Products & Services
Looking to get your teen a car for commuting to a summer job or heading to school in the fall? We’ve rounded up a collection of good, safe choices with attractive pricing.
While teens may have their preferences—sorry, no Ford Mustangs on this list—you should choose a car that prioritizes safety, reliability, and ease of use for inexperienced drivers.
We focused this list on the 2009-2010 model years for cars that cost less than $12,000. Some models have key safety equipment as standard, such as side air bags and electronic stability control, while others might not have added those features across the board until later years. (For example, ESC was mandated for the 2012 model year.)
We encourage you to buy your teen a car with as many safety features as possible, especially ESC. This typically means looking at a relatively recent car. A side benefit of doing so is that a relatively late-model car should have many good years ahead of it, making it likely to see your teen through college.
The cars listed include an average price for the models available in that year when buying from a dealer. These prices are also 26 percent to 53 percent less than the retail price when the vehicle was new, and we expect some negotiation or buying from a private seller can yield more savings. All have at least average reliability according to our latest subscriber survey. For the price calculations, we assume used vehicles from 2009 will have 66,000 miles and 2010 about 51,000 miles.
Our list includes small cars, wagons, and sedans. SUVs and pickups are not recommended for young, inexperienced drivers because they are more prone to roll over and might be more difficult to handle than smaller vehicles that are lower to the ground. Sports cars increase the risk of speeding and have a higher rate of accidents, and cost much more in insurance.
Choose wisely, and your son or daughter will be driving a good, reliable, safe car for years to come.
|Vehicle||Mileage||MSRP when new||Buying from dealer average price||Drop in retail value vs. MSRP|
|2009 Ford Focus||66,000||$14,995||$7,750||48%|
|2010 Ford Focus||51,000||$15,995||$9,125||43%|
|2010 Kia Forte||51,000||$14,695||$9,275||37%|
|2009 Hyundai Sonata||66,000||$19,900||$9,500||52%|
|2009 Volkswagen Jetta||66,000||$18,615||$9,650||48%|
|2009 Volkswagen Rabbit||66,000||$17,400||$9,650||45%|
|2009 Chevrolet Malibu||66,000||$21,605||$10,200||53%|
|2010 Volkswagen Jetta||51,000||$18,835||$10,250||46%|
|2010 Chevrolet Malibu||51,000||$21,825||$10,650||51%|
|2010 Nissan Altima||51,000||$19,900||$10,825||46%|
|2010 Kia Optima||51,000||$20,995||$11,000||48%|
|2010 Nissan Sentra||51,000||$17,160||$11,250||34%|
|2010 Toyota Corolla||51,000||$16,850||$11,300||33%|
|2010 Ford Fusion||51,000||$19,620||$11,375||42%|
|2009 Subaru Impreza||66,000||$18,495||$11,500||38%|
|2009 Scion xB||66,000||$16,700||$11,600||31%|
|2010 Hyundai Sonata||51,000||$24,050||$11,825||51%|
|2010 Kia Soul||51,000||$16,195||$11,975||26%|