How to Pick the Safest Car for your New Teen Driver

Once your teenager passes their driving test, they're ready for their first taste of freedom on the open road. As a parent, it's up to you to decide if they're going to get their own car or share one that you already own. Either way, each potential car has its own pros and cons that you need to consider. This guide will make buying your teen's first car a breeze.

How to Select the Best Car for Teen Drivers

There are a few factors to keep in mind when deciding on the car you'll let your inexperienced teenage driver use. Safety should always be the number one priority, especially for a new driver. You should also consider the vehicle's power and size, and of course, stick to a budget.

Check for Safety Features

Enhanced safety features common on modern vehicles have saved an estimated 600,000 lives between 1960 and 2012. Outside of standard features like airbags and seatbelts, make sure your teen's vehicle has some of the following features:

  • Autonomous Emergency Braking — Newly designed AEB systems automatically detect if you're approaching a car too quickly and safely slow you down.

  • Lane Assist or Lane Departure Warning — Lane assist helps keep you in your lane, while lane departure warning alerts you if you start to swerve out of your lane.

  • Blind Spot Monitoring — This lets you know if another vehicle or person is in your blind spot to prevent hitting them.

Avoid Smaller Vehicles

Smaller vehicles aren't the best in the hands of a young driver. They may be more fuel efficient, but when they're up against larger, heavier cars in a collision, they'll lose every time. Even if the car has a high Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rating, the score only holds up against cars of the same size class. A mid-sized sedan or smaller SUV will provide your teen with plenty of extra protection.

Stick to a Smaller Engine

It's also important to not get your teen a car or truck with a high-powered engine. They're still getting experience behind the wheel and won't be able to handle the torque and quick acceleration a speedy engine brings. A V4 or V6 is plenty for anyone still learning to drive.

Keep to a Budget

Go into the car search with a particular budget in mind. You can find plenty of used cars that have most if not all of the safety features you need at an affordable price. You don't have to break the bank on a new or high-end car for someone who won't be able to properly use it for a while. 

The Best Cars for Teen Drivers

Now that you know what to look for in a car for a new teen driver, it's time to decide on an exact model. We recommend checking IIHS's list of safe vehicles for teens list. Here are some of the highlights of the list:

Best Choices — Used Vehicles

These vehicles all scored high on restraint tests, have above-average reliability scores, and come with electronic stability control.

  • Small Cars

    • Honda Civic

    • Mazda 3

    • Toyota Corolla

  • Midsize Cars

    • Honda Accord

    • Toyota Camry

    • Volkswagon Jetta

  • Large Cars

    • Ford Taurus

    • Hyundai Genesis

    • Toyota Avalon

  • Small SUVs

    • Nissan Rogue

Best Choices — New Vehicles

All of these vehicles have won IIHS top safety awards, have great reliability scores, and come standard with emergency braking systems.

  • Small Cars

    • Honda Insight

    • Mazda 3

  • Midsize Cars

    • Kia K5

    • Subaru Legacy

    • Subaru Outback

  • Small SUVs

    • Chevrolet Trailblazer

    • Ford Bronco Sport

    • Hyundai Tucson

    • Mazda CX-5

  • Midsize SUVs

    • Hyundai Palisade

    • Mazda CX-9

    • Nissan Murano

  • Minivans

    • Honda Oddysey

Help Your Teen Stay Safe on the Road

The first step to keeping your teen safe on the road is making sure they're driving a vehicle that will keep them safe in a crash. Once they're driving a safe vehicle, they can learn additional safe driving practices by signing up for a course on They'll learn how to stay safe out there while following all of the rules of the road. They can complete the courses at their own convenience from anywhere they have internet access. 

Get Started with your Online Drivers Ed Course Today

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Updated 12/2/22