What Are the Best Cars for Teens?

Few worries keep parents up at night like the thought of their teen driver behind the wheel unsupervised. Inexperience, coupled with distractions from friends and phones, pose a greater risk for young adults. To address these concerns, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Consumer Reports partnered to update a list of the safest vehicles for teen drivers. Both new and used vehicles are included in an effort to provide more reliable, safe transportation for teens — and more peace of mind for their parents. 

Related: Here’s Every Car That Earned an IIHS Top Safety Award for 2021

Safety and Reliability Qualifications

The list splits into three categories: best used choices, good used choices and new vehicles. The winners were determined based on safety, affordability and reliability. 

Used — Good Choices

All used vehicles listed under the Good Choices category have earned good ratings in IIHS moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. If rated by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, they earn four or five stars overall, or four or five stars in the front and side impact tests under the previous rating system. For additional protection, Consumer Reports and IIHS also stipulated standard electronic stability systems and a curb weight of more than 2,750 pounds. 

Used — Best Choices

Used vehicles listed under Best Choices add good or acceptable ratings in the driver-side small overlap frontal test from IIHS, which has been around since 2012. This list also excludes vehicles with insurance claims that have substantially above-average frequency for coverage involving medical or personal-injury protection.

All used vehicles listed must have above-average reliability scores from Consumer Reports for most model years listed, as well as emergency handling scores of three out of five or higher. Each vehicle also has a dry braking distance from 60 mph to zero of 145 feet or less in the agency’s braking tests. 

New Vehicles 

The list of new vehicles is limited to models that have an IIHS Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick Plus award, average or better reliability ratings from Consumer Reports, and a dry braking distance from 60 mph to zero of less than 140 feet. All models listed have also earned a good or better rating for ease of use on interior controls. 

Vehicle Segments and Price Qualifications

The IIHS and Consumer Reports list of safest vehicles for teens has six segments: small cars, mid-size cars, large cars, small SUVs, mid-size SUVs and minivans. Used vehicles start under $20,000 based on average Kelley Blue Book values rounded to the nearest $100. New-car prices reflect the least expensive trim level that qualifies, including an optional package if it’s needed to meet the standards. 

Safest Used Cars for Teens — Best Choices

Small Cars 

  • Mazda3 (2014 or newer; built after October 2013), $8,100
  • Toyota Prius (2014 or newer; built after November 2013), $8,600
  • Hyundai Elantra GT (2018 or newer), $15,200
  • Subaru Crosstrek (2017 or newer), $17,900
  • Honda Insight (2019 or newer), $18,200
  • Toyota Prius Prime (2017 or newer), $18,200
  • Toyota Corolla Hatchback (2019 or newer), $18,300
  • Kia Niro (2019), $18,600
  • Subaru Impreza (2019), $19,400

Mid-Size Cars

  • Subaru Outback (2013 or newer; built after August 2012), $8,700
  • Subaru Legacy (2013 or newer; built after August 2012), $8,800
  • Mazda6 (2014 or newer), $10,100
  • Lincoln MKZ (2013, 2016, 2018 or newer), $10,300 
  • Honda Accord sedan or coupe (2013 or newer), $10,900
  • Volkswagen Passat (2016-17), $11,400
  • Toyota Prius v (2015-18), $11,600
  • Volkswagen Jetta (2017), $12,900
  • Volvo S60 (2016, 2018), $14,100
  • BMW 3 Series (2017 or newer; built after November 2016; four-cylinder only), $17,900

Large Cars

  • Ford Taurus (2014), $9,600
  • Hyundai Genesis (2016), $18,700

Small SUVs

  • Mazda CX-5 (2014 or newer; built after October 2013), $9,300
  • Nissan Rogue (2014, 2016-18, 2020) $10,100
  • Subaru Forester (2016 or newer), $13,500
  • Honda CR-V (2015 or newer), $14,800
  • Kia Sportage (2017, 2018, 2020), $14,800 
  • Toyota RAV4 (2015 or newer; built after November 2014), $14,900
  • Honda HR-V (2017 or newer; built after March 2016) $15,400
  • Hyundai Kona (2018 or newer), $15,800
  • Buick Encore (2018-19), $16,300
  • Hyundai Tucson (2018 or newer), $16,800
  • Mazda CX-3 (2019 or newer), $17,800
  • Volvo XC60 (2017), $19,200

Mid-Size SUVs

  • Chevrolet Equinox (2017, 2019), $13,700
  • Nissan Murano (2015 or newer), $14,800
  • GMC Terrain (2017, 2019), $15,100 
  • Lexus NX (2015-16, 2018 or newer), $16,000
  • Kia Sorento (2017-18), $16,500
  • Hyundai Santa Fe (2017-19; built after March 2016), $18,700
  • Ford Edge (2018 or newer), $19,600
  • Mazda CX-9 (2017 or newer; built after November 2016), $19,600
  • Audi Q5 (2016-19), $19,800

Minivans

  • Toyota Sienna (2015-16), $13,900
  • Honda Odyssey (2016), $15,400
  • Kia Sedona (2017), $15,600

Safest Used Cars for Teens — Good Choices

Small Cars

  • Mazda3 sedan or hatchback (2012-13), $6,400
  • Toyota Prius (2011-13), $6,700
  • Honda Civic sedan (2012-15), $6,900
  • Toyota Corolla sedan (2014 or newer), $10,300

Mid-Size Cars

  • Toyota Prius v (2012-14), $8,300
  • Toyota Camry (2012 or newer), $9,000
  • Honda Accord sedan (2012), $9,300

Large Car

  • Ford Taurus (2011), $6,700

Small SUVs

  • Hyundai Tucson (2012), $7,100
  • Toyota RAV4 (2013-14), $12,164

Mid-Size SUVs

  • Toyota Venza (2009-15), $8,000
  • Toyota Highlander (2008 or newer), $8,200
  • Acura RDX (2013-16), $13,661
  • Ford Edge (2014-15), $11,104
  • Lexus RX (2010 or newer), $11,092

Minivan

  • Toyota Sienna (2011-14), $8,300

Safest New Cars for Teens

Small Cars

  • Mazda3 sedan or hatchback, $19,900
  • Honda Insight, $21,900
  • Toyota Corolla sedan (XLE/XSE with Advanced Lighting) or hatchback (XSE with Preferred Package), $23,600
  • Honda Civic (Touring), $27,700

Mid-Size Cars

  • Subaru Legacy, $22,300
  • Kia K5 (built after November 2020), $23,400
  • Mazda6, $23,600
  • Nissan Altima, $23,600
  • Toyota Camry, $23,800
  • Honda Accord, $25,700
  • Subaru Outback, $26,100
  • Hyundai Sonata (Limited or Hybrid Limited), $32,900

Small SUVs

  • Mazda CX-3, $20,800
  • Mazda CX-30 (built after September 2020), $21,700
  • Subaru Forester, $24,200
  • Mazda CX-5, $25,200
  • Chevrolet Equinox (LT), $27,300
  • Hyundai Tucson (Ultimate, Sport or Limited), $27,700
  • Honda CR-V (Touring, Hybrid Touring, Hybrid LX, Hybrid EX or Hybrid EX-L), $30,300
  • Lexus UX (with triple-beam LED headlights), $33,500
  • Kia Sportage (SX Turbo trim), $34,600
  • Toyota RAV4 (Hybrid Limited with adaptive front headlights), $36,900

Mid-Size SUVs

  • Mazda CX-9, $32,600
  • Hyundai Palisade, $32,700
  • Nissan Murano, $33,100
  • Toyota Highlander, $34,700
  • Hyundai Santa Fe (Limited or Calligraphy trim), $38,000
  • Kia Sorento (SX or SX Prestige trim), $39,500

Minivan

  • Honda Odyssey, $31,500

Related Video: Best Cars for First-Time Drivers

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