Each spring, millions of young people move on from high school or college to their next big adventure. For some, that's a new career, for others, it's a summer job, or preparing for college in the fall. One thing many of these recent graduates have in common is the need for a new set of wheels.

With this in mind, CR analyzed the latest nationwide offers on new cars and calculated the best deals after factoring in customer rebates, dealer incentives, and dealer holdbacks—hidden incentives that the dealer receives from the manufacturer for each sale. (Of course, not everyone shops for a new vehicle, so you may also want to take a look at our recommendations on best used cars for teens.)

For this list, we focused on our recommended models, which scored well in our testing, have average or better reliability based on our latest survey, and performed well in government or insurance-industry safety tests, if they've been evaluated. 

We have also filtered our selections down to models that sticker for less than $30,000, as young drivers may have budget limitations (not to mention student debt to worry about). To ensure that these models would be appropriate for less-experienced drivers, we selected these cars by applying the criteria that we use to identify the best cars for teens—essentially cars that are easy to control and don't inspire dangerous driving behavior. 

We avoided cars with 0-60 mph acceleration times faster than 7.5 seconds or slower than 11 seconds, those with braking distances longer than 145 feet in dry conditions, and those with mediocre or worse emergency-handling scores.

Large SUVs and pickups aren’t recommended for young drivers because those are more difficult to handle than cars are, and because they offer lots of seats for other teen passengers, who can be a distraction to the driver. Because sports cars increase the risk of speeding and have a higher rate of accidents, they carry higher insurance premiums and are also not on our list.

MORE ON CAR BUYING

Below, we list the bottom line price—that’s the negotiation target you should aim for, based on analysis of current discounts. (It also represents the best TrueCar price that a participating dealer will give through CR's Build & Buy program.) The closer a shopper can get to that price, the better the deal. The cars are listed from biggest to smallest savings percentage off, from $5,670 off a Kia Optima to $3,216 off a Ford Escape. The savings span from 21 to 11 percent off the original MSRP.

Beyond these highlighted models, there are many others that can be had for well below the sticker price, including other trims of these vehicles. (See all current Best New Car Deals.)

Shoppers can use this information to negotiate a budget-friendly price on these cars, or use a service like Consumer Reports’ Build & Buy to secure a hassle-free deal from participating dealerships.

CR Build & Buy Car Buying Service

When buying a car, in addition to research and reviews, Consumer Reports offers its members access to the Build & Buy Car Buying Service at no cost. Through this service, a nationwide network of about 15,000 participating dealers provide up-front pricing information. Shoppers get a certificate to receive guaranteed savings off MSRP (in most states).

The pricing information and guaranteed savings include eligible incentives. Consumer Reports members have saved an average of $2,853 off MSRP with the Build & Buy Car Buying Service.


Kia Optima

Best car deal on Kia Optima

Kia's midsized sedan packs a lot of substance and value. It drives nicely, with a firm yet absorbent ride and responsive, secure handling. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder is pleasant and returned 28 mpg overall in our tests; the uplevel 2.0-liter turbo-four packs more punch, but that makes it less suitable for a teen driver. A 1.6-liter four-cylinder mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is also available. Both hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions are available as well.

The EX trim features comfortable leather seats, automatic climate control, a roomy rear seat, and heating for the seats and steering wheel. The controls are very intuitive to use, but the low-mounted dash vents tend to blow air on your hands, rather than around the cabin. Blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic warning are standard. But forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking are optional and only on top trims.

2018 Kia Optima EX Automatic
Incentives Expire:
 5/31/18
MSRP: $26,595 
Potential Savings Off MSRP: $5,670
Bottom Line Price: $20,925

See our complete Kia Optima road test and pricing.


Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

Best car deal on Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

Hyundai's five-passenger midsized SUV received a number of updates for 2018, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and lane-departure warning. It also improved from Marginal to the top rating of Good in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety small-overlap crash test. This roomy SUV has a comfortable ride and a quiet interior. Power comes from a responsive 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine mated to a smooth six-speed automatic transmission. We got a decent 23 mpg overall with this drivetrain. A more powerful 2.0-liter, turbo four-cylinder is also available. Handling is sound and secure but not exceptional. The well-finished cabin is packed with a lot of standard features, but rear visibility is so-so.

2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.4L AWD
Incentives Expire: 5/31/18
MSRP: $27,480 
Potential Savings Off MSRP: $4,676
Bottom Line Price: $22,804

See our complete Hyundai Santa Fe Sport road test and pricing.


Hyundai Elantra

Best car deal on Hyundai Elantra

The Elantra is relatively roomy, sparing with fuel, and features intuitive controls. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder returned an excellent 33 mpg overall in our tests but buzzes unpleasantly as revs increase. The Eco version feels more responsive but comes at a significant price premium. Although its handling is secure, there isn't much driving excitement. The ride is unobjectionable, but sharp bumps tend to come through noticeably. Road noise is elevated as well. Inside, the front seats in our tested SE are short on lumbar support, though the power seat in the Limited is better. Active safety features and a Sport version with a 1.6-liter, turbo four-cylinder are available. New for 2018 is a GT hatchback version with taut, nimble handling.

2018 Hyundai Elantra SEL 2.0L Automatic
Incentives Expire:
 5/31/18
MSRP: $19,735 
Potential Savings Off MSRP: $3,123
Bottom Line Price: $16,612

See our complete Hyundai Elantra road test and pricing.


Hyundai Sonata

Best car deal on Hyundai Sonata

This competitive sedan was freshened for 2018 and retains its excellent rear-seat room, easy cabin access, and user-friendly controls. Handling is taut and secure, but the ride is on the firm side and is no longer as comfortable as it used to be in the last version of the Sonata.

The base 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine is coupled to a smooth six-speed automatic that returns 28 mpg overall in our tests. A more powerful 2.0-liter turbo mated to an eight-speed automatic is optional, though it is less suitable for inexperienced drivers. The Eco uses a 1.6-liter, turbo four-cylinder paired with a seven-speed automated manual.

The Sonata has a generous interior, and outward visibility is a strong point. Blind-spot warning is standard, and forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking are optional. Plug-in and hybrid versions are available; the latter returned an impressive 39 mpg overall in our tests. 

2018 Hyundai Sonata SE 2.4L
Incentives Expire:
 5/31/18
MSRP: $22,935 
Potential Savings Off MSRP: $3,409
Bottom Line Price: $19,526

See our complete Hyundai Sonata road test and pricing.


Ford Fusion

Best car deal on Ford Fusion

The Fusion is a delight to drive, with a supple ride and nimble handling reminiscent of a European sports sedan. All trim levels and powertrains feel solid and upscale, with a well-finished and quiet cabin. We found the optional leather seats to be more supportive than the cloth ones, and the rear seat is somewhat snug. The 1.5- and 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engines are powerful enough, but neither has competitive fuel economy. The Hybrid and Energi plug-in hybrid were updated with more-efficient electric motors. A rotary shift dial and Ford's improved Sync 3 infotainment system are among recent interior updates.

2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid SE
Incentives Expire:
 7/9/18
MSRP: $27,215 
Potential Savings Off MSRP: $4,199
Bottom Line Price: $23,016

See our complete Ford Fusion road test and pricing.


Kia Forte

Best car deal on Kia Forte

The Forte provides generous interior room and a wide assortment of amenities. Our base LX sedan got 33 mpg overall from its 2.0-liter four-cylinder and six-speed automatic. Though the ride soaks up most impacts, it tends to feel a bit too jarring when encountering sharp bumps. Handling is very secure but not particularly agile. The SX hatchback uses a 1.6-liter turbo mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual gearbox.

The interior is quiet for a compact car, and the controls are logically arranged. Available comfort and convenience options include front and rear heated and ventilated seats, and advanced safety features. High-end versions offer leather seats, power-folding mirrors, and other upscale items. A redesigned Forte goes on sale this year.

2018 Kia Forte LX Automatic
Incentives Expire:
 5/31/18
MSRP: $18,795
Potential Savings Off MSRP: $2,715
Bottom Line Price: $16,080

See our complete Kia Forte road test and pricing.


Toyota Corolla iM

Best car deal on Toyota Corolla iM

The Corolla iM—originally sold under Toyota's now-shuttered Scion brand—is essentially a better-handling Corolla hatchback that is distinguished by its angular styling and sub-$20,000 starting price. The Corolla iM is comparable in size to a Mazda 3, and it gets a 137-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine hooked up to either a six-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission. We got 31 mpg overall with the CVT in our testing.

The iM delivers taut handling and has a decent level of standard equipment, including automatic climate control and audio controls on the steering wheel. But acceleration is short on zip, and neither the ride nor the rear seat is as comfortable as the Corolla's. A sunroof is not available. Forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking are standard. An updated Corolla Hatchback debuts later this year.

2018 Toyota Corolla iM CVT
Incentives Expire:
 6/4/18
MSRP: $20,485 
Potential Savings Off MSRP: $2,951
Bottom Line Price: $17,534

See our complete Toyota Corolla iM road test and pricing.


Toyota Corolla

Best car deal on Toyota Corolla

The Corolla delivers a comfortable ride and has a quiet, spacious interior for a compact sedan. Its handling is lackluster but very secure. A sportier SE version has a tauter suspension with marginally better handling. The continuously variable transmission is fine when cruising around but can elicit loud engine noise under higher revs. Fuel economy is excellent at 32 mpg overall, and the Corolla returns 43 mpg on the highway.

Inside, padded and stitched surfaces contrast with a number of drab, hard-plastic bits. Upscale features include standard Bluetooth connectivity, automatic climate control, and a touch-screen radio with simple controls. The rear seat is one of the roomiest in the category. Forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking are now standard.

2018 Toyota Corolla LE CVT
Incentives Expire:
 6/4/18
MSRP: $19,930
Potential Savings Off MSRP: $2,410
Bottom Line Price: $17,520

See our complete Toyota Corolla road test and pricing.


Kia Sportage

Best car deal on Kia Sportage

The Sportage is a stylish and mildly sporty choice among small SUVs. Most versions are equipped with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. (The top-trim SX version boasts a more powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that isn't suitable for teens.) Both engines are mated to a smooth six-speed automatic transmission. Though a touch firm, the ride is composed and its handling is responsive.

The controls are easy to use, but visibility to the rear and side is hampered by the thick rear roof pillars. The rear seat is roomy and has an almost flat floor. The Sportage scored a Good in the IIHS small-overlap crash test.

2018 Kia Sportage LX AWD
Incentives Expire:
 5/31/18
MSRP: $26,090
Potential Savings Off MSRP: $2,996
Bottom Line Price: $23,094

See our complete Kia Sportage road test and pricing.


Ford Escape

Best car deal on Ford Escape

The Ford Escape has 1.5- and 2.0-liter turbocharged engines with a start/stop system. Unfortunately, fuel economy isn't great with the 1.5-liter, at just 23 mpg overall. Plus, the A/C system weakens when the engine start/stop system engages at traffic lights. The fleet-footed Escape has impressive handling prowess, which makes it one of the sportiest models in the small-SUV class. It also has a taut, controlled ride and a quiet interior, but the rear seat is a bit low and the cushion is short.

The impressive Sync 3 system is standard. One new feature is Sync Connect, a smartphone app that allows owners to use their cell phone to lock and unlock their Escape, remotely start the engine, and track the vehicle location via GPS. Advanced safety features such as forward-collision warning are optional.

2018 Ford Escape SE 4WD
Incentives Expire:
 7/9/18
MSRP: $28,045
Potential Savings Off MSRP: $3,216
Bottom Line Price: $24,829

See our complete Ford Escape road test and pricing.