, the potential savings make it negligible in comparison when looking for the latest information to facilitate your car purchase research.

For additional articles on buying new or used cars, here are some selected articles for your consideration:

• Beat dealers at their own game with this car contract loophole

• Consumer Reports recommends this key negotiating point to focus on when buying a new car

• Red Flag used car dealers don’t want buyers to know about

NEXT ONE: 10 Best SUVs and Minivans for Fuel Economy on Long Road Trips

Timothy Boyer is a car reporter for Torque News, based in Cincinnati. He has experience with early car restorations and regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for better performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites for daily news about new and used vehicles.

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