While choosing a car for teens, safety tends to be of paramount importance. However, it may not be financially possible for most parents to buy their children a brand new car with all the latest safety gear out there.
And this is exactly where used cars with a history of being safe and reliable come in. If you take the effort to do some research, you may be able to find quite a few cars that not only offer a great level of safety, but also cost well under $10,000.
With that said, here’s a rundown of the 10 safest used cars for teens that also boast a great overall performance.
#1 Chevy Malibu (2009-2012)
The Chevy Malibu is believed to be one of the safest cars for teens. Its reliability and handling seem to be second to none in the price range, especially if you manage to find one in a fairly good condition.
Your best bet would probably be to get any of the 2009-2012 models. They not only cost well under $10,000, but also tend to perform great for a used car.
Coming to some of the features of the Malibu that are worthy of your attention, let us tell you that besides a great level of safety, it’s also very quiet, comfortable and comes with an impressively well-finished interior.
The controls are very straightforward, making the vehicle an even better option for new drivers. The Malibu also returns a reasonably good 25 mpg overall, and allows the driver to adjust the steering and pedals for reach. This makes it one of the most comfortable vehicles for shorter or taller teens, who may otherwise find the “fit” a little less comfortable.
The engine, besides offering the said fuel economy, is also responsive and refined. What else can you ask for in a used car for teen?
#2 Ford Focus (2009-2011)
The Ford Focus is one of the smaller cars on this list. However, it’s one of the safest used cars under $10,000, as it comes with pretty much everything that makes driving a breeze.
While it’s fun to ride, it also offers a unique seating position to make it easier for teens to plan ahead and get a good view of the road. This alone considerably improves the driving safety.
It’s also quite roomy, especially in the backseat, where it can accommodate two very comfortably. Some of the models come with an optional Sync system, allowing teens to use their phones without taking their hands off the steering wheel. However, the same cannot be said about the ones that come with the MyFord Touch control system, as it’s rather distracting.
As far as the fuel economy is concerned, you surely wouldn’t mind the combined 29 mpg. The 2009-2011 models are the best ones to go for, and if you’re lucky you may be able to find one in pretty good condition for as low as around $7,000.
The only thing that you may not like about the Focus is the relatively cheap interior.
#3 Ford Fusion (2010-2012)
There’s a reason the Ford Fusion is rated as one of the top 10 safest cars of the year. It has been consistently performing great in IIHS’ safety tests year after year, which easily makes it one of the safest cars for teens.
Some of its key features include a great ride quality, responsible handling, Sync Bluetooth connectivity as well as voice commands. Some models also come with the MyFord Touch system, but it’s not recommended, especially for teens as it can be distracting while driving.
While the Fusion probably doesn’t offer the kind of ease of access to controls as some of the other vehicles on this list do, the controls are still pretty straightforward and simple. The seats, too, are comfortable, and the interior is very roomy.
The four-cylinder engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, making it considerably powerful when compared to most other used vehicles in the price range. However, it can also be a little noisy, though you also have the option to go for a hybrid version – which is way more expensive.
Finally, anything around the $9,000 mark would be a fair price for a Ford Fusion model from 2009-2012 that’s still in good condition and won’t require incurring frequent maintenance costs.
#4 Hyundai Sonata (2006-2014)
Would you expect to find luxury if you’re on a very tight budget? Well, this is the thing about the Hyundai Sonata. You get an almost luxury midsize sedan for the cost of a small car, if not even lower.
It’s comfortable and quiet, and any of the models from 2006-2010 would come with comfortable seats, easy to access and simple controls, and a fairly smooth ride quality. The handling may not turn out to be the best for these models, though, but the safety would be there – which still makes them perfect for teens.
If you go for a 2009 or later edition, you would get a four-cylinder paired with a five-speed automatic transmission. It would return a fuel economy of 26 mpg overall, and unlike many other used cars, the acceleration would be surprisingly quiet.
The backseat would allow three pretty comfortably, but the front seats may get a little uncomfortable during long trips. The 2011 or later editions, however, come in a different design, which is a little coupe-like and apparently not very stylish. But they still manage to offer the practicality, visibility and rear-seat room that a new driver would need.
The engine of the later editions performs better though, and may return a slightly better 27 mpg overall. As for the price, if you don’t mind settling for one of the earlier editions, you may be able to find a Hyundai Sonata for just around $6,000. You may have to search hard enough for such prices, though.
#5 Kia Soul (2010-2011)
Although not the best on the spaciousness front, the Soul manages to offer the best of both worlds – a lot of standard features and more than enough safety features. It’s also very functional, and has features such as hands-free calling and UVO connection system that allows you to connect your smartphone and play songs from it.
The upright driving position helps get a clear view of the road, but you may end up facing some rear blind zones as well due to poorly designed roof pillars.
The engine is responsive but loud, and the ride isn’t as smooth as some of the other vehicles on this list offer. However, its distinctive personality would appeal more to youth than its competitors, who look rather traditional and unimpressive when compared to the Soul. As for the price, anything less than $9,500 may be a reasonably good deal.
#6 Mazda3 (2011-2013)
Apparently, it’s very difficult to find a “perfect” used vehicle. However, the Mazda3 is believed to be some to be as perfect as a used vehicle can get, as it turns out to be a winner on most of the important fronts. Ranging from handling to fuel economy to even the safety, the Mazda3 is hard to beat as a used car.
There’s navigation, there’s seat heaters and there’s Bluetooth connection as well. And its super smooth handling and compact size that makes it ideal for teenagers, as it may help make it considerably easier to get out of harm’s way quickly.
The 2012 and later editions come with the Mazda’s popular Skyactiv engine, which helps it offer a surprisingly good fuel mileage of 32 mpg. However, these models are also considerably more expensive.
It isn’t a very affordable used car anyway, as it may usually be priced just under $10,000 or well over it.
#7 Mazda6i (2009-2013)
So we have another Mazda on the list. However, this one’s different. It has a sportier look and feel to it – something that most teens would certainly be pleased with.
Apart from the appealing design, the crisp ride quality, nimble handling and quick steering are some of the other important reasons to consider the 6i. The controls is another area where the 6i doesn’t disappoint, as most of them are very straightforward and simple. The same cannot be said about the radio controls, though, as they can be rather inconvenient to access, especially if you need to manage them every now and then.
However, there are also some other features that make the Mazda6i a great fit for tall teens, particularly the long seat cushion and the extremely well-designed steering wheel. And if you’re a parent that wants to be extra secure for your kid, you can go for the blind-spot monitoring system. It would take the safety to a whole new level for young drivers.
Apart from the downside we pointed out above, there’s also the fact that it can be annoyingly loud while driving. If that’s not something that bothers you, you can go ahead and get a Mazda 6i for well under $9,500.
#8 Toyota RAV4 (2004-2012)
Surprised to see an SUV on the list? Well, while SUVs usually aren’t considered one of the safest vehicles out there – especially for teens – there are some exceptions. And the Toyota RAV4 is one of those rare ones.
With that out of the way, let us tell you that the RAV4 is one of the roomiest vehicles on this list, which is not exactly surprising given that it’s an SUV. However, what is surprising is that it comes with very responsive and secure handling, and offers a great gas mileage for an SUV.
Then there’s also the Bluetooth connectivity system, allowing hands-free phone paring too. The standard all-wheel drive, comfortable seats, a lot of extra room for carrying stuff, and a considerably lower price are some of the other features that give the RAV4 a huge upper hand over many of the other vehicles listed on here.
However, there are a couple major downsides as well, and a very significant one is that if you opt for the third row, the safety would take a big hit (and hence it’s not recommended to do so). Similarly, when driving in the city, you would find that the side swinging tailgate ends up being a lot less convenient.
Apart from these things, the price tag of about $6,000 probably makes the Toyota RAV4 a bargain.
#9 Volkswagen Jetta (2009-2010)
If you’re looking for a combination of safety and sophistication, the Volkswagen Jetta may very well turn out to be your best bet. It offers a fun but secure ride, seats that wouldn’t make you feel uncomfortable even during long trips (as can be the case with some other vehicles on this list), a lot of extra room in the back, a large-sized trunk and much more.
The engine comes with plenty of power, too, but it’s at the cost of the fuel economy and a lot of noise. However, if you’re going for the diesel version, the fuel economy may not turn out to be as much of a concern for you, as it would offer a decent 50 mpg highway and 34 mpg overall.
Finally, the visibility, too, is very impressive; the controls are as simple as they can get, and there’s a lot of reliability as well. For a price of somewhere around the $8,000 mark, the Volkswagen Jetta may surely make a good purchase.
#10 Volkswagen Rabbit/Golf (2009-2014)
If you’re looking for a Jetta in the body of a hatchback, the Rabbit is designed just for you. It’s reliable and functional, with the ride being fairly comfortable and fun. The 2.5-liter five-cylinder is responsive but not as powerful as some others on this list, and is also a little rough and loud.
In 2010, the Rabbit was redesigned, and the Golf name returned. It also came with some notable improvements, such as a more responsive handling, better interior, superior front seats, as well as a better overall ride quality.
It’s also very roomy, efficient and reliable. The diesel version also returns a great fuel economy, but isn’t available for anywhere near as cheap as the gasoline one. You can find the gasoline version priced at as less as under $8,000.