Are you looking to purchase a car for your teenage boy or girl? Being a first-time driver can come with unique challenges, so you’ll want to invest in a vehicle that offers a combination of safety, reliability, and value. Whether you decide you buy new or used, these are the 10 best cars to choose from for your next purchase.
Good First Cars That Are Also Affordable
1. Honda Civic Sedan (MSRP: $18,640)
Probably the quintessential teen car due to its reliability, safety, and gas mileage (42 MPG highway), the Honda Civic has seen its price go up alongside the popularity. With a price tag north of $18K, you might buy one for yourself and let your teenager drive it on the weekends, or you could always shop the used market—Civics tend to really retain their value well.
2. Toyota Corolla (MSRP: $17,300)
Toyota has long been a leader in the car market thanks to strong value and reliability ratings. As the compact offering from the motor company, the Corolla is a safe bet for teenagers looking for their first car. When it comes to features, the Corolla and Civic are really neck and neck (even the highway gas mileage is the same), so your decision might come down to dealer incentives or simply personal preference.
3. Hyundai Accent (MSRP: $14,745)
Once upon a time, Hyundai is were considered low-quality cars that prioritized price over function. Today, you no longer have to choose between a well-manufactured car and a budget-friendly price. The Hyundai Accent gets 38 highway MPG from its 137 hp engine, and comes with a number of standard safety features including anti-lock brakes, traction control, and electronic stability control. If keeping your child safe in an affordable car is your priority, the Accent fits the bill.
4. Kia Forte (MSRP: $15,990)
Your teenager might be familiar with Kia for their commercials with basketball player Blake Griffin, and you might be familiar with Kia for their low prices. No matter the reason, the Kia Forte is an excellent choice for teen boys and girls thanks to sharp looks, an efficient 39 MPG on the highway, and teen-friendly Bluetooth and USB connectivity. A nice compromise between the subcompacts and the somewhat pricier Civics and Corollas of the world, the Kia Forte might just hit the sweet spot for you.
5. Ford Fiesta (MSRP: $14,090)
In some ways the younger brother to Ford’s award-winning Focus, the Ford Fiesta excels with its youthful style and 43 highway MPG. While the base model is a little sparse on features, it’s actually very roomy—there will be plenty of space for your son or daughter to fit in all his/her friends comfortably. And with the latest version of voice-activated SYNC, distraction-free driving should be easier than ever. A focused driver is a safe driver, especially when it comes to a teen.
6. Nissan Versa (MSRP: $11,900)
Of the new models we’ve listed, the Nissan Versa is by far the least expensive. Though at this price tag, you won’t be surprised to find a rather sparse interior, you might still appreciate the little features, like wireless Bluetooth connectivity. If you’re looking for a teen car that you might be able to haggle down to below $10,000 new, the budget-priced and gas-sipping (40 highway MPG) Versa is a great place to start.
Speaking of prices below $10K, if you’re looking for a good car for teenagers under $10,000, the used market might be your best bet. While any of the above makes and models can be found used at a significant discount, we thought it best to include some other options that can be had at attractive rates – as long as you’re comfortable with a car that has a few miles on it already.
7. FIAT 500 Pop (Used From: $9,000)
Looking at a MINI but put off by the price tag? Consider the FIAT 500 Pop as an inexpensive alternative that fits a similar form factor. The small footprint makes it especially ideal for teens living in and around cities, as parallel parking and visibility around turns will be much better. The gas mileage (40 MPG highway) is par for the course and the interior certainly doesn’t boast the finest in Italian craftsmanship, but if the look of the FIAT 500 is what you want, the used market is a great place to hunt for a bargain.
8. Chevrolet Malibu (Used From: $8,900)
Though a few years old, the Chevrolet Malibu is a legitimate mid-sized sedan for the price of a subcompact. The best deals will be on the base model, but if you can find a well-maintained and well-optioned Malibu on the used market, you’ll have a car that’s good enough for any member of the family, let alone a teen. The mileage is relatively poor compared to the other, smaller cars on this list (30 MPG highway), but that’s understandable since it’s a larger vehicle. For parents in search of the best cars for teens and not afraid of testing the used market, the Chevrolet Malibu is a sneaky good deal.
9. Mazda Mazda 2 (Used From: $8,791)
The Mazda 2 is a subcompact car that proves big value can come in small packages. In fact, some have lauded it for a surprisingly nice interior that is equal parts luxurious and sporty. Though the base engine has a mere 100 hp, that can be a benefit for younger drivers who shouldn’t have too much power anyway. While one might expect that the small engine would also have a benefit on gas mileage, the Mazda 2 offers “only” 35 MPG on the highway—good, but not great in comparison to many of the other cars we’ve mentioned. Still, if your teen wants something a little bit off the beaten path, the Mazda 2 could be the perfect option.
10. Volkswagen Jetta (Used From: $9,638)
Jettas are popular among teens and young adults, and Volkswagen Beetles in particular are a good first car for girls. But since we want to remain unisex in our suggestions, the Jetta suits our needs quite nicely. The mileage on these cars is actually quite impressive, since its 41 highway MPG stands up nicely to current models and runs circles around the 2009 Civic (34 MPG) and Corolla (35 MPG). The big drawback is that Volkswagens can get expensive to maintain, but much of that can be prevented by thoroughly inspecting the car before you buy.