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The Best Cars for Teen Drivers in 2024

Teenagers starting to drive is an important milestone, but it also comes with a responsibility to keep them safe on the road. As a parent, choosing the right first car can make a big difference. This article will provide an in-depth review of the top car options for new teen drivers in 2024 based on critical safety and performance factors. 

How to Choose a Safe Yet Practical Car

When considering your teen’s first vehicle, safety should be the top priority. However, you also want something reasonable for a new driver to operate and affordable to insure. Here are some key attributes to focus on:

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Safety Features

Look for advanced driver assistance technologies that can help prevent accidents like forward collision warnings, blind spot monitoring and lane departure warnings. An IIHS Top Safety Pick rating is also reassuring. Control features like limitation of max speed and audio volume while driving are beneficial too.

Size and Weight

Small to mid-size cars are generally easier for teens to handle than large SUVs or pickups. Lighter vehicles are also less dangerous if involved in accidents. Compact cars are highly maneuverable for city driving as well.

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Insurability

Check insurance rates for different models. Sports cars and high-performance vehicles will cost significantly more to insure for a teen. Honda, Toyota, and some domestic brands tend to offer reasonable premiums.

Price

Consider your budget for purchase plus ongoing costs like repairs, gas and maintenance. While safety is top priority, you don’t want vehicle expenses to become a burden either. Aim for reliable used cars priced $15,000 or less if possible.

Practicality

Emerging adults will be carrying friends, gear for activities, and doing errands. Look for passenger space, a usable trunk, and comfortable ride quality on long trips. Automatic transmission also reduces distraction.

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With these criteria in mind, here are some top vehicles that serve teen drivers particularly well based on their affordability, efficiency, reliability, and advanced safety tech.

Best Small Cars for Teen Drivers

Compact cars are an excellent choice for new drivers learning the ropes. Their smaller size makes maneuvering and parking easier. Here are some top options:

Toyota Corolla

The perennial best-selling small car globally, the Corolla is the quintessential safe and practical commuter car. It has standard driver assistance tech like pre-collision braking and lane departure warning on higher trims. Great gas mileage too at up to 38 mpg highway. Reliability is legendary with the Corolla.

Honda Civic

The Civic is another compact sedan that is a joy to drive yet forgiving for inexperienced motorists. Newer Civics have optional blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control. Known for zippy acceleration but not at the cost of fuel economy – it can get up to 42 mpg on the highway. Honda is famous for durability as well.

Hyundai Elantra

Hyundai has aggressively pursued advanced safety in recent years and the Elantra is a prime example. It comes standard with driver attention warning, automatic emergency braking and lane keeping assist on all trims. With a spacious cabin, strong engine and up to 33 mpg highway, it is a blend of value and user-friendly technology that can ease a teen into driving.

Kia Forte

The Forte from Kia is practically a twin to the Hyundai Elantra and has similar merits. Both brands offer excellent warranties, too, to offer peace of mind. The Forte has a larger touchscreen available and is loaded with features usually found in more premium brands. Safe, well-equipped, and with reassuring build quality, it is a steal at its price point.

Mid-size sedans and Crossovers

While compact cars make the most sense size-wise, some teens may feel more comfortable in a mid-sizer for highway driving confidence. These step-up options still provide maneuverability with added comfort:

Toyota Camry

Moving up from a Corolla, the popular Camry mid-size sedan strikes an ideal balance of performance and practicality. It comes well-equipped as a base LE trim with blind spot monitoring included. Hybrid versions deliver great fuel efficiency, too, up to 52 mpg. Timeless styling and proven mechanicals set it apart.

Honda Accord

Honda’s flagship Accord sedan offers more power and passenger space than a Civic in a driver-friendly package. Higher trims have adaptive cruise control, lane centering, and other conveniences. Plus, the new Accord has a sleek new look inside and out. Fantastic reliability and resale value make it a strong long-term investment.

Toyota RAV4

For those who need occasional cargo or passenger capacity, the top-selling RAV4 compact SUV is a standout choice. Able to tackle light trails yet agile in urban areas, it is as practical as can be. Newer models offer the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite with road sign assist and other perks. Hybrid powertrains obtain 38 mpg combined too.

Honda CR-V

The CR-V is arguably the most well-rounded compact crossover on the market. It boasts great handling on-road while presenting a higher ride height than sedans. Loaded with standard driver aids now including adaptive cruise. Spacious interior with a high tech infusion make it a pleasure for all ages to drive. Fuel economy achieves 33 mpg highways.

Subcompact Options for New Drivers

If budget is a tight constraint, several subcompact models still deliver on safety while proving very affordable to purchase and insure:

Kia Rio

The Rio subcompact sedan from Kia is an excellent value. Standard driver aids like forward collision warning make it a secure choice for new motorists. Up to 36 mpg highway means low fuel costs as well. Its small stature enhances maneuverability in busy areas too. Kia is famous for its quality and warranty strength these days too.

Hyundai Accent

The Accent mini-sedan from Hyundai is another smart pick for safety and savings. With standard tech-like lane-keeping assist, it watches out for the driver’s mistakes intelligently. Strong engine, agile handling, and an upscale interior are highlights. Affordability is this car’s biggest strength, though, and it is perfect for a young budget.

Toyota Yaris

Toyota brings their legendary build quality down to the subcompact Yaris. Although small in size, it does not compromise on reliability. The Yaris also boasts advanced driver aids as standard including blind spot monitoring, making it a safe choice for new motorists. Sips gas for low running costs too at 36 mpg highway.

American Made Options

While imports dominate safety and efficiency these days, some domestic brands still offer quality choices that fit most teen drivers well:

Chevrolet Cruze

The Chevy Cruze compact sedan delivers a comfortable ride at an affordable price. Higher trims come with worthwhile tech like lane-keeping assist. Roomy interior and trunk can carry friends and cargo handily. Strong acceleration for passing yet averages over 30 mpg on the highway routinely. Backed by Chevy’s dealer network nationwide.

Ford Focus

As the top-selling small car in America for years, the Ford Focus is a known quantity. Stylish looks outside and in, plus spunky driving dynamics for fun. Higher trims have driver aids to assist, as pre-collision assist. Known for dependability, the Focus also gets up to 43 mpg on highways, more than many compacts. Solid choice in the affordable segment.

Honda HR-V

For teens who need occasional off-road capability or cargo practicality, the subcompact Honda HR-V crossover is a great option. Agile handling for everyday use yet able builds for exploring light trails confidently. Loaded with the latest Honda Sensing safety tech as standard. Efficient engine returns over 30 mpg highway too. Top-notch quality and performance in a small package.

Questions to Ask When Test Driving

Once you’ve narrowed options based on research, taking demo drives is crucial. Encourage your teen to be an active participant by focusing on:

  • Acceleration and braking feel – How quickly does it pick up speed? Are brakes responsive?
  • Visibility – Can they see clearly out of all windows and check blind spots easily?
  • Controls – Where are buttons located and easy to use while driving? Is infotainment simple to navigate?
  • Ride quality – Is it too stiff or bouncy on cracked roads? How’s handling around turns?
  • Cabin noise – Are road sounds well insulated, or is it loud inside?
  • Cargo space – Will their possessions and friends fit without issue?

Having them practice simple maneuvers in empty lots can illustrate a vehicle’s size and abilities. Take notes on what feels most secure and user-friendly for a new driver.

Insurance Considerations

After selecting a vehicle, getting the best auto insurance rate for your teen is crucial. Shop around quotes factoring:

  • Driver experience level – Rates are highest in the first year and gradually decrease with more experience
  • Driving record – Any tickets or accidents will significantly increase premiums
  • Vehicle model – Sports cars cost more to insure than compacts, generally
  • Gender – Statistics show young male drivers have more claims, costing more
  • Discounts – Good student grades, driver’s education, and low annual mileage may lower rates
  • Liability limits – 100/300/100 is standard, but 250/500/250 provides better protection
  • Usage type – Pleasure vs. commute makes a difference; reduce commute risks if possible

Consider adding a teen to your existing policy for your lowest rate as a driver on the family plan. But be sure they qualify for good student or similar discounts to offset higher risks. Taking a defensive driving course together can also help lower future premiums through experience and safe habits.

Maintaining a New Vehicle for a Teen Driver

Beyond insurance, keeping costs reasonable long-term means establishing a maintenance plan:

  • Check oil, fluids, and tire pressure monthly. Top off washer fluid too.
  • Rotate tires every 5,000-8,000 miles for even wear. Replace when the tread is low.
  • Inspect brakes at each oil change for wear. Replace pads and rotors as needed.
  • Change engine oil and filter every 5,000-7,500 miles or six months typically.
  • Replace the air filter annually or as dirty. Cabin filter, too, for circulation.
  • Inspect all lights, turn signals, and safety equipment regularly.
  • Follow the recommended service schedule meticulously in the owner’s manual.
  • Consider prepaid maintenance plans some brands offer for set costs.

With proactive care, components will last their useful lifespan, saving big on repair bills in the long term. Teach safe driving habits, and they’ll retain their vehicle’s value as well through fewer incidents or wear and tear.

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