Best Cars for Teens Recommended by Consumer Reports


According to a recent Consumer Reports newsletter, the latest data shows that the fatal crash rate per mile driven for teens is about four times the rate for drivers 20 and older.

And while the numbers are largely attributed to many teens lacking the maturity and experience of driving safely, another factor is that not all vehicles are equally safe due to lacking the latest in safety features to help avoid being in an accident…or limit injuries should an accident happen.

Related article: The Gory Truth About Seat Belts from Consumer Reports and a Paramedic

As parents, we can’t control what happens on the road once our teen driver pulls out of the driveway,” says Jennifer Stockburger, director of operations at CR’s Auto Test Center. “But we do have some say in the type of vehicle they drive, and that can make a huge difference. This list can help parents find vehicles that check all the boxes,” stated in a recent newsletter update.

Strategies for Teen Car Shopping
There are a number of strategies parents use when it comes to providing a car for a newly licensed teen driver:

• Pass on the old family car because it anything happens to it, it’s not as big of a deal.
• Buy a cheap clunker for the same reason above.
• Lease a new vehicle for your teen.
• Buy a new car with the latest safety features.
• Buy a used car with at least some desired safety features.

The first three strategies listed are the least desirable for a smart consumer choice. While older vehicles will lose less value following an accident, they often do not come with much more than seat belts and a steering wheel airbag safety feature. Leased vehicles are a problem because lessees are heavily fined for ANY dings or scratches done to a leased vehicle.

The focus therefore is on the strategies of buying either a new or used vehicle for a teen, but with the caveat that not just any new or used vehicle will do. Rather, the focus on which car model possesses safety features and proven reliability to help keep your teen safe.

Recommended Car Models with Safety Features and Reliability
To help parents find the right car model with safety features and reliability that qualifies a used car as “a Good” or a new car as “the Best” choices, CR analysts with IIHS safety experts focused on the following criteria:

For a used car to qualify as “a Good Choice” CR analysts state that the vehicles must have:

• Above-average reliability for a majority of the years listed, based on CR’s member surveys.
• Average or better scores from CR’s emergency handling tests.
• Dry braking distances of less than 145 feet from 60 mph in CR’s brake tests.
• Good ratings in four IIHS crashworthiness tests: moderate-overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints.
• Four or five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (if rated).
• Electronic stability control. ESC has important crash prevention and lifesaving potential. It became standard on all passenger vehicles in 2012 and was standard on many models before then. All vehicles have this important feature as standard equipment for the years listed.

For a new car to qualify as “the BEST Choice” for new cars CR analysts state that the vehicles must have:

• Good ratings in four IIHS crashworthiness tests: Moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints.
• Standard forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking systems.
• Average or better scores from CR’s emergency handling tests.
• A rating of Good or better by CR for controls that are easy to use.
• Four or five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (if rated).
• Dry braking distances of less than 140 feet from 60 mph in CR’s brake tests.
• A curb weight over 2,750 pounds because small, light vehicles don’t provide enough protection in multiple-vehicle crashes. Despite their mass, many large SUVs don’t make the list as they can be hard to handle and often have long braking distances. Sports cars are also excluded as they can encourage dangerous driving.
• A designation as either a Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick Plus by the IIHS based on the model’s performance in key crash, accident avoidance, and headlight tests.
• A Consumer Reports recommendation, meaning that it meets our stringent standards for reliability, safety, and road-test performance, including achieving particular thresholds for braking and handling.

These recommendations focus on “Goldilocks” models that provide the best all-around protection for inexperienced drivers. Ultimately, the goal is to select a reliable car with as much safety as you can afford. Active driver assistance systems (ADAS) are becoming widespread and are now available in many late-model used cars. Features such as forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, and blind spot warning are proven features that can help avoid collisions and are worth considering if your budget allows it,” states CR analysts.


That all said about safety and making informed smart buying decisions, here is a summary of the makes and models recommended by Consumer Reports starting with the Best New Cars followed by the Best Used Cars and then followed by Good Used Car choices for teens with current expected pricing.


New Small Car
• Mazda 3 / $23,000

New Midsized Cars
• Subaru Legacy / $25,100

New Small SUVs
• Honda HR-V / $24,400
• Subaru Forester / $27,700
• Mazda CX-5 / $27,800
• Mazda CX-50 / $28,900
• Toyota RAV4 / $29,300
• Honda CR-V / $29,700
• Lexus UX / $36,000
• Lexus NX / $39,800

New Midsized SUVs
• Subaru Outback / $29,300
• Subaru Ascent / $34,600
• Hyundai Palisade / $36,600
• Toyota Highlander / $37,100
• Mazda CX-9 / $$38,300

New Minivan
• Honda Odyssey / $38,100


Used Small Cars
• Mazda 3 sedan or hatchback (2014 or newer) / $9,100
• Ford C-Max Hybrid (2014-2016) / $10,000
• Toyota Prius (2014; built after November 2013) / $12,900
• Subaru Impreza sedan or wagon (2018, 2022) / $14,500

Used Midsized Cars
• Subaru Legacy (2013-21; built after August 2012) / $7,800
• Mazda 6 (2014-18) / $10,200
• Toyota Prius V (2015-17) / $14,500
• Volkswagen Passat (2017) / $14,500
• BMW 3 Series (2017 or newer; built after Nov. 2016) $16,500

Used Large Cars
• Toyota Avalon (2015 or newer) / $14,600
• Hyundai Genesis (2016) / $18,00

Used Small SUVs
• Volvo XC60 (2013, 2017) / $9,600
• Mazda CX-5 (2014 or newer; built after October 2013) / $11,800
• Mazda CX-3 (2019) / $13,900
• Honda CR-V (2015 or newer) / $15,200
• Honda HR-V (2017 or newer) / $16,000
• Toyota RAV4 (2015 or newer; built after Nov 2014) / $16,100
• Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid (2018) / $18,900
• Subaru Forester (2018 or newer) / $20,000

Used Midsized SUVs
• Subaru Outback (2015-18 2022) / $12,200
• Nissan Murano (2015 or newer) / $12,400
• Hyundai Santa Fe Sport (2018) / $15,700
• Toyota Highlander (2014 or newer) / $17,100
• Acura RDX (2016 or newer) / $19,300

Used Minivans
• Toyota Sienna (2015-20) / $15,700

Pickup truck
Toyota Tacoma Extended Cab or Crew Cab (2016 OR NEWER) / $17,900


Used Small Cars
• Kia Soul (2013, 2017, 2019, 2021 or newer) / $6,600
• Toyota Corolla sedan (2013 or newer) / $9,700
• Chevrolet Volt (2013) / $10,300
• Honda Civic sedan (2012-15, 2020 or newer) / $10,400
• Toyota Prius (2013) / $11,700

Used Midsized Cars
• Ford Fusion (2015, 2018) / $12,200
• Honda Accord coupe or sedan (2013 or newer) / $10,400
• Audi A6 (2013-15) / $10,800
• Toyota Camry (2013 or newer) / 11,400
• Toyota Prius V (2013) / $12,000
• BMW 3 Series sedan (2016) / $14,000
• Audi A4 (2015-16) / $14,200

Used Large Cars
• Hyundai Genesis (2013) / $10,000
• Toyota Avalon (2013-14) / $11,700

Used Small SUVs
• Hyundai Tucson (2014) / $9,700
• Nissan Rogue (2015, 2017, 2021 or newer) / $11,900
• Honda CR-V (2013-14) / $12,400
• Acura RDX (2013-15) / 14,000
• Toyota RAV4 (2013-14) / $14,100

Used Midsized SUV
• Toyota Highlander (2013) / $14,500

And finally…

For a more detailed breakdown of the data, please visit the CR website. Note that while access to some information requires a CR membership, the potential savings make it negligible in comparison when looking for the latest information to aid your car buying research.

For additional articles about buying new or used cars, here are a few selected articles for your consideration:

Beat Dealerships at Their Own Game with This Car Contract Loophole

Consumer Reports Recommends This Important Negotiation Point to Focus on When Buying a New Car

Red Flag Used Car Dealers Do Not Want Buyers to Know About

Timothy Boyer is a Torque News automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites for daily new and used vehicle news.

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