Most parents accept the fact that their teen’s car won’t stay in pristine condition for long; this means that a high-priced new car with all the bells and whistles is unlikely to be in the cards for new drivers. Yet safety and reliability should still be top of mind. Affordable and reliable vehicles are more tricky to come by due to the ongoing inventory shortage driving up the average prices of used cars. To help shoppers of all ages choose a budget-friendly, dependable and safe vehicle, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Consumer Reports have partnered to identify the best new and used cars for teens in their annual report.
Related: What Are the Best Cars for Teens?
Due to inventory constraints, the list of recommended used vehicles shrinks from 61 models in 2021 to 49 models for 2022, and the list of new vehicles includes 21 models, down from 29 in 2021. In addition to good IIHS safety ratings, the recommended vehicles are those that discourage dangerous driving behavior and avoid unnecessary risks: Sports cars, small cars with a curb weight under 2,750 pounds and very large vehicles with long braking distances are excluded.
The new and used vehicles are sorted into three groups: best used-car choices, good used-car choices and best new cars for teens. Vehicle categories are further divided by size and class, including small cars, mid-size cars, large cars, small SUVs, mid-size SUVs and minivans.
Multiple evaluations are used to narrow down the list of good and best vehicle choices for teens, and both categories must meet basic safety and reliability criteria. Each vehicle must earn good ratings in several IIHS crash tests — moderate overlap front, original side, roof strength and head restraint — as well as four or five stars from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (if rated) and above-average reliability scores from Consumer Reports member surveys. Additionally, each car must offer standard electronic stability systems and have a dry braking distance of fewer than 145 feet from 60 mph.
To jump from good to best, a vehicle must achieve a good or acceptable rating in the IIHS driver-side small overlap front test, and any vehicles with higher than average insurance claims for first-party injury coverage are disqualified.
To make the list of best new cars for teens, a vehicle must be a 2022 IIHS Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick Plus, it must also come with standard vehicle-to-vehicle automatic emergency braking and average or better scores in Consumer Reports’ reliability rankings. As with the used car choices, new vehicles must get good scores in handling and dry braking tests, and all new vehicles with above-average insurance claims are excluded.
Safest Used Cars for Teens: Best Choices
- Ford C-Max Hybrid (2014-15)
- Mazda3 sedan or hatchback (2014 or newer)
- Chevrolet Volt (2014)
- Subaru Impreza sedan or wagon (2015, 2018-20)
- Toyota Corolla Hatchback (2019 or newer)
- Honda Insight (2019 or newer)
- Subaru Crosstrek (2018 or newer)
- Subaru Legacy (2013 or newer; built after August 2012)
- Subaru Outback (2013 or newer; built after August 2012)
- Volkswagen Passat (2015, 2017)
- Mazda6 (2014-19)
- Toyota Prius v (2015-17)
- Lincoln MKZ (2015 or newer)
- Volvo S60 (2018)
- Audi A6 (2016-19)
- Toyota Avalon (2015 or newer)
- Hyundai Genesis (2016)
- Mazda CX-5 (2014 or newer; built after October 2013)
- Honda CR-V (2015 or newer)
- Hyundai Kona (2018, 2021)
- Mazda CX-3 (2019)
- Volvo XC60 (2017)
- Ford Edge (2015, 2020; built after May 2015)
- Nissan Murano (2015 or newer)
- Chevrolet Equinox (2017)
- GMC Terrain (2017)
- Lexus NX (2015 or newer)
- Hyundai Santa Fe (2017-19; built after March 2016)
- Toyota Highlander (2014 or newer)
- Toyota Sienna (2015-18)
- Kia Sedona (2017)
- Honda Odyssey (2017, 2020 or newer)
Safest Used Cars for Teens: Good Choices
- Mazda 3 sedan or hatchback (2011-13; built after December 2010)
- Honda Civic sedan (2012-15, 2019 or newer)
- Toyota Prius (2011 or newer)
- Chevrolet Volt (2013)
- Toyota Corolla sedan (2014 or newer)
- Lexus CT 200h (2012-13)
- Toyota Prius v (2012-14)
- Toyota Camry (2012 or newer)
- Honda Accord sedan (2012 or newer) or coupe (2013 or newer)
- Volkswagen Jetta (2016)
- Ford Fusion (2015, 2018)
- BMW 3 Series (2016)
- Nissan Altima (2017, 2020)
- Ford Taurus (2011)
- Hyundai Genesis (2011)
- Toyota Avalon (2011-14)
- Nissan Rogue (2014-20)
Safest New Cars for Teens
- Mazda3 sedan or hatchback
- Honda Insight
- Chevrolet Trailblazer
- Mazda CX-30
- Hyundai Tucson
- Mazda CX-5
- Ford Bronco Sport
- Buick Encore GX (Essence trim)
- Toyota RAV4 (XLE, XLE Premium, SE, XSE, Adventure, Limited or TRD trims)
- Honda CR-V (Hybrid EX, Hybrid EX-L, Touring or Hybrid Touring trims)
- Lexus UX (with triple-beam LED headlamps with auto-leveling)
- Hyundai Santa Fe (built after July 2021)
- Hyundai Palisade
- Nissan Murano
- Mazda CX-9
- Toyota Highlander
- Honda Odyssey
More From Cars.com:
- Here Are the 10 Cheapest New Cars You Can Buy Right Now
- IIHS Toughens Up Crash Tests; Many SUVs Fail
- What Are the Best Used Cars for $20,000?
- What Are the Best Used Cars for $15,000?
- What Are the Best Used Cars for $10,000?
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