Series: 10 Best Car Options For Teen Drivers
If you've been reading our series on teen driving safety closely, you'll remember that just last week we said it's best to force your teen to share the family car. That gives parents the control over when the car is used, and gives you time to check-in with your teen to make sure things are going well.
But after 12 months of problem-free driving, your teen may be ready to own their own set of wheels. We've pulled together a list of slightly used cars that would make ideal cars for teens. They score high on safety tests, aren't particularly fast or sexy, and come with enough safety technology to make even the most worried parents feel a little bit safer.
To compile our list, we cross-checked crash tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety with reviews and test drives from the AOL Autos staff.
You'll note there are no SUVs or pickup trucks on these lists. Even with rollover stability control technology, we don't feel these are appropriate cars for teens because of their high center of gravity, which could result in a rollover despite technology on board. And aging SUVs and pickup trucks could have undetected problems, ones you don't want to discover in an accident.
Why? It's can be had for less than $10K, it comes with standard anti-lock brakes. Safety package became standard in 2007 (option in 2005 and 2006) and includes side airbags and curtain airbags, which keep passengers inside in the event of a rollover. Also comes with an AWD version, which can help in tricky weather. It weighs 3,660 pounds.
What was considered a drawback when these cars were new is actually a selling point for your teen driver: The acceleration isn't as quick as other models, so it takes off slowly. Its standard V6 3-liter engine wasn't as powerful as similar cars on the market, which makes it a fine pick for teens who should be driving within the speed limit anyway.
After 2009, some models also come with MyKey technology, which we'll talk about more in depth later.
Research the Mercury Montego
See Mercury Montego Photos & Information
Search Mercury Montego Used Listings
The Ford Fusion tests well in crashes, handles well on the road, and is stylish enough to retain its resale value. Although all of those things would get it on the list already, its MyKey technology helps solidify its spot.
The MyKey system is a way for parents to stay in some control, even after they hand over the keys. Parents can limit the top speed to 80 mph, set it so the radio won't come on until the front seat riders have latched their seatbelts, and limits the radio.
Although the Fusion is a very popular car, we would suggest trying to get one without Sync. The Sync system can be complicated to use, and for young drivers can be a bigger distraction than a help.
2006 models did not score well on crash tests.
Research the Ford Fusion
See Ford Fusion Photos & Information
Search Ford Fusion Used Listings
Parents often want to put their teens in massive hulking cars, under the belief that if they get into a crash, the mass and size of their teen's car will keep them safe. But the best crash is the one your teen avoided, so cars that are more nimble and easy to drive will keep them from getting into accidents in the first place.
The Mazda3 has very precise handling, and gets good crash test scores from IIHS. (Older versions of the car, from 2005 to 2008, score poorly on side impact tests and should be avoided.) It is small enough to keep the number of passengers down, but is also fairly roomy for bags and equipment.
Research the Mazda3
See Mazda3 Photos & Information
Search Mazda3 Used Listings
It's certainly not a sexy car, but the Subaru Outback could be a perfect fit for your teen. Large enough to hold hockey and other sports equipment in the back, but with a small enough back seat to repel teens from asking your child to give them a ride. The Outback has come with all-wheel drive standard for years, making it more sure-footed in the snow and ice.
The car has a solid fan base as well, meaning it will retain enough of its value when it's time time to sell it.
Side airbags are a key feature, though. Make sure you find models that are equipped with these, because there were offered as an option some years.
Research the Subaru Outback
See Subaru Outback Photos & Information
Search Subaru Outback Used Listings
Why? The Accord is an easy pick, because it often tops shopping lists for teens. All models come with stability control, which helps cars from losing traction (although it can only do so much to prevent a spin out.) It comes with a ton of standard airbags, which is nice in a crash. But it's agile enough to hopefully prevent an accident from happening in the first place.
Consumer Reports has put the Accord on its best cars for teens list, and its best car for seniors list. They say the controls in the Accord are easy enough for seniors to see and operate, which we see as an upside for easily-rattled teens as well.
Research the Honda Accord
See Honda Accord Photos & Information
Honda Accord Outback Used Listings
The base model of this newer Jetta sedan didn't win over the hearts and minds of critics, who thought it was underpowered. But for teen drivers, it is perfect for merging onto the highway and doesn't make any hot shot behind the wheel feel like he or she should be drag racing.
The controls are simple and easy to use, which is something that's often hard to find these days with more and more features piled into entertainment systems. It has electronic stability control and very few blind spots.
Research the Volkswagen Jetta
See Volkswagen Jetta Photos & Information
Volkswagen Jetta Used Listings
The Matrix and the Vibe share most of their interior and mechanical components, so it doesn't really matter which one you choose. The Vibe will likely have better resale value because it's named Toyota, and not defunct Pontiac.
But either way, these cars are good picks for teens. They fit a lot of the criteria: Easy handling, slightly underpowered, and score well on crash tests. The hatchbacks have plenty of storage space but tight back seats – keeping those pesky passengers away.
The Pontiac may come with OnStar, which offers a safety and security option which will alert emergency services if the airbags deploy. Which offers parents another way of looking over their teen's shoulder while they're on the road.
Research the Pontiac Vibe
See Pontiac Vibe Photos & Information
Pontiac Vibe Used Listings
Earlier versions of the Sonata make many popular top-10 lists for teen cars. But Until 2011, the crash test data was mixed. Even with standard side airbags, the Sonata only earned an "acceptable" score, not a "good" score, from IIHS.
Still, the newer Sonata is a reliable choice. It comes with a hefty number of airbags, included side curtain ones.
Later this year, the car will come with BlueLink, a telematics system that can be used to help parents monitor teen drivers. The GeoFence will alert owners when a car has been driven outside of a predetermined area, which will help if you want your teen to stay close to home. And it will you allow to set speed limits and curfews on the car.
Research the Hyundai Sonata
See Hyundai Sonata Photos & Information
Hyundai Sonata Used Listings
Although Volvos are no longer synonymous with safety (not because their quality is slipping, but because so many competitors have caught up with Volvo), the S80 is a solid choice for teens.
Coming in over $20,000 even used, this is a pretty pricey option for many teens. But it's got all the safety technology you could want: side airbag, curtain airbags (which keep occupants inside a vehicle in case of a rollover), blind spot warning, a warning if you're about to rear end the car in front of you. Some cars came with an optional personal car communicator package that senses heartbeats – and can tell you if someone is lurking inside the car waiting.
The engine might be a bit powerful for a teen driver, but it's hard to argue with all those safety features.
Research the Volvo S80
See Volvo S80 Photos & Information
Volvo S80 Used Listings
Like the other sedans on this list, your teen probably won't be terribly excited to get a Camry. It's kind of bland. The 4-cylinder probably feels a little underpowered, but it's perfectly fine for the kind of driving your teen will do.
The Camry was subject to the sudden acceleration recalls in 2010, so make sure the model you purchase has been back to the dealer to get the fixed needed. And without side airbags, the Camry doesn't score well on side impact tests, so make sure those are on your used model as well.
Research the Toyota Camry
See Toyota Camry Photos & Information
Toyota Camry Used Listings
Latest Auto News
- Video: Is your brain predisposed to make you love Rolls-Royce?
- Official: PGO launches Cévennes Speedster in Europe
- Sunswift Eve is a solar car for everyone, maybe [w/video]
- Spy Shots: Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG spied with minor changes
- Read This: PickupTrucks.com's latest test results in a familiar winner [w/video]
- Official: Aston Martin unveils new Gulf livery for Le Mans
- Study: New J.D. Power Initial Quality Study puts Porsche, GM in spotlight
Take AOL Autos With You
Introducing our New iPhone App.View the App
Research A New Car
- Aston Martin
- Land Rover