2017 RANKING & REVIEWS
TOP RANKING BEST CARS FOR TEENS


Choosing the Best Used Cars for Teens that are Safe and Low Cost

When the day comes that your teenager is ready to start driving, most parents are both a bundle of nerves and very proud of their child’s milestone.

Besides looking for the best cars for teens, parents also want to find the safest cars for teens.

Getting their first car is a moment of excitement for a teenager, but can be a big expense. So many families look for the best used cars for teens, but aren’t sure of the safety features compared to price.

Award Emblem: Top 6 Best Cars For Teens

According to the Journal of Safety Research, 83 percent of parents of teen drivers surveyed, purchased used cars for teens in their household. Most families already have 1-2 cars, so finding cheap cars for teens and a vehicle that’s also the safest car for teens, are high priorities.

Unfortunately, parents may not always know the safety background of the best car for teens that they’re considering buying used. Many cars look similar from the outside and it’s not always easy to pick the safest used cars for teens that you can trust to keep them protected in an accident.

With that in mind, we reviewed the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute (IIHSHLDI) for their advice on the best first cars for teens according to safety ratings and standards.

We also paid attention to price, and reviewed good cars for teens that were also the best cheap cars for teens. Included on our list is a mixture of safe cars for teens that are medium, large, and SUVs, and all under $10,000 according to the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price as of March 2017 for the earliest recommended model year.

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AdvisoryHQ’s List of the Top 6 Best Cars for Teens

List is sorted alphabetically (click any of the car names below to go directly to the detailed review section for that car):


Top 6 Safest Cars for Teens | Brief Comparison & Ranking

Best Used Cars for Teens

Recommended Model Years

Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price

Chevrolet Malibu

2010 and newer, built after November 2009

$8,206

Ford Fusion

2010 and newer, built after April 2010

$7,484

Honda Element

2007 – 2011

$7,543

Subaru Forester

2009 and newer

$9,750

Volkswagen Jetta

2009 and newer

$5,766

Volvo S80

2007 and newer

$6,178

Table: Top 6 Best Used Cars for Teens | Above list is sorted alphabetically


Safest Car for Teens FAQ | What Features Should Parents Look For?

When you’re trying to find good cars for teens that are low price but also safe, there are a few different features that you’ll want to look for.

Used cars for teens might not have all the bells and whistles of the newest car safety technologies, like a rearview camera, but there are other features you can look for.

good cars for teens

Image Source: Good Used Cars for Teens

Here are some tips on what to consider when you’re searching out the best first cars for teens.

Don’t Go Too Small

The smallest cars might be the cheapest, but they aren’t always the safest. It’s best to choose a medium-sized or larger car when looking for cheap cars for teens.

Standard Safety Features

Some of the standard features you should be able to find when looking for the safest used cars for teens are:

  • Reinforced frame
  • Front, passenger and side air bags
  • Roll bars

Electronic Stability Control (ESC)

ESC is a feature that helps drivers maintain control on curves and slippery roads. According to IIHSHLDI, it cuts the risk of a fatal single-vehicle crash by 50 percent.

Good Safety Ratings

Knowing the safety ratings of a vehicle can help you find the safest car for teens. Here are a few key ones to look for:

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), look for four or five stars.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute (IIHSHLDI), look for a “Good” rating (highest) in their IIHS Moderate Overlap Front Test, and a minimum “Acceptable” rating (second highest) in their IIHS Side Crash Test.

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AdvisoryHQ’s Selection Methodology

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Please click here “AdvisoryHQ’s Ranking Methodologies” for a detailed review of AdvisoryHQ’s selection methodologies for ranking top-rated credit cards, financial accounts, firms, products, and services.


Detailed Review – Top Ranking Best Cars for Teens

Below, please find a detailed review of each car on our list of safest cars for teens. We have highlighted some of the factors that allowed these best used cars for teens to score so highly in our selection ranking.



Chevrolet Malibu Review


The Chevrolet Malibu by American automobile manufacturer General Motors, under the Chevrolet brand is an excellent best car for teens that is affordable when you buy it used. Yet is still one of the safest cars for teens to start out with.

You will want to choose a model that is 2010 or newer, and built after November 2009. The 2010 4-door sedan is one of the best first cars for teens that received all “Good” ratings from IIHS testing of crashworthiness.

Key Safety Features

Some of the key safety benefits of this best car for teens, include:

  • NHTSA Rating for Frontal Barrier & Side Barrier Crash Test – 5 stars
  • NHTSA Rating for Rollover – 5 stars
  • IIHS Side Impact Test – Good
  • IIHS Roof Strength Test – Good
  • IHSS Rear Crash Protection and Overlap Tests – Good
  • J.D. Power Initial Quality Overall – 4 out of 5

You can view these details on the 2010 and other model years at Edmunds.com.

safest cars for teens

Image Source: Edmunds | Safe Cars for Teens

Highlights That Make The Chevrolet Malibu (2010 and newer) Stand Out On Our Top List Of Best Cars for Teens

Good Fuel Mileage

Sometimes fuel mileage can suffer as a car ages, but with the Chevrolet Malibu 2010 model, it’s still very good, with a combined city/hwy 25 miles per gallon (MPG). So, when you look at good cars for teens, you know they won’t go broke filling the tank.

Great Word of Mouth

You want to know what other drivers think about a car when you’re looking for good used cars for teens, the Chevrolet Malibu has an excellent Consumer Rating at Kelley Blue Book of 8.5 out of 10.

Many reviewers note the safety and great handling of this car in inclement weather, which definitely backs up the Malibu as being one of the safest cars for teens.

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Ford Fusion Review


Another American made car on our list of the best car for teens is the Ford Fusion. We all know that Ford was one of the first U.S. auto makers, that started in 1890. Over the years, Ford has kept safety as a core value, producing many safe cars for teens and others.

The model years with the best safety ratings on our list of the best car for teens is the Ford Fusion 2010 and newer, built after April 2010.

Key Safety Features

Some of the key safety benefits of this safest car for teens, include:

  • NHTSA Rating for Frontal Barrier & Side Barrier Crash Test – 5 stars
  • NHTSA Rating for Rollover – 4 stars
  • IIHS Side Impact Test – Good
  • IIHS Roof Strength Test – Good
  • IHSS Rear Crash Protection and Overlap Tests – Good
  • J.D. Power Initial Quality Overall – 3 out of 5

You can view these details on the 2010 and other model years at Edmunds.com.

Highlights That Make The Ford Fusion (2010 and newer) Stand Out On Our Top List Of Best Cars for Teens

Hybrid Power  

If you’re trying to teach your teen about sustainability then the Ford Fusion is one of the good used cars for teens that is also eco friendly. The Fusion has a smaller, lighter and more powerful nickel-metal hydride battery meant to provide excellent performance with less emissions.

Special Features

Anyone that has had a teen in their house knows that they like to feel special. So when you’re looking for used cars for teens if you can find little personalization, it can make all the difference in how they feel about their new car.

The Ford Fusion is one of the good used cars for teens that has a personal touch because it includes a dual-zone auto climate control and SYNC voice-activated communications and entertainment system.



Honda Element Review


The next vehicle on our top list of best first cars for teens is from Japanese manufacturer, Honda.  The Honda Element is a compact crossover, small SUV, that was discontinued in 2011, but is still one of the safest used cars for teens.

best car for teens

Image Source: Wikipedia | Good Cars for Teens

You’ll want to look for the model years 2007-2011 when you chose this as the safest car for teens to drive in your household. In 2007, several safety features were added, including side airbags being standard and seat belts that allowed rear-seat passengers to exit without the front occupant having to unbuckle.

Key Safety Features

Some of the key safety benefits of this safest car for teens, include:

  • NHTSA Rating for Frontal Barrier & Side Barrier Crash Test – 5 stars
  • NHTSA Rating for Rollover – 3 stars
  • IIHS Side Impact Test – Good
  • IIHS Roof Strength Test – Good
  • IHSS Rear Crash Protection and Overlap Tests – Good
  • J.D. Power Initial Quality Overall – 4 out of 5

Find information on 2007 and other model years at Edmunds.com.

Highlights That Make The Honda Element (2007 and newer) Stand Out On Our Top List Of Best Cars for Teens

Lots of Room 

The Honda Element is both roomy and versatile, especially when the seats are folded down, which makes it one of the great used cars for teens that like to go camping or play instruments. It was designed to be large cargo friendly and the rear seats can even be folded flat to create a bed.

Unique Style

It’s not always easy to please a teen when you’re looking for the best car for teens. Something you think is the safest car for teens, they might think is ugly and not want to be seen driving.

The Honda Element has a unique style that is sporty and attractive. So you have a better chance of your child being happy to be seen in this vehicle.

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Subaru Forester Review


Subaru of America, Inc. was founded in 1968 and is a subsidiary of Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI), another well known Japanese company. Their Subaru Forester is another of the safest cars for teens due to great safety ratings and reliability.

This is another small SUV, but sits a little lower than the Honda Element. When reviewing good used cars for teens, you’ll want to focus on model years 2009 or newer.

Key Safety Features

Some of the key safety benefits of this safest car for teens, include:

  • NHTSA Rating for Frontal Barrier & Side Barrier Crash Test – 5 stars
  • NHTSA Rating for Rollover – 4 stars
  • IIHS Side Impact Test – Good
  • IIHS Roof Strength Test – Good
  • IHSS Rear Crash Protection and Overlap Tests – Good
  • J.D. Power Initial Quality Overall – 3 out of 5

You can view these details on the 2009 and other model years at Edmunds.com.

Highlights That Make The Subaru Forester (2009 and newer) Stand Out On Our Top List Of Best Cars for Teens

Cabin Comfort

An nice feature of the Subaru Forester is that it was designed to limit road and wind noise from inside the cabin. This is also one of the best used cars for teens because of the slightly elevated driving position, giving a better view of the road.

Another feature that makes it a best car for teens driving for the first time is the driver controls. The driver seat is height adjustable with power lumbar support and the steering column telescopes and tilts to the perfect position for the driver.

All-Wheel Drive

When you’re searching for the safest used cars for teens, all-wheel drive is a really nice feature. The all-wheel drive system gives power to all four wheels, rather than just two.

This means better road traction, especially in slippery conditions or uneven terrain. That makes the Subaru Forester one of the good cars for teens that will help them keep the car on the road in bad weather.



Volkswagen Jetta Review


German car company, Volkswagen, may be most well known for their iconic Beetle, but it’s the Volkswagen Jetta that made our list of best cars for teens. This is another car with stellar safety ratings, putting it in our group of top safe cars for teens.

As you’re reviewing the Volkswagen Jetta when researching best first cars for teens, you want to stick to model years 2009 or newer. You’ll see a choice between a sedan or SportWagen, both are among the safest cars for teens.

Key Safety Features

Some of the key safety benefits of this safest car for teens, include:

  • NHTSA Rating for Frontal Barrier (4 stars) & Side Barrier Crash Test (5 stars)
  • NHTSA Rating for Rollover – 4 stars
  • IIHS Side Impact Test – Good
  • IIHS Roof Strength Test – Good
  • IHSS Rear Crash Protection and Overlap Tests – Good
  • J.D. Power Initial Quality Overall – 3 out of 5

You can see these details on the 2009 and other model years at Edmunds.com.

Highlights That Make The Volkswagen Jetta (2009 and newer) Stand Out On Our Top List Of Best Cars for Teens

Great Bargain

Parents looking for cheap cars for teens that are also the safest cars for teens will love the budget-friendly pricing on the Volkswagen Jetta. Reviewing the sedan version, 2009 model at Kelley Blue Book, it’s got a Fair Purchase Price of $5,766, within a Fair Market Range of $5,088 – $6,443, as of March 2017.

Teen Friendly Features

In a digital world, more teen friendly features are now available when looking for the safest car for teens. Not all used Volkswagen Jettas will have every feature, since they are optional add-ons, however you may find one that has some of these perks.

These teen friendly features you might find when looking at cheap cars for teens are:

  • iPod Interface
  • Touchscreen Navigation
  • 30GB Hard Drive
  • Digital Music Storage
  • SB Memory Card Slot
  • USB Port
  • DVD Playback


Volvo S80 Review


Another well priced car you’ll find when looking for safe cars for teens that are also bargain used cars for teens is the Volvo S80. While a new one from Swedish manufacturer Volvo, can have a pretty hefty price tag, starting at $43,450, a used Volvo S80 is much more affordable.

According to Kelley Blue Book, a 2007 model has a Fair Purchase Price of $6,178, within the Fair Market Range of $5,094 – $7,261. When researching best used cars for teens, you’ll want to seek out the 2007 or newer model years.

best used cars for teens

Image Source: Kelley Blue Book | Best Cars for Teens

Key Safety Features

Some of the key safety benefits of this safest car for teens, include:

  • NHTSA Ratings – None listed
  • IIHS Side Impact Test – Good
  • IIHS Roof Strength Test – Good
  • IHSS Rear Crash Protection and Overlap Tests – Good
  • J.D. Power Initial Quality Overall – 4 out of 5

You can see these details on the 2007 and other model years at Edmunds.com.

Highlights That Make The Volvo S80 (2007 and newer) Stand Out On Our Top List Of Best Cars for Teens

Luxury Car

This is a rare find when you’re looking for cheap cars for teens that’s also one of the safest cars for teens because it’s an affordable luxury vehicle.

Beginning wth the 2007 model year, the Volvo S80 was completely redesigned and added an array of safety, interior design and comfort features, as well as the addition of a V8 engine. This is one of the best used cars for teens if your family likes luxury style at a great price.

Safety Extras

This vehicle has extra safety features you don’t usually find when searching for the best used cars for teens, especially in the earlier model years.

Some of the optional features you can find when looking for the safest used cars for teens in this model are:

  • Blind Spot Information System with Cameras
  • Personal Car Communicator with Heartbeat Sensor
  • Adaptive Cruise Control with Collision Warning
  • Front and Rear Parking Sensors

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Conclusion – Top 6 Best & Safest Cars for Teens

Safety is a number one concern for parents looking for the best used cars for teens that are also well priced and fall into the bracket of safest cars for teens. So in our 2017 ranking and reviews of the best cars for teens, we balanced both price and safety.

Every vehicle on our list of good cars for teens starting to drive has top safety scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and is included on their list of Best Used Cars for Teens.

But we also kept price as an important evaluation factor. Parents looking for the best cars for teens should not have to sacrifice safety for price. So, each vehicle on our list of safest cars for teens comes in less than $10,000 on the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price estimate for the earliest recommended model year.

Both teens and parents should feel better knowing that there are a lot of the best cars for teens out there that qualify as some of the safest cars for teens, and several are also quite stylish and come with teen-friendly features too.

Safe driving!



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