The 5 Best New Cars to Buy for a Teenage Driver

(Start the journey off right)

Happy teenage girl shows off the key to her new car.

Every parent of a teen driver wants their first car to be safe. But safety isn't the first and last consideration when it comes to the best cars to buy for a teenage driver. Parents should also consider:

  • Power: You don't want to tempt a teen driver with a powerful engine.
  • Size: Larger vehicles can be more difficult to handle, but heavier vehicles are safer.
  • Reliability: You don't want your teen dealing with engine or other problems.
  • Age: Used cars are perfectly fine, but newer models have more available safety features.
  • Budget: While you don't want to spend a fortune, spending more on certain features is worth the peace of mind.

We put together a list of the 5 best cars to buy for your teenage driver. The list accounts for the factors above, and is designed to give you a range of options at different price points. You should also make sure they're covered with an affordable car insurance policy.

Before you decide on what kind of car to get, there's a bigger question: new, or used?

New vs. Used Cars for Teenage Drivers

You can't choose a model before you decide on your budget. And your budget will be part of what helps you decide whether to buy new or used. 

There are certain benefits to buying a used car for your teenager:

  • You get a glimpse into the car's reliability and track record.
  • You can afford a more fully loaded car for less.
  • You aren't paying for the artificial inflation of a new car.

On the flip side, there are benefits to buying a new car for your teenager:

  • Reliability is practically guaranteed.
  • Dealer warranty is included.
  • Advanced safety features are available, like electronic stability control, blind spot monitoring and cameras.

Remember that there is no right or wrong answer. Make a fully informed decision about new vs. used for your teen driver and stick to your guns. 

From the title, you already know that this list is for the 5 best new cars for your teenager. Now, let's get to the list itself.

1. The 2018 Honda Fit - Starts at $16,190

The Honda Fit is by far one of our favorites for teen drivers. Its affordable base model price means parents can easily upgrade the safety features, and its compact design makes it easy for teens to drive and park.

On a new model, you can upgrade the safety features to include:

  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Forward collision warning
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Lane departure warning
  • Lane keep assist

All of these features are available on the EX trim, which will still cost you less than $18,500.

Other great features for teen drivers include:

  • Top of its class in safety ratings from both the NHTSA and the IIHS
  • 3-year, 36,000-mile basic, 5-year, 60,000-mile power train warranty
  • Great gas mileage - 33 mpg city, 40 mpg highway

Although the Fit is compact, it packs an impressive 52.7 cubic feet of cargo space. Bottom line: iI you want an affordable new car that comes with extra safety features, is dependable and has excellent crash test ratings, the Honda Fit is a great choice.

2. 2018 Honda Civic - Starts at $18,940 

Although the Civic is more expensive than the Fit, it's a larger sedan and another great option for teen drivers. The Civic comes standard with a number of active and passive safety features, including:

  • Advanced front airbags
  • SmartVent front side airbags
  • Side curtain airbags with rollover sensor
  • Vehicle stability assist with traction control
  • Anti-lock braking system (ABS)
  • Brake assist
  • Multi-angle rearview camera

Also like the Fit, other features are available, but optional, such as:

  • Forward collision warning
  • Lane departure warning
  • Collision mitigation braking system
  • Road departure mitigation system 

Other great features for teen drivers include:

  • Top of its class in safety ratings from both the NHTSA and the IIHS
  • 3-year, 36,000-mile basic, 5-year, 60,000-mile power train warranty
  • Great gas mileage - 31 mpg city, 40 mpg highway

There's a reason you see so many Civics on the road, for teen drivers and otherwise. These cars offer a perfect balance of affordability and reliability. 

These points also apply to the Civic's big brother, the Accord. Though it's slightly more expensive, it is heavier and can be upgraded even more than the Civic can.

3. 2018 Kia Sportage - Starts at $23,750

SUVs are heavier, bigger, and therefore safer for teens. Compact SUVs are best because they're a manageable size. After all, a heavier car can be an asset in case of an accident. 

The Kia is the compact SUV of choice for teen drivers. Not only is the starting price affordable and on par with the sedans on this list, but it ranks on the top 5 list of compact SUVs. 

Upgrading to the EX trim, for about $3,000 more, also gets you advanced safety features like:

  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Forward collision warning
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Lane departure warning
  • Lane keep assist
  • Rear cross traffic alert 

Other great features for teen drivers include:

  • Top of its class in safety ratings from both the NHTSA and the IIHS
  • J.D. Power 4.5/5.0 reliability rating 
  • UVO technology sends alerts to parents if your teen exceeds a certain time allowed out or exceeds geographic or speed boundaries you can set

The Sportage is a great option for parents who want a multiuse vehicle for their families. And with a reasonable price for the size and features, this Kia is a great option.

4. 2019 Ford Fusion - Starts at $22,840

The Ford Fusion is a favorite in midsize cars. It's a great first car for teens for its great handling and modest engine. 

The 2019 model is attractive because it includes Ford's Co-Pilot 360. This system includes a suite of driver assistance features, including:

  • Rear-view camera
  • Forward collision warning
  • Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection
  • Lane keeping system
  • Blind spot information system with cross traffic alert

Because these features are included, it's easier for parents to get the full number of safety features they want for teens.

Other great features for teen drivers include:

  • Strong side and roof strength in accident testing
  • 3-year, 36,000-mile basic, 5-year, 60,000-mile power train warranty
  • Good gas mileage - 23 mpg city, 34 mpg highway

The Fusion packs great value for the price. This car features a low price point and a lot of high-tech extras. Since a car accident is more likely to cause a teenager's death than any other reason, the extra bit of security can go a long way toward your peace of mind.

5. 2018 Mazda CX-3 - Starts at $20,110

The Mazda CX-3 is a crossover that is sometimes overlooked for teen drivers. But its size, safety ratings and other features make it another great choice for any new driver.

The CX-3 edges out the Sportage on the subcompact list, and has great handling, better suspension and a surprisingly upgraded interior for the price point. Safety-wise, the CX-3 comes standard with front automated emergency braking. Optional features include:

  • Lane-departure warning
  • Rear cross-traffic monitor
  • Forward-collision warning
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Blind-spot monitor

Other great features for teen drivers include:

  • Solid build
  • 3-year, 36,000-mile basic, 5-year, 60,000-mile power train warranty
  • Great gas mileage for the size - 29 mpg city, 34 mpg highway

The Right Car Insurance Keeps Your Teen Protected, Too

Once you find the best first car for your teenager, make sure to shop around for auto insurance as well. A local, independent agent can often get you better prices on your coverage than an in-house insurance agent who works for one insurance provider. 

You'll most likely need all the discounts you can get now that you have a new driver on your bill. With an agent helping you, it's easier than you might think.

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