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Best used car deals for teens

Consumer Reports News: May 30, 2013 11:08 AM

Looking to get your teen a set of wheels for the summer or for traveling to school in the fall? There are many vehicles to choose from, but smart money is on those models that prioritize safety, reliability, and ease of use for inexperienced drivers.

There are many models to choose from, but we focused on those available for under $15,000 which includes recommended vehicles for teens from the 2008-2010 model years. Some have the latest safety equipment and are still affordable but key safety features such as curtain air bags and electronic stability control may not have been standard in others until later years. As always we encourage purchasing as many safety features--and electronic stability control in particular--if your budget allows. We list the average price for suitably equipped models available in that year when buying from the dealer.

The cars listed below average between 15- and 51-percent less than the retail price when the vehicle was new. Plus, all have at least average reliability according to our latest subscriber survey. Figure that vehicles from 2008 will generally have 66,000 miles, 2009 models around 51,000 miles, and 2010 about 40,000 miles.

Scanning the list, you'll see that these are all traditional cars and small SUVs; large pickups and midsized and large SUVs are not recommended for young, inexperienced drivers because they are more prone to roll over and may be more difficult to handle than many other vehicles. Sports cars increase the risk of speeding and have a higher rate of accidents, and consequently, they carry tuition-sapping insurance premiums.

Make & model Average buying from dealer price Average drop in retail value vs. MSRP Used-car pricing
 2008 Chevrolet Malibu $11,475 44% View detailed pricing
 2009 Chevrolet Malibu $12,925 45% View detailed pricing
 2010 Chevrolet Malibu $14,483 39% View detailed pricing
 2009 Ford Focus $10,388 38% View detailed pricing
 2010 Ford Focus $12,313 30% View detailed pricing
 2008 Hyundai Elantra $9,450 47% View detailed pricing
 2009 Hyundai Elantra $10,725 41% View detailed pricing
 2010 Hyundai Elantra $13,792 24% View detailed pricing
 2008 Hyundai Sonata $9,917 51% View detailed pricing
 2009 Hyundai Sonata $11,167 50% View detailed pricing
 2010 Hyundai Sonata $13,317 40% View detailed pricing
 2010 Kia Forte $12,117 27% View detailed pricing
 2010 Kia Optima $13,320 38% View detailed pricing
 2010 Kia Soul $13,938 15% View detailed pricing
 2009 Mazda6 $10,800 49% View detailed pricing
 2010 Mazda6 $12,625 38% View detailed pricing
 2008 Mitsubishi Outlander $11,919 49% View detailed pricing
 2009 Mitsubishi Outlander $12,833 46% View detailed pricing
 2010 Nissan Altima $14,930 35% View detailed pricing
 2008 Nissan Rogue $13,125 36% View detailed pricing
 2009 Nissan Rogue $14,838 31% View detailed pricing
 2010 Nissan Sentra $13,458 26% View detailed pricing
 2008 Scion xB $11,100 33% View detailed pricing
 2009 Scion xB $12,225 30% View detailed pricing
 2010 Scion xB $13,838 23% View detailed pricing
 2009 Subaru Impreza $14,317 27% View detailed pricing
 2008 Subaru Legacy $12,175 43% View detailed pricing
 2010 Toyota Corolla $13,350 24% View detailed pricing
 2010 Toyota Matrix $14,394 28% View detailed pricing
2008 Toyota RAV4 $14,875 41% View detailed pricing
2009 Volkswagen Jetta $13,831 39% View detailed pricing

Buying a used car has many benefits. Most important is that the original owner takes the initial depreciation hit, as new cars lose much more value in the first and second years than those that follow. When shopping, look for cars that scored well in Consumer Reports' tests when new, have proven reliability, and perform well in government and insurance industry crash tests. Before handing over the cash, have the vehicle inspected by a trained and trusted mechanic to make sure there are no hidden problems.

See our complete list of used-car deals across a variety of vehicle categories. Also, see our list of best new and used cars for teens, as well as our special section on teen driving safety. For detailed used car pricing based on the mileage and condition of the vehicle, try Consumer Reports Used Car Price Reports.

Liza Barth

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