Best New Cars for Teens
Consumer Reports and IIHS name safe, reliable new cars and SUVs that are smart choices for teens
It is an exciting, and worrisome, time when a teenager first gets their driver’s license. Parents want to empower their child to be safe and responsible behind the wheel, starting with a good driver’s education program, car insurance, and an appropriate car.
Picking the right car can be the hardest part, as there are so many factors to consider. That is why Consumer Reports and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have teamed up to recommend new and used cars that testing and analysis have shown to be best suited to inexperienced drivers.
We understand that most families are budget-conscious, factoring in the likelihood of dings and dents, in their car selection. But we come at the problem looking for vehicles that can help avoid collisions and limit injuries should a crash happen, then direct families to choose what works best for their budget and needs. (See the best used cars for teens under $20,000.)
To make the cut to be considered among the best new cars for teens, vehicles must have:
- A Consumer Reports recommendation, meaning that it meets our stringent standards for reliability, safety, and road-test performance, including achieving particular thresholds for braking and handling.
- Good ratings in four IIHS crashworthiness tests: Moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints.
- Standard forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking systems.
- Average or better scores from CR’s emergency handling tests.
- Dry braking distances of less than 140 feet from 60 mph in CR’s brake tests.
- A curb weight over 2,750 pounds because small, light vehicles don’t provide enough protection in multiple-vehicle crashes. Despite their mass, many large SUVs don’t make the list as they can be hard to handle and often have long braking distances. Sports cars are also excluded as they can encourage dangerous driving.
- A designation as either a Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick Plus by the IIHS based on the model’s performance in key crash, accident avoidance, and headlight tests.
- A rating of Good or better by CR for controls that are easy to use.
- Four or five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (if rated).
All of the vehicles listed below are 2022 models. Selected trims or option packages include those where the headlights were rated Good or Acceptable in IIHS’ headlight tests, qualifying them for the Top Safety Pick designations.
The list excludes vehicles that had substantially higher than average insurance claim rates under medical payment or personal injury protection coverage in recent model years and haven’t been redesigned.
Prices are rounded to the nearest $100 and reflect Kelley Blue Book New-Car Fair Purchase Prices, as of April 28, 2022, for the least expensive trim level that qualifies for the recommendation. If a particular options package is needed, the manufacturer’s suggested retail price for that package has been added to the price.
Click on the model names for complete road tests, reliability and owner satisfaction ratings, pricing, and much more.
Best New Cars for Teens
|Make & Model||Price|
|Ford Bronco Sport||$28,200|
|Buick Encore GX (Essence trim)||$28,800|
|Toyota RAV4 (XLE, XLE Premium, Adventure, Limited, or TRD trims)||$30,300|
|Honda CR-V (Hybrid EX, Hybrid EX-L, Touring or Hybrid Touring trims)||$32,300|
|Lexus UX (with Triple Beam LED Headlamps with Auto-Leveling)||$35,300|
|Hyundai Santa Fe (built after July 2021)||$27,800|
Prices are rounded to the nearest $100 and reflect Kelley Blue Book New-Car Fair Purchase Prices for the least expensive trim level that qualifies for the recommendation. If a particular options package is needed, the manufacturer’s suggested retail price for that package has been added to the price.
Some listed models include a “built after” date. This applies when a manufacturer makes changes to improve safety in the middle of a model year. Information about when a specific vehicle was manufactured can be found on the certification label, usually affixed to the driver door or near it.
On the "Consumer 101" TV show, Consumer Reports expert Jen Stockburger explains how to choose the right car for your teen.