What Are the Best Cars for Teens to Drive?

Insurify dives deep into crash-test ratings and car safety features for a teen’s first car.

Amy Beardsley
Written byAmy Beardsley
Photo of an Insurify author
Amy BeardsleyInsurance Writer
  • 3+ years writing about auto, home, and life insurance

  • 7+ years in personal finance and technology

Amy specializes in insurance and technology writing and has a talent for transforming complex topics into easy-to-understand stories.

Featured in

media logomedia logo
Courtney Mikulski
Courtney MikulskiSenior Editor, Auto
  • 3+ years producing insurance and personal finance content

  • Main architect of the Insurify Quality Score

Courtney’s deep personal finance knowledge extends beyond insurance to credit cards, consumer lending, and banking. She thrives on creating actionable content.

Featured in

media logomedia logo

Updated May 23, 2024

Why you can trust Insurify: Comparing accurate insurance quotes should never put you at risk of spam. We earn an agent commission only if you buy a policy based on our quotes. Our editorial team follows a rigorous set of editorial standards and operates independently from our insurance partners. Learn more.

Getting a license and car can be pivotal milestones in a teen’s life, but the experience can be daunting for parents. Teenagers are three times more likely to get into accidents than drivers 20 and older, making it essential to choose a car that’s not only affordable but also safe.[1]

Insurify did the homework to compile a list of the safest, most reliable, and most affordable cars to keep your teen safe on the road.

What are the best cars for teen drivers?

Safety is a top priority when choosing the best car for teen drivers. Ideally, a vehicle should have a high crash-test rating.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conduct crash tests to evaluate a vehicle’s safety performance in various scenarios. The NHTSA uses a five-star rating system, while the IIHS assigns grades of good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Cheapest recent rates

Drivers using Insurify have found quotes as cheap as $35/mo for liability only and $45/mo for full coverage.

*Quotes generated for Insurify users within the last 10 days. Last updated on May 23, 2024

Rates shown are real-time Insurify user quotes from 100+ insurance companies and Quadrant Information Services data. Insurify’s algorithm excludes anomalous quotes and anonymizes personal details, then displays refined quotes by price, date, and insurer popularity up to 10 days ago from May 23, 2024. Actual quotes may vary based on the policy buyer’s unique driver profile.

*Quotes generated for Insurify users within the last 10 days. Last updated on May 23, 2024

Rates shown are real-time Insurify user quotes from 100+ insurance companies and Quadrant Information Services data. Insurify’s algorithm excludes anomalous quotes and anonymizes personal details, then displays refined quotes by price, date, and insurer popularity up to 10 days ago from May 23, 2024. Actual quotes may vary based on the policy buyer’s unique driver profile.

Best small cars for teens

Small cars can be a good option for families on a budget, as they typically offer good fuel efficiency and lower maintenance costs.[2] Although they don’t provide as much crash protection as larger vehicles, many earn high safety ratings from the IIHS.[3]

Acura Integra

Starting price: $31,300

Safety rating: Good

The 2023 Acura Integra is the 2023 Top Safety Pick+ and scores well in front and side crash tests, according to IIHS.[4] Teen drivers can benefit from the AcuraWatch Advanced Safety and Driver Assist features, including a rear camera, blind-spot detection, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. The Integra also has Bluetooth streaming audio and wireless charging.

Honda Civic Sedan

Starting price: $22,050

Safety rating: Good

The 2022 Honda Civic Sedan was an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ in 2022.[5] Its safety features beneficial for teen drivers include adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and a rearview camera. This model also has a Bose premium sound system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.

Mazda3 Hatchback

Starting price: $23,550

Safety rating: Good

Earning a spot as a 2023 IIHS Top Safety Pick, the 2023 Mazda3 Hatchback has blind-spot monitoring and i-ACTIVSENSE technology to improve visibility, monitor traffic conditions, alert you to hazards, and help you avoid collisions.[4] It also has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, making it popular among young drivers.

Mazda3 Sedan

Starting price: $22,550

Safety rating: Good

The 2023 Mazda3 Sedan has i-ACTIVSENSE safety features, including Traffic Jam Assist, front and rear parking sensors, 360-degree monitors, and smart brake support. Teens will enjoy the Bose sound system, heated front seats, moonroof, and cup holders for their passengers.

Honda Civic Hatchback

Starting price: $25,850

Safety rating: Good

Another top safety pick for teens is the 2022 Honda Civic Hatchback.[4] The IIHS scored it highly for safety in driver head and neck injuries and rear passenger head protection. The car features a blind-spot information system, cross-traffic monitoring, and a wide-angle rearview camera for better visibility when in reverse.

Best midsize cars for teens

While smaller cars are generally cheaper, making them a good choice for inexperienced teen drivers, midsize vehicles can be a better option because they offer a balance between safety, fuel efficiency, and affordability.

Subaru Outback

Starting price: $28,395

Safety rating: Good

The IIHS has given the 2023 Subaru Outback its Top Safety Pick+ award, given its standard all-wheel drive and advanced safety features, like brake assist and EyeSight Driver Assist Technology.[6] It also has Subaru STARLINK for connectivity and plenty of cargo space for carrying sports equipment, musical instruments, and other large items.

Toyota Camry

Starting price: $26,220

Safety rating: Good

Another IIHS Top Safety Pick+ midsize car is the Toyota Camry.[6] The 2023 model year earns good ratings for front and side crash tests and vehicle-to-pedestrian crash prevention. If you’re on a budget, look at the 2021 Toyota Camry — Kelley Blue Book ranked it best for resale value.

Subaru Legacy

Starting price: $24,395

Safety rating: Good

The Subaru Legacy won a 2023 Top Safety Pick from IIHS and is a safe, reliable, and spacious option for your teenage driver.[6] With all-wheel drive and advanced driver assistance systems, the car will help your teen be well-equipped to avoid accidents. Plus, Subaru STARLINK makes connecting multimedia through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto a breeze.

Hyundai Sonata

Starting price: $25,250

Safety rating: Good

Another 2023 IIHS Top Safety Pick is the 2023 Hyundai Sonata.[6] Features like automatic emergency braking and Highway Driving Assist let you rest easy knowing your teen driver is in good hands. The fuel-efficient engine and comfortable ride make the Sonata perfect for long road trips for college visits.

Honda Accord

Starting price: $27,295

Safety rating: Good

The IIHS rated the 2023 Honda Accord as “good,” but an updated side crash test earned an “acceptable” rating.[6] The sedan also got a marginal rating for headlights, indicating poor visibility or excessive glare from oncoming drivers. However, the hybrid option can boost fuel efficiency and reduce gas costs.

Find Car Insurance for Teens

Secure. Free. Easy-to-use.
Based on 3,806+ reviews
4.8/5
Shopper Approved
ProgressiveLiberty MutualTravelers

Best SUVs for teens

SUVs’ raised heights offer teens better visibility on the road. Additionally, larger vehicles offer more protection in frontal accidents, and their heavier weight reduces the force of impact during a crash.[3]

Lexus UX

Starting price: $36,490

Safety rating: Good

The IIHS gave the 2023 Lexus UX a 2023 Top Safety Pick+ award and “good” rankings across the board.[7] It has advanced safety features to keep your teen safe, like pedestrian and bicyclist detection, blind-spot monitoring, and front seat backs that lessen whiplash injuries. The compact SUV is also a hybrid, so your teen can save money on gas when taking a road trip or grabbing a bite to eat with friends.

Honda HR-V

Starting price: $23,800

Safety rating: Good

The 2023 Honda HR-V is safe and practical for young drivers. It comes with blind-spot detection and cross-traffic monitoring as part of the Honda Sensing Suite. Its Real Time AWD helps your teen navigate different types of weather, and the SUV connects wirelessly to your iPhone using Apple CarPlay.

Toyota Highlander

Starting price: $36,420

Safety rating: Good

The 2023 Toyota Highlander lets you upgrade your safety and adventures on the road. The IIHS rated it as a 2023 Top Safety Pick+.[7] The touchscreen puts multimedia within reach, and the Multi-Terrain Select helps your teen maintain control behind the wheel, even in challenging driving conditions.

Volkswagen ID.4

Starting price: $38,995

Safety rating: Good

As the only all-electric vehicle on the list of safest cars for teen drivers, the Volkswagen ID.4 offers clean and sustainable driving while earning a spot in the Top Safety Pick+ among midsize SUVs from the IIHS.[7] IQ.DRIVE features travel assist, adaptive cruise control, and rear traffic alerts. It also comes with a road sign display and App-Connect for seamless media control.

Nissan Pathfinder

Starting price: $35,000

Safety rating: Good

The IIHS named the 2023 Nissan Pathfinder a Top Safety Pick+ in 2023.[7] Its Safety Shield 360 technology and ProPILOT Assist make commuting and keeping up with traffic flow easier. It also provides ample space for passengers and cargo, making it suitable for active teens.

Should you buy a new or used car for your teen?

When buying a car for your teen driver, consider the pros and cons of buying new and used vehicles.

If safety and the latest technology are your top concerns, a new car may be the best option — 82% of fatal teen crashes involved vehicles that were at least 6 years old, according to a 2014 IIHS study.[8] However, a well-maintained used car may be a more practical choice if you’re on a tight budget.

Read More: Worst Used Cars to Buy: Guide to Buying a Used Car

New car pros and cons

Pros
  • Access to the latest safety features

  • Increased reliability

  • Comes with a warranty

Cons
  • High up-front cost

  • Higher insurance premiums

  • Quickly depreciate and lose value

Used car pros and cons

Pros
  • More affordable than new cars

  • Good value retention

  • Scratches and dents may not matter much

Cons
  • Limited options based on budget and availability

  • Older, less advanced safety features

  • Possibly uncertain maintenance history

What safety features are important for teen drivers?

When choosing the best car for teens, it’s important to consider safety features that can help provide peace of mind when they’re on the road. Here are some safety features to look for:

Antilock brakes

When you need to make a sudden stop, an antilock braking system (ABS) can be your knight in shining armor. To keep you from losing steering control, ABS rapidly pumps the brakes to prevent your wheels from locking up. This is especially important for teen drivers who are still mastering the art of emergency maneuvers.

Traction and stability control

Your teen can keep their car under control while driving by using traction control on slick surfaces and stability control on sudden turns or maneuvers. These safety features can be a lifesaver for novice drivers still honing their skills.

Forward-collision warning

Using cameras, radar, or lasers, forward-collision warning (FCW) can alert drivers when they’re in danger of colliding with another vehicle or object in front of them — it displays a visual or audio warning if the car gets too close. FCW is helpful for teen drivers who are still developing situational awareness behind the wheel.

Blind-spot monitoring

Blind-spot monitoring detects other vehicles in areas that you can’t always see with just mirrors. Blind-spot monitoring adds an extra layer of safety, especially for teen drivers still learning the ropes.

Adaptive cruise control

Cruise control is a great feature until you get too close to the car in front of you. However, adaptive cruise control can save the day by adjusting the car’s speed to maintain a safe distance. It’s helpful for teen drivers, who may be more prone to tailgating or not leaving enough space between vehicles.

Check Out: 7 Car Features That Can Affect Car Insurance Rates

Additional safety features to consider

Here are other car safety features to consider when you buy a new or used car for a teenage driver:

  • Airbags

  • Seat belt reminder

  • Pedestrian detection

  • Rear cross-traffic alert

  • Lane-departure warning

  • Lane-keeping assist

  • Backup camera

  • Parking assist

Find Car Insurance for Teens

Secure. Free. Easy-to-use.
Based on 3,806+ reviews
4.8/5
Shopper Approved
ProgressiveLiberty MutualTravelers

What are the worst cars for teens to drive?

Not every car is safe for teens or first-time drivers. Some vehicles may have poor crash ratings or lack modern safety features. When it comes to the worst cars for teen drivers, you generally want to avoid:

  • Volkswagen New Beetle: The 2010 Volkswagen Beetle coupe model received a poor rating for side crash tests from the IIHS.[9] Its small size and weight may also make it more vulnerable than larger cars.

  • Jeep Wrangler: Marginal scores for front and side crash tests from the IIHS are a cause for concern if teens get behind the wheel of a Wrangler. The NHTSA also gave it just three out of five stars on its rollover test.[10]

  • Chevrolet Aveo: The Aveo has marginal ratings from the IIHS for side crash tests, roof strength, and head restraints and seats.[11]

Best cars for teens FAQs

Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about car options and safety for teen drivers.

  • What is the best car for a first-time driver?

    If you’re a first-time driver, you need a car that’s easy to handle. Look for a vehicle with top-notch safety features and a proven track record of reliability. You may also want to consider a vehicle with excellent fuel efficiency and low maintenance costs as a budget-friendly choice for a new driver.

  • What is the best car for a high school student?

    One of the best car options for a high school student is a larger vehicle that received high safety ratings from organizations like the IIHS and NHTSA. These cars typically offer more stability and enhanced protection in an accident, which can help put both the student and their parents at ease.

  • What is the best SUV for a teenager to drive?

    SUVs aren’t one-size-fits-all, so it’s tough to pinpoint the best one for a teenager to drive. However, the Lexus UX, Honda HR-V, Toyota Highlander, Volkswagen ID.4, and Nissan Pathfinder have advanced safety features and rank highly in IIHS safety tests. You should also take into account factors like fuel economy, reliability, and cost.

  • What are the best used cars for teens?

    Used vehicles might be the best cheap cars for teens if you’re looking for safe, reliable, and affordable options. The Honda Civic and Mazda3 have high safety ratings and are known for their reliability. Another choice is the 2021 Toyota Camry, which Kelley Blue Book ranked best for resale value.

Sources

  1. IIHS. "Fatality Facts 2020: Teenagers."
  2. AAA. "Your Driving Costs 2022."
  3. IIHS. "Vehicle size and weight."
  4. IIHS. "Current ratings for Small cars."
  5. IIHS. "2022 Honda Civic."
  6. IIHS. "Current ratings for Midsize cars."
  7. IIHS. "Current ratings for Small SUVs."
  8. IIHS. "Vehicle choice can exacerbate teen drivers' risk."
  9. IIHS. "2010 Volkswagen New Beetle."
  10. NHTSA. "2021 Jeep Wrangler SUV 4WD."
  11. IIHS. "2011 Chevrolet Aveo."
Amy Beardsley
Amy BeardsleyInsurance Writer

Amy is a personal finance and technology writer. With a background in the legal field and a bachelor's degree from Ferris State University, she has a talent for transforming complex topics into content that’s easy to understand. Connect with Amy on LinkedIn.

Courtney Mikulski
Edited byCourtney MikulskiSenior Editor, Auto
Courtney Mikulski
Courtney MikulskiSenior Editor, Auto
  • 3+ years producing insurance and personal finance content

  • Main architect of the Insurify Quality Score

Courtney’s deep personal finance knowledge extends beyond insurance to credit cards, consumer lending, and banking. She thrives on creating actionable content.

Featured in

media logomedia logo

Compare Car Insurance Quotes Instantly

Secure. Free. Easy-to-use.
Based on 3,806+ reviews
4.8/5
Shopper Approved
ProgressiveLiberty MutualTravelers

Latest Articles

View all