Parents choosing a car for their teen driver have a tough decision to make, primarily because it involves striking a balance between cost and safety.

The temptation—and often the necessity—is to buy a cheap, bare-bones model or to pass down an older family car. But because the car will be transporting their children, parents want to pick the best and safest car the budget allows. (See our list of the best used cars for teens.)

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Motor-vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 14- to 18-year-olds. In fact, almost half of teens involved in a car crash die, according the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Parents should start by selecting a car with a solid reliability track record and excellent safety marks. We suggest they go further and pick a model that's well-suited for inexperienced drivers.

Consumer Reports, which tests about 60 cars a year at our Connecticut test track, offers expert advice on which vehicles parents should consider. 

Generally speaking, bigger and heavier vehicles perform better in crash tests. But very large vehicles can be hard for inexperienced drivers to handle, and they return poor fuel economy. In addition, they can hold lots of passengers, proven in studies to be a major distraction that increases a young driver’s risk of crashing. That's why there aren't any minivans, large SUVs, or pickup trucks on this list.

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 higher insurance premiums.

New models generally offer more safety features and provide better crash protection. Parents should try to buy the best safety equipment their budget allows. Specifically, features such as forward-collision warning (FCW) and automatic emergency braking (AEB) have been shown to provide real-world safety benefits in avoiding crashes. CR strongly recommends these features.

For this list, 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.

Each car we chose carries a Consumer Reports recommendation, meaning it meets our stringent standards for test performance, reliability, and safety.

All of the vehicles listed below are 2018 models. 

For complete road tests, reliability, owner satisfaction, pricing, and much more, click on the model names below.

2018 Honda CR-V - A good choice for teen drivers
2018 Honda CR-V
Make and ModelPrice Range

Chevrolet Sonic

$15,145 - $21,215
Ford Edge

$28,950 – $40,900

Ford Escape

$23,750 – $31,000

Ford Fusion (4 cyl.)$22,610 - $41,120

Honda Accord (4 cyl., nonturbo)

$23,570 – $35,800

Honda CR-V

$24,150 – $34,050

Honda Fit

$16,190 – $21,520

Honda HR-V

$19,570 – $26,340

Hyundai Elantra

$16,950 – $22,900

Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

$24,950 – $37,200

Hyundai Sonata (nonturbo)

$22,050 – $32,450

Kia Forte

$16,600 – $21,300

Kia Niro

$22,890 – $29,650

Kia Optima (nonturbo)

$22,500 – $36,090

Kia Soul

$16,100 – $35,950

Kia Sportage (nonturbo)

$23,200 – $34,200

Mazda 3$17,845 - $24,945
Mazda 6$21,945 - $30,695
Mazda CX-3$19,960 - $26,240
Mazda CX-5

$24,045 – $30,695

Nissan Altima (4-cyl.)

$23,260 – $33,630

Nissan Rogue

$24,800 – $32,530

Nissan Rogue Sport

$21,640 – $27,640

Subaru Crosstrek

$21,795 – $26,295

Subaru Forester

$22,795 – $36,090

Subaru Legacy (4 cyl.)

$22,195 – $31,945

Subaru Outback (4 cyl.)

$25,895 – $38,690

Toyota Camry (4 cyl.)

$23,495 – $34,950

Toyota Corolla

$18,550 – $22,730

Toyota Corolla iM$18,750 - $19,490
Toyota Prius

$23,475 – $30,015

Toyota Prius Prime

$27,100 – $33,100

Toyota RAV4

$24,410 – $36,150

Toyota Yaris iA$15,950 - $17,050

Volkswagen Golf Alltrack

$25,850 – $32,890

Volkswagen Passat (4 cyl.)

$22,440 – $33,995