The 12 Best Used Cars for New Drivers

The best cars for new drivers are affordable to buy and maintain, as well as safe and reliable. Here's a list of the 12 best used cars and what makes them so good for young and teenage drivers.
Written by Bonnie Stinson
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Looking for good cheap first cars? First-time drivers typically want a car that is safe, affordable, and cheap to insure—and used cars are the perfect solution. But before you start shopping, make sure you do your research first.
Luckily,
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comparison shopping and broker app
Jerry
has done most of the legwork for you by counting the 12 best used cars for new drivers.
Not only that, Jerry can help new drivers save big on their car insurance policies. In fact, the average Jerry user saves $879 a year!
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What makes a used car good for a new driver?

First drivers should get a car that's the perfect mix of safety, reliability, and affordability. As a new driver, you're more likely to make mistakes on the road. That's why you want a safe and reliable car.
The best used cars will have positive IIHS crash test ratings,
NHTSA safety ratings
, and contain several safety features. They also shouldn't empty your wallet completely.
Cars are a huge investment. To make sure your first car is affordable and doesn't cost tons to maintain, shop for reliable used cars. Here are the cars you should consider.

2001 - present Honda Civic

Affordable, safe, fun to drive, and easy to maintain, the
Honda Civic
is perfect for an inexperienced young driver that needs reliability and predictability.
Starting price: $5,000
IIHS crash test rating: Good
Why buy it?: Hondas are known to last forever, and the Civic is no exception. This model is so popular that it’s easy to get aftermarket support, from maintenance to customization.
Its size makes it easy for new drivers to navigate. The Civic also offers enough storage room for groceries, backpacks, and more. Try this model if you want an affordable used car that will last for hundreds of thousands of miles (and has great gas mileage to boot).

1998-2004 Toyota Tacoma

Rugged and sturdy, the
Toyota Tacoma
is a small pickup truck that is a dream car for teenagers who enjoy a powerful engine at a low cost.
Starting price: $5,900
IIHS crash test rating: Acceptable
Why buy it?: The Toyota Tacoma is reliable and powerful. It can handle off-road adventures as well as daily commutes, with a sizable cab and sturdy build.
It’s a bit lacking in the fuel economy department, but the Tacoma is an affordable and attractive compact truck for new drivers. Plus, it’s one of the more affordable models when it comes to insurance, too.

2005-2014 Ford Mustang

The epitome of style and power, the
Ford Mustang
is a surprisingly safe and affordable option for new drivers.
Starting price: $6,000
IIHS crash test rating: Good
Why buy it?: There’s no rule that new drivers can’t buy muscle cars! The Ford Mustang is powerful and efficient, in an irresistible package. The price tag and safety ratings are perfect for new drivers, too.
The Mustang is an investment that makes maintenance attractive, and there are plenty of options for customization and styling. Not to mention, it’s one of the most iconic cars that’s ever been manufactured.

1998-2005 Lexus IS300

Elegant and reliable, the
Lexus IS300
is an economical option for new drivers who want a safe luxury vehicle.
Starting price: $6,500
IIHS crash test rating: Good
Why buy it?: With a comfortable interior, the IS300 inspires pride of ownership. It offers a smooth ride and a stylish appearance that will delight new drivers. This Lexus offers conservative power and coy looks that will stay in fashion for years to come.
The powertrain is a bit lagging, especially in the older models. However, that’s an acceptable trade-off for the cost of owning a luxury vehicle at this price point.

2006 - present Honda Fit

Compact and easy to drive, the
Honda Fit
is a reliable and sporty choice for new drivers.
Starting price: $7,000
IIHS crash test rating: Good
Why buy it?: Honda makes reliable cars and the Fit is a beloved example. This model can last for up to 20 years while providing trusty service and a zippy engine.
The best part about the Fit is its fuel economy. New drivers will appreciate saving money on gas when fueling up their Honda Fit and learning how to maintain their first vehicle. Snap up a Fit while you can, as Honda is no longer manufacturing this model in the United States.
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2002-2007 Toyota Highlander

For the new driver who needs space for their friends, the
Toyota Highlander
is a sturdy and stylish option.
Starting price: $7,000
IIHS crash test rating: Good
Why buy it?: The Highlander is a crossover SUV, so it offers a solid driving experience with a bit of extra storage. First-time drivers will appreciate the smooth driving experience and the step-up from your average sedan.
When it comes to interiors, the Highlander doesn’t disappoint. It’s not quite luxury, but it is plenty sleek for the affordable price point.

2002 - present Honda CR-V

Popular for good reason, the
Honda CR-V
gets great fuel economy and it offers a smooth and reliable driving experience.
Starting price: $7,500
IIHS crash test rating: Good
Why buy it?: This mini-SUV from Honda is a reliable classic, inside and out. It is easy to maintain and has been known to last for many years with proper care. Drivers love the CR-V because it’s sturdy and stylish. It offers the benefits of an SUV layout in a gorgeous compact package.
As a bonus, used CR-Vs retain their value well. You may be able to re-sell your CR-V and recoup most of your money. Keep an eye out for fun features like the in-car picnic table in older models.

2004-2012 Volvo S40

Small and sporty, the
Volvo S40
is powerful and safe—perfect for new drivers.
Starting price: $7,900
IIHS crash test rating: Good
Why buy it?: Small vehicles are usually easier for new drivers to handle, and the Volvo S40 delivers a compact sedan with style. It also packs enough power to delight drivers who like a bit of speed.
The high safety rating of the S40 makes this an irresistible choice for new drivers who want a sporty but safe vehicle. If you have an anxious new driver, this Volvo could be a solid choice.

2005 - present Nissan Xterra

For the outdoorsy adventurer, the powerful
Nissan Xterra
is an affordable and durable option.
Starting price: $8,900
IIHS crash test rating: Good
Why buy it?: First-time drivers don’t need to be confined to freeways and supermarket runs. The Nissan Xterra makes it possible for new drivers to explore the backcountry safely.
With a powerful engine and simple design, the Xterra is a rugged and reliable choice that will satisfy new drivers for years to come.
Key Takeaway The Nissan Xterra is a good off-road option for young drivers.

2012 - present Ford Focus

Well-built and affordable, the
Ford Focus
is easy to drive and gets great fuel economy.
Starting price: $9,000
IIHS crash test rating: Good
Why buy it?: The smooth driving experience of the Ford Focus is sure to inspire confidence in new drivers. The Focus moves predictably and is a popular, reliable model from the Ford company.
It’s less powerful than other vehicles on this list, but that shouldn’t be a problem for new drivers.

2006-2015 Mazda MX5 Miata

The
Mazda MX5 Miata
offers a glamorous and sporty driving experience, although it’s not a very practical option with only two seats.
Starting price: $12,500
IIHS crash test rating: Not Available
Why buy it?: The Miata is a classic, beloved sports car that offers a comfortable interior and zippy handling. It provides all the nostalgia of an old-school new-car experience—but with airbags.
With only two seats, this isn’t the most practical choice for a new driver. But it’s certainly a reliable and attractive model that will delight new drivers (and it’s a fun one to show off to friends).

2010-present Chevrolet Equinox

A bit pricier than other models, the
Chevrolet Equinox
is comfortable, roomy, safe, and sturdy—the perfect combination for nervous new drivers.
Starting price: $14,000
IIHS crash test rating: Good
Why buy it?: The exterior of the Equinox is attractive, if boxy. Inside, there’s a smooth and practical interior that offers tons of cargo space and room for passengers.
It is more expensive than most other used cars, but the Chevy Equinox is a sturdy option for new drivers who want a car that will stand the test of time.

How can new drivers find cheap car insurance?

Due to their inexperience, new drivers are some of the most expensive to insure. But you can still find competitive rates if you know where to look (hint: Jerry is the easiest way to quickly find
cheap car insurance
).
Here are the rates Jerry drivers are paying for the 12 best cars for new drivers:
Car Make
Car Model
Annual Premium Before Jerry
Annual Premium After Jerry
Average Annual Savings
Honda
Civic
$2,880
$836
$1,704
Toyota
Tacoma
$1,854
$1,649
$678
Ford
Mustang
$2,840
$2,468
$402
Lexus
IS300
$1,979
$1,806
$577
Honda
Fit
$2,631
$1,786
$706
Toyota
Highlander
$2,222
$1,695
$854
Honda
CR-V
$2,236
$1,983
$353
Volvo
S40
$2,489
$1,800
$1,049
Nissan
Xterra
$1,791
$1,766
$346
Ford
Focus
$2,062
$1,363
$565
Mazda
Miata
$3,138
$1,712
$849
Chevrolet
Equinox
$1,692
$1,140
$552
Ready to find a policy? Start by downloading the free
Jerry
app.

What makes a good used car for a new driver?

Hand-me-down vehicles are pretty common for new drivers. They are cheap (since they’re gifted by a family member). However, these models may not be the best choice over the long term. Plus, an ancient beater is unlikely to impress their friends in the high school parking lot.

Driver input

A better option is to purchase an affordable used car with input from the driver. When someone loves their car, they are more likely to learn how to maintain it and drive it safely. This works even better when the driver saves up and contributes some of the cost.

Safety features and reliability

On this list are the 12 best cheap first cars. We have selected these models because they have excellent safety features and would be appropriate for a new driver.

Small cars for easy handling

In addition to being affordable and reliable, these vehicles are easy to drive because they’re a manageable size. SUVs are not a good choice for new drivers. Be very careful with bigger vehicles, since the size makes them harder for first-time drivers to handle and they are more costly to maintain.
A few more words of advice: remember that maintenance history is more important than the odometer reading when it comes to predicting vehicle condition. A well-maintained car with more miles is sometimes the better choice. Don’t buy a car without a pre-purchase inspection and don’t take home a vehicle with a ton of after-market alterations.

Affordable insurance premiums

Some cars are more expensive to insure than others. Sticking with a small, reliable, used car with good safety features should help keep your insurance prices down.
Young drivers are statistically at the highest risk for getting into accidents and
car insurance
prices reflect that. That’s why young and new drivers should do what they can to keep their insurance prices down.
Another great way to keep your insurance prices down is by downloading
Jerry
.
The app will walk you through the entire process and provide you with affordable Jerry insurance from top-rated companies.
All you have to do is pick the policy that works for you. Jerry handles the rest, from phone calls to paperwork. Plus, Jerry will send you new quotes every time your policy is up for renewal to ensure you’re always getting the best rate.
"Easy, safe, and it saves you money—thank you, Jerry app!" — Satisfied Jerry User
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