Choosing a car for a teen driver means making tough financial decisions at a time when all sorts of adult expenses loom on the horizon.

The temptation—and often necessity—is to buy a cheap, bare-bones model, or to pass down a family car. Because the car will be transporting your precious cargo, you should carefully consider your choices to pick the best one your budget will allow.

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

Start by selecting a car with a solid reliability track record and excellent safety marks. We suggest going further to pick a model that's well-suited for inexperienced drivers.

Generally speaking, bigger and heavier vehicles perform better in crash tests. But very large vehicles can have unwieldy handling, offer poor fuel economy, and allow for lots of passengers, which can be a potentially dangerous distraction that has been shown to increase a young driver’s risk of crashing. That's why you won't find 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 high insurance premiums for young drivers (or their parents).

New models generally offer more safety features and provide better crash protection. Try to buy the best safety your budget can afford, because no one needs those safety advantages more than a teenage driver. Specifically, features such as forward-collision warning (FCW) and automatic emergency braking (AEB) have been shown to have real-world safety benefits in avoiding crashes.

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Check out these safe and reliable models well-suited to new drivers

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 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 models are 2017s. There are some cases where the car was redesigned for 2018 and is currently available (e.g., Subaru CrosstrekToyota Camry, and Volkswagen Tiguan), but we haven't completed testing.  

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

Chevrolet Cruze - A good choice for teen drivers
Chevrolet Cruze
Make and ModelPrice Range

Chevrolet Cruze

$16,975 – $25,395

Chevrolet Equinox (4 cyl.)

$23,100 - $31,790

Chevrolet Malibu (nonturbo)

$21,680 – $30,975

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.)

$22,455 – $34,930

Honda CR-V

$24,045 – $33,795

Honda Fit

$16,090 – $21,365

Honda HR-V

$19,465 – $26,240

Hyundai Elantra

$17,150 – $22,750

Hyundai Santa Fe Sport$25,350 - $38,250
Hyundai Sonata (nonturbo)$21,600 - $38,600
Hyundai Tucson$22,700 - $31,175
Kia Forte

$16,600 – $21,300

Kia Optima (nonturbo)

$22,200 – $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

Subaru Crosstrek

$21,695 – $25,195

Subaru Forester

$22,595 – $34,295

Subaru Impreza

$18,395 – $24,595

Subaru Legacy (4 cyl.)

$21,995 - $31,640
Subaru Outback (4 cyl.)$25,645 - $38,195

Toyota Camry (4 cyl.)

$23,070 - $31,370
Toyota Corolla$18,500 - $22,680
Toyota Corolla iM$18,750 - $19,490
Toyota Prius

$23,475 – $30,015

Toyota Prius V$26,675 - $30,935
Toyota RAV4

$24,410 – $36,150

Toyota Yaris iA$15,950 - $17,050
Volkswagen Tiguan$24,995 - $36,475
Volvo S60

$33,950 – $60,000