The Ten Best Car Options For Teen Drivers
Posted Aug 20, 2013
When your teen first starts driving, it's best to force them 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 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. 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 and comes with standard anti-lock brakes. The safety package became standard in 2007 (it was an option in 2005 and 2006) and includes side airbags and curtain airbags, which keep passengers inside in the event of a rollover. It also comes with an AWD version, which can help in tricky weather. It weighs 3,660 pounds.2007 Ford 500 or 2005-2007 Mercury Montego
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 3-liter V6 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.
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The Ford Fusion fares 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.2007-2012 Ford Fusion
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 more.
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 it can be a bigger distraction than a help.
The 2006 models did not score well on crash tests.
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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.2010-2012 Mazda3
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.
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It's certainly not a sexy car, but the Subaru Outback could be a perfect fit for your teen. It's 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.2005-2012 Subaru Outback
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 they were offered as an option some years.
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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 great in a crash. But it's agile enough to hopefully prevent an accident from happening in the first place.2008-2009 Honda Accord
Consumer Reports has put the Accord on its best cars for teens list, and its best cars 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.
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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.2009-2012 Volkswagen Jetta
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 also has electronic stability control and very few blind spots.
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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 a Toyota, and not a 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. This offers parents another way of looking over their teen's shoulder while they're on the road.
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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.2011-2012 Hyundai Sonata
The newer Sonata is a reliable choice. It comes with a hefty number of airbags, including 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 feature 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.
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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.2009-2012 Volvo S80
Coming in over $20,000 even used, this is a pretty pricey option for many teens. But it has all the safety technology you could want: side airbag, curtain airbags, blind spot warning and 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 – telling 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.
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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 engine probably feels a little underpowered, but it's perfectly fine for the kind of driving your teen will do.2006-2012 Toyota Camry
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 fix. 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.
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