How to Choose the Best Car for a Teenager

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Choosing the best car for your teenager means getting them a car that's reliable, safe, and easy to drive.
Few things are as exciting as getting your first car, especially if you’re a teenager. You get your license, you’re excited to have some freedom and drive your friends around, and then you get your very own car.
For parents, it’s a mixed bag. It can be a bittersweet and poignant moment when your child no longer needs you to drive them around. It’s certainly nice to be free of that responsibility, but it makes you realize that your kid is growing up, and it’s impossible to not worry about them when they’re in the driver’s seat.
For all of those reasons, it’s important to make sure that your teenager has the right car when they start driving. If you’re picking out a car specifically for your teenager, you should put some thought into it, including considering NHTSA safety ratings and affordability. Here’s everything you need to know.
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Why you need to be careful choosing the best first car for a teenager

We can all agree that teens aren’t always the greatest decision makers, and they’re inexperienced behind the wheel. That, mixed with the excitement of finally having their license, makes them a little bit more questionable as drivers (not to mention more of an insurance risk).
For these reasons, teens have the highest accident rate of any demographic. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t let your teenager drive; just that you should be extra careful with them.
Make sure you choose a car that's both safe and reliable for your teenager.

Consider safety when choosing a car for your teenager

This is an obvious one, but the most important thing about choosing a car for your teenager is safety. You want to find a car that has good safety features and a high safety rating.
If possible, modern safety features like blind spot awareness and lane control are great things to have on a teen’s car. Always look at the crash test ratings for a car before buying one, too, especially if that car is for a teenager.

Easiness to drive

Having a safe car and having a safe teenage driver are not the same thing and you want to be cognizant of that. For instance, a lot of the safest cars are high end vehicles that are very powerful; those aren’t easy to drive for a new driver.
It’s important to give your teen a car that they can control. It should be responsive and not too difficult to maneuver in. If you’re a gearhead and want to teach them your love of cars and maintenance, that’s great. But do it on your time together, and slowly. Don’t send them out onto the road full-time in a car they’re not completely comfortable with.

Size of the car

This ties the last two points together. Large cars are usually the safest, but the most difficult to drive. For instance, SUVs and trucks usually have the highest crash test ratings, and are the safest vehicles to be in for a collision.
But they also can be the hardest cars to drive, since they don’t turn or brake well, which means you increase the odds of being in an accident in the first place, especially for a new driver.
Ideally, the best size car for a young driver is a compact car or a crossover. That’s a good blend of safety and drivability.


Young drivers have enough to worry about when they’re on the road. You don’t want to throw more stuff at them by giving them a car that might give them fits. The more reliable a car, the better.

Something they want

Safety and responsibility is by far the most important thing when picking a car for a teenager. But it can be important to include them in the decision-making process as well. Not only is that a nice thing to do, but if a teen likes their car, they’ll be more likely to treat it responsibly.
Even if you’re just letting them choose between two or three models or pick a color, that can give them a sense of ownership, responsibility, and pride.
There’s no one right car for a teenage driver, and everyone’s budget is different. But if you factor all of these things, you’ll be able to find the right first car for your teen.
Key Takeaway Since teenagers have a higher accident rate, multiple factors play into calculating its overall safety and insurance risk.

The best cars for teenagers

You'll probably a want a midsized car or SUV to balance safety and drivability for your teenager. Here are the best midsized car and SUV options for your teenager.
BMW 3 Series (2017 and newer)$17,900
Volkswagen Jetta (2017)$12,900
Honda CR-V (2017)$24,000
Toyota Corolla (2020)$19,600

The best used cars for teenagers under 10k

If you're a bit apprehensive about spending so much money on a car for your teenager, we understand–they cost a ton, and car insurance for teens isn't cheap.
But that doesn't mean you have to compromise safety. Here are some great, safe, and reliable options for your teen's first car, all under $10,000.
BMW 3 Series (2017 and newer)$17,900
Volkswagen Jetta (2017)$12,900
Honda CR-V (2017)$24,000
Toyota Corolla (2020)$19,600
Whether you're opting for a newer car for your teen or an older reliable car, make sure that you give them the necessary insurance coverage.
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