Buying a car is never easy – unless you have unlimited money and can buy a model you want without thinking twice (or go for pairs of any unit you like, as Floyd Mayweather does). But getting teenagers their first car is even more demanding. There are more than a few factors to consider before making a decision, and safety is key.
Inexperienced and immature drivers can find themselves in all sorts of risky situations, and no matter how much advice you give, a safe and stable vehicle will help them the most. A reliable vehicle of choice can help teens gain experience on the road and stay safe in situations that would otherwise be dangerous. But how do you know which rides tick all these boxes?
Insurance Institute for Road Safety (IIHS) and Consumer Reports (CR) recently published a list of the safest vehicles for young drivers. These two entities have joined forces to make parents’ lives easier and increase road safety.
We researched the joint report of IIHS and CR and made a list that you can easily follow for buying a used car for a teenager.
Best Small Cars to Buy for Young Drivers
The IIHS and CR made their top picks according to several categories. First, all of the vehicles we showcase have solid ratings for overlapping front, original side, roof strength and headrest tests. They also have 4 or 5 stars from NHTSA in front and side testing and bring in electronic stability control. Curb weight greater than 2,750 pounds is also checked.
For its part, CR has tested vehicles for handling and braking, so these two sides have pretty much covered all safety considerations. All you need to do is choose a model and find it in the used car market.
Now among the recommended small cars are the Ford C-Max Hybrid (2014-2015), the Mazda 3 (2014 or later), the Chevrolet Volt (2014), the Subaru Impreza (2015, 2018-2020), the Toyota Corolla ( 2019 or later), the Honda Insight (2019 and up), and the Subaru Crosstrek (2018 and up). The first on the list is the most affordable option and the latter is the most expensive.
The Ford C-Max is an excellent budget option for teenagers because it is fun to drive and has decent fuel economy. But the Subaru Crosstrek is a more modern unit with many technical features and a more robust appearance. The others on the list are no less worthy of your attention, as they are in every way a middle ground between these two options.
These are the best mid-sized cars for teens
What about mid-sized cars, you may ask? Indeed, not all teens would prefer short rides. The report also took that into account and suggested the following: the Subaru Legacy (2013 and up) and Outback (2013 and up), the Volkswagen Passat (2015, 2017), the Mazda 6 (2014-2019), the Toyota Prius V (2015-2017), the Lincoln MKZ (2015 and up), the Volvo S60 (2018) and the Audi A6 (2016-2019).
Like the recommended small cars, the first and last model listed are the least and most expensive.
What if you want to buy a big car or an SUV for a teenager?
The IIHS and CR keep things simple in the large car segment. The two recommended models are the Toyota Avalon (2015 and up) and the Hyundai Genesis (2016). The latter is a relatively affordable luxury sedan that comes with all the modern tech features and offers solid comfort and handling, and we’d recommend it too.
Now, considering how popular SUVs are today, this list wouldn’t be complete without proper used SUV recommendations. The aforementioned report suggests that the best small SUVs to buy are the Mazda CX-5 (2014 and up), the Honda CR-V (2015 and up), the Hyundai Kona (2018, 2021), the Mazda CX-3 (2019 ), and the Volvo XC60 (2017).
If you still want to take a big drive, the mid-sized SUVs to choose from are the Ford Edge (2015, 2020), the Nissan Murano (2015 and up), Chevrolet Equinox (2017), the GMC Terrain (2017), the Lexus NX (2015 and up), the Hyundai Santa Fe (2017-2019), and the Toyota Highlander (2014 and up).
In short, you have choices. Whether you want to buy a small or large vehicle for a teenager, you have plenty of options that tick safety, reliability and many other boxes. In addition, all these vehicles have more or less affordable prices as they are offered in a used car market, so you will not break the bank in providing a young driver with a safe car.