When it comes time to purchase your teen their very first car, you likely have a lot of emotions — and they do too. Perhaps they want one car, and you have something else in mind. So how do you choose from all the best cars for teen drivers to find the one that is perfect for your teen?
That’s why we’ve put together this list of some best compact cars, cool sedans, and handy crossovers that your teen is sure to love. While your new driver might be drooling over brand new sports cars, these 20 cars, whether you opt to buy them new or used, probably make a more realistic first car for your teenage driver.
These vehicles are also safe and reliable, giving you peace of mind knowing your teen is behind the wheel of a decent automobile. Even if you’re on a budget, you can still get a stylish, safe, and fun first car for your teen driver.
No one denies that the Yaris is a cute car with enough style for your teenage driver. Not only is it cute, but it’s also fun to drive. They’ll love the quirky design which is unique enough to stand out from their friends. You’ll love the budget-friendly price of this model, especially if you find a base trim package and the fact that it gets 36 mpg on the highway.
You can find a used Yaris with either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic. The standard 1.5L V4 engine makes 106 hp, so you can rest assured your teen driver isn’t going anywhere fast. And whether you opt for a sedan or hatchback, either version of the Yaris has enough room for a few friends.
Volkswagen New Beetle
Many parents these days might have had an original Volkswagen Beetle for their very first car. No doubt this modern version is also one of the best cars for teen drivers. It’s funky, fun to drive, and has just enough retro style to stand out, and they are quite affordable.
In 2016, the latest edition of the Beetle 1.8T came pretty well equipped even for a base model. The 1.8L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine turned out 170 hp just enough to put a smile on your teen driver’s face under acceleration, but not enough to scare you in the passenger’s seat. The beetle also scored “Good” in many of the IIHS crash test ratings and earned five stars from the NHTSA. Along with its 25/34 city/highway mpg it’s a great all-around car for a first-time driver.
There aren’t a lot of colors to choose from for the latest generation of the VW bug which is tough if you have a picky teen (you’ll have to go in search of a first-generation new beetle for the selection of Skittles colors). The upside is you can find a Beetle convertible — the ultimate teen car for a sunny day.
The Honda Fit may be one of the best cars for teen drivers if you are looking for a cute, small first vehicle. Whether you get a model a new or used model, you can sleep soundly knowing your kid will be driving one of the safest vehicles on the road.
This subcompact is decked with all sorts of safety features from a rearview camera so your first-time driver can see all around them and on onboard Tire Pressure Monitoring System so you don’t have to worry about them driving away with a flat tire. With the Vehicle Stability Assist and Traction Control, the brake and engine pressure automatically adjust in the event of understeer or oversteer.
What’s most surprising about this cute car is the space inside. You can fit a lot more into a Fit than you might think thanks to its adjustable, versatile seats. The Fit looks the part, has an adequate but responsible top speed, and is incredibly reliable, making it a wise choice for your teen driver.
The Smart ForTwo is tiny, compact, and great for urban situations. Even though it is small, it is mighty — meeting all of the U.S. safety guidelines and coming with plenty of options to keep your kiddo safe.
Thanks to the size of this tiny subcompact, you don’t have to worry about your teen having trouble parking — parallel or otherwise. It doesn’t matter what size the spot is, the ForTwo is sure to fit. Plus with the 3-cylinder engine which produces 89 hp, you needed worry that they won’t be drag racing either.
This Smart Car does, however, come with respectable gas mileage at 39 mpg on the highway. That will help you save money when they go to the gas pump as well. If your teen doesn’t need a ton of space, it’s an affordable option for one of the best cars for teen drivers on the road today.
Toyota Prius C
Recent years didn’t bring too many changes to the Toyota Prius. This car has been a fan favorite for many years due to its versatility and fuel economy. And even if you wanted to save a little money and bought an older Prius, you will still be getting a reliable vehicle.
What we like most about the Prius C is the user-friendly infotainment system, safety features, and fuel economy. The car handles easily and is comfortable to ride in — great for new drivers and their passengers. A bit slow on acceleration, the Prius only comes with 99 hp so it isn’t exactly speedy. But if you want a hybrid car for your teen driver, you’ll have a hard time finding something better than a Prius for the price.
If your kid is begging you to purchase a newer model for them but you want to save a little money, you can still please them with a Chevy Spark. And you’ll love the price of this affordable gem.
For the 2019 model year, the Spark got a completely restyled front-end plus an updated grille, headlamps, and fascia for a stylish look. You can also choose from several revised wheel designs and add LED daytime running lamps. There are several fun colors to choose from including Caribbean Blue Metallic.
Teens love the technology inside like the two illuminated USB ports and the updated infotainment system. It’s only powered by a 1.4L engine, which is part of the reason the price is so low. Though Sparks are comparatively inexpensive, the balance between their price and equipment makes them a good deal.
The Kia Soul offers a unique design to differentiate it from the other best cars for teen drivers. It’s reminiscent of a Mini Cooper and seems to be a popular choice for teens across the nation. It’s an affordable first car and is sure to draw plenty of attention too.
The stock engine for the 2017 model year was a 1.6L V4 that produces 130 hp paired with either a 6-speed automatic or manual transmission. It doesn’t really matter which way you go — the acceleration is nothing to brag about. The fuel economy doesn’t knock us over either. Expect to get about 23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.
If you want an older model, but still want a reliable vehicle that is safe enough for your teen, this Mirage might do the trick. The four-door, 5-passenger hatchback should easily fit all your kid’s friends. It’s powered by a 1.2L 3-cylinder engine that produces 74 hp. Again, this isn’t anything that’s going to break speed records, but it’s more than enough for the responsible driving you’ll be encouraging your teen to do.
There’s plenty of safety features available such as ABS, EBD, and Brake Assist. There are also seven airbags inside this tiny car which also has electric power steering. For those who like the latest technology, you’ll be surprised to know that you can get Bluetooth, a push-button start, and a rear-view camera if you look hard enough through the used models. The best part is, you won’t spend much to get your teen behind the wheel of a car they’ll love.
Aside from its good looks, you can also count on the Mazda 3 to offer decent acceleration and a reliable driving experience. Teens will find it easy to drive thanks to the superb handling. Inside the cabin, all the seats are comfortable and visibility is great as well.
The 2018 model year also came standard with the Smart City Brake Control. If you aren’t prepared to spend the money on a new model, it would be okay to go with something a little older, but we don’t recommend anything before 2016.
There’s no denying this is one of the top cars on our list of best cars for teen drivers. It might even be one of the cutest cars in the world (losing only to the Geely Panda). If you splurge and get a convertible, you’re sure to make a friend out of your teen for life.
Of course, this tiny little car is no powerhouse seeking a mere 100 hp out of the 2-cylinder engine. With that said, all the fun, vibrant colors make this a very playful choice for a first car. Your teen will feel stylish and easily be able to navigate around town in this agile little car.
Since the Ford Fusion hit the market, it has been one of the popular cars for teens. When it got redesigned, it grew an even bigger following among younger drivers. With the 2016 model year, there were three varying trim level options. There was also a hybrid or electric plug-in to choose from as well.
Teens seem to enjoy the stylish interior plus tech — like the touchscreen that makes it simple to listen to music or navigate on the go. It also has a slightly more sporty appearance, thanks in part to the 16-inch wheels. Parents love the Fusion because of the fuel-efficient engine and standard safety equipment. Though it’s tempting to think that the Ford Fiesta is the more sensible option, the Fusion might actually be the better car for your young driver.
If you’re looking for a sensible midsize sedan that can also double as your teen’s first car, the Kia Optima is the way to go. It was available in four trim levels and even on the standard trim, teens had a lot to enjoy. The Optima offers a smooth ride that’s easy to handle.
It also came with some nice extras like a 6-speaker sound system, full power accessories, and heated mirrors. Bluetooth was standard, helping make the commute to and from school a little more lively. Parents, on the other hand, will appreciate the mild 2.4L 4-cylinder engine, standard fog lights, and responsive steering.
Sometimes teens want more than just a cute car; they also want smooth handling. That’s where the Malibu comes in. It delivers on multiple fronts from a driver-focused cabin to plenty of customization. The Malibu had four trims to choose from and all of them came pretty packed with features.
Even on the base LS trim, you’ll get 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, and power accessories. Bluetooth and a six-speaker sound system came standard as well. With the 2.5L engine, your teen driver should get around 29 mpg combined.
Earlier we mentioned the Fit, which is one of the cars that teens love, but sometimes you need something larger. The Honda Civic fits the bill, but it’s going to cost you a little more. The 2018 model year came equipped with advanced front airbags, vehicle stability assist, traction control, ABS, a rearview camera, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning.
It also features excellent gas mileage. The Civic also hit the top of its class in safety ratings from the IIHS and NHTSA. You could always choose to go another step up with the Accord, but that’s going to cost you a lot more. All-in-all, the Civic is affordable and reliable, making a great first car for a teen driver.
Often when shopping around for teen drivers, you might overlook crossovers because they are larger. But the safety ratings make the Mazda CX-3 a top choice, especially for teen drivers.
The CX-3 is better than a Sportage because of its handling, upgraded interior, and better suspension. As far as safety measures, it also comes with automated emergency braking. There are also several options including lane departure warning, forward collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, and adaptive cruise control. As fart as crossovers go, the CX-3 is a great choice.
The Outback is known for being a jack-of-all-trades vehicle that is both affordable and functional. And if you live somewhere where your teen will be driving in winter conditions or rough roads, you’ll appreciate Subaru’s all-wheel-drive system which is standard on the Outback. You can pick up an older model at an affordable price.
Your teen driver will love the roomy interior which has enough space in the back to toss their school supplies or sports gear while still having enough room to fit a few friends. You’ll love the reliability, value, and peace of mind that comes from putting your kid behind the wheel of this car which routinely is awarded high marks for safety.
If you’re looking for an affordable and economical car that will still be fun for your teen to drive, look no further than the Volkswagen Jetta. The Jetta is one of Volkswagen’s best-selling models, and with it, your teen will enjoy some snazzy upgrades and just enough power from the 1.4L turbo to put a smile on their face.
Though the Jetta isn’t the flashiest looking car on the block, if your teen doesn’t mind the conservative exterior, you might be able to find a used model with an upgraded interior package that will deliver cool bonuses like an upgraded infotainment center and a rearview camera. After all, the perks from behind the wheel of the driver’s seat are what your teen really cares about.
Toyota Corolla Hatchback
If you have a little extra in your car budget to spare, you teen will surely thank you for shelling out for a newer Toyota Corolla hatchback. Though this one does have a higher price tag than some of the other used models on this list, by getting your teen a 2019 or newer Corolla, you can rest assured that this do-it-all Toyota has many years and many miles of driving life ahead.
The Corolla hatchback is fuel-efficient and, depending on the package, comes with many of the newer bells and whistles such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist. With the latest technology onboard, you will feel confident handing over the keys, and your teen will feel confident behind the wheel — a win-win for everyone.
The Honda Accord has long been known as a reliable, easy-to-drive car with a solid reputation for safety and quality. Depending on the year model, you can find the Accord as a sedan or a slightly sportier coupe. A great all-around car, it’s easy on your wallet and your eyes.
The Accord has excellent fuel economy which is sure to be a crowd-pleaser no matter who is paying for gas. It still has plenty of pep and lots of room to boot. And if you don’t want to worry about breakdowns or costly maintenance, the Accord is a good bet for a car that your teen can hop in and drive day after day without issue.
If your teen is itching for a bigger vehicle, but you aren’t quite ready to commit them to a full-size SUV, the Subaru Crosstrek is a great option for a subcompact SUV. True to Subaru form, it gets excellent fuel economy and provides a smooth ride all while having a roomy interior and a spacious trunk.
Additionally, the Crosstrek has good ground clearance and a capable all-wheel-drive system which are both great additions if you live in a rural area or your kid has aspirations of heading off the pavement during their driving adventures. You’ll love the five-star safety ratings and your teen driver will love the fun exterior colors of this versatile vehicle.
Get One of The Best Cars For Your Teen Driver
Before buying a new car for your new driver, do your research. Don’t buy something just because it’s what your teen wants. Make sure you look into the vehicle’s safety ratings and overall reliability. A good thing to look into is the lifetime ownership cost of a vehicle. This helps you figure out the maintenance, fuel, insurance, registration, and other fees. The Kelley Blue Book is another great resource for car models, prices, and things to look out for.
Overall, with a little research and some expectation setting, you can have a good time shopping for cars with your teen. Learning to drive is an exciting time in their life and one you want them to remember for years to come. Get them started off with the right car for years of great driving adventures to come.