What's the Best Electric Car for a Teenager?

Can't decide which vehicle is the best fit for your teen? Check out why low maintenance and limited range EVs are one of the safest options for young drivers.
Written by Elaine Duvet
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Mar 25, 2022
We’re not saying that students or parents should go out and buy a brand new
Tesla
, but we do think an
electric vehicle
is the way to go for the next generation. 
What's better for your
teenager
than a vehicle that doesn’t go too fast, is reliable, and is relatively inexpensive? 

Check out first-generation electrics

There are about 370 electric vehicles available around the world, and choosing the right one for your child may seem like a daunting task.
Kelley Blue Book (KBB)
recommends some of the early electrics like “the first-generation Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Spark EV, Honda Fit EV, the Mitsubishi iMiev, Fiat 500e as well as slightly larger electrics like the VW eGolf and Ford Focus EV.” Most deliver 80 to 100 miles per charge, with top speeds reaching no higher than 100 mph.
For five- to six-year-old city cars like the Fiat 500e, first-gen
Nissan Leaf
, or the Mitsubishi iMiev, you’re looking at somewhere between $5,000 and $7,000. And you can expect the car to have less than 50,000 miles.
But if you’d like your teen to have a larger car, check out the Focus Ev or the VW eGolf, which will only set you back about $10,000. According to KBB, “These compact hatchbacks are just like their gas-engine siblings in all things except the powertrain and performance.” 

Bye-bye oil changes and coolant flushing

Another benefit of investing in an EV for your student is that you won’t have to worry too much about maintenance. Though tires may need to be swapped every 60,000 miles, the friction brakes are the only component on an EV that has the potential to wear out. 
However, “thanks to regenerative braking, the friction brakes are used so infrequently, they virtually never wear out. That said, the friction brake system hydraulic fluid should be periodically changed, too,” according to KBB. But this is only something to look into every 70,000 miles or so. 

Limited range teaches young drivers to plan for the future

Cars like the 2012 Leaf, 2014 Fiat 500e, and the i-MiEV come with limited range ratings right from the factory. 
According to KBB, calculating battery degradation can depend on “battery chemistry (that changed from year to year on some models), climate the cars have lived in (extreme heat and cold can take a high toll on batteries), and how many miles the vehicle has traveled.”
Since these vehicles may now have anywhere from 50-75 percent of their original range, it forces your teen to drive carefully, as putting the pedal to the medal will pretty much drop the car’s range abruptly. 
And believe it or not, this is a good thing. This ensures that your student will stay close to home, since whether you “have a 120- or 240-volt charger at home, recharging any one of these EVs can take 8 to 24 hours,” notes KBB. It also makes sure young drivers stick to the speed limit.
The 2012 Leaf and the i-MiEV are incredibly safe as well. According to KBB, “When it was new, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave [the 2012 Leaf] a 5-star crash rating. The i-MiEV got a 4-star rating from NHTSA in 2012.”

A new electric car may be your best bet

New cars meet modern safety standards and feature technology that you’re not going to find in budget-friendly used cars. After all, keeping your teen safe on the road is most important. 
If a new Nissan Leaf is in your budget, not only will it qualify for the $7,500 EV tax credit, but you’ll get an undeniable value in the $27,000 range. Traction control, modern airbags, and stability control all come standard.
A perfect car for city driving is the cute Mini Cooper SE. According to
Car and Driver
, “The Mini Electric does offer driver-assistance technology such as forward-collision warning, pedestrian detection, and rain-sensing windshield wipers and headlights.”
Forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking, as well as lane-departure warning, are standard on the Cooper SE with an available self-park assist option. The two-door is available for under $30,000 and comes with a 114-mile range.
At a higher price point, the Kira Niro is great for first-time owners, coming in just under $40,000.
It features a larger range of 239 miles and is only a few inches longer than the once loved
Chevy Bolt EV
.
According to
MotorBiscuit
, “Even the cheaper Chevrolet Spark EV offers stability control, traction control, and 10 airbags as standard.” And if you’ve ever rented one of these miniature motors, you’d agree that’s impressive.
Leasing one may actually be an affordable option—just make sure to consider when your teenager will jet off to college when coordinating the timing of the lease. Buying the car when the lease ends is also a possibility.
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