If you are looking to buy a new car for your teen driver, there are some good options that are safe and reliable, and won’t break the bank.
The following list also highlights models that perform well in our testing and government and insurance-industry safety tests, plus have average or better predicted reliability, based on our subscriber surveys. (Consumer Reports maintains reliability Ratings on our website going back 10 model years.) Making selection easier, all 2014 cars offer standard electronic stability control, a proven lifesaver that is especially beneficial to less-experienced drivers.
Generally speaking, bigger and heavier vehicles perform better in crash tests. But very large vehicles can have unwieldy handling, offer poor fuel economy, and allow for more passengers, a potentially dangerous distraction that has been shown to increase a young driver’s crash risk.
Large pickups and SUVs are not recommended for inexperienced drivers because their high centers of gravity make them more prone to roll over than other vehicles. Sports cars are also a poor choice for young drivers. They beg to be driven too fast and have a higher rate of accidents than other cars. Consequently, they often carry high insurance premiums for young drivers.
We did not consider cars with 0- to 60-mph acceleration times faster than 8 seconds or slower than 11 seconds, those with braking distances longer than 145 feet in dry conditions, or those with mediocre emergency-handling scores. The newest versions of many of the vehicles here are designated as Top Safety Picks by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS). Vehicles with electronic stability control should be your first choice for less-experienced drivers. ESC is a proven device that keeps cars from sliding, thus preventing crashes in the first place. The availability of ESC and reliability scores are the reasons some vehicles are differentiated by specific model years.
New models generally offer more safety features and provide better crash protection than older cars. Try to buy the most safety that your budget can afford, because no one needs those safety advantages more than a teenage driver.
For pricing information, check out our best new car deals and our new car price reports.