Best Cars for Teens
  • Buying Guides

Best Cars for Teens

By Evan Walton | April 26, 2021

Safety is important for all drivers, but when just starting to drive, advanced safety features are imperative. With the list provided, you can find a safe and reliable vehicle for your newly licensed teen driver.

All of the used vehicles on this list are available for under $20,000 and have positive ratings through either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Check out our picks for the safest used cars in 2021 for teen drivers.


Small Cars

1. Subaru Impreza

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The Subaru Impreza is spacious, despite its small car categorization, and provides a comfortable ride with responsive handling. The Impreza is available in a four-door sedan or a five-door hatchback which seats five, and features a quiet cabin allowing for full driving concentration.

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The Impreza is equipped with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and utilizes a continuously variable transmission (CVT) paired with an AWD drivetrain. The all-wheel-drive (AWD) drivetrain provides confidence in all weather and the four-cylinder engine achieves great fuel economy with 30 miles per gallon (MPG) overall.

The Impreza comes standard with Subaru's EyeSight safety system which includes pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking. The Impreza received a five-star safety rating from NHTSA. A used 2020 model year Impreza can be purchased for $18,825 - $24,475.

Browse used Subaru Impreza listings here.


2. Toyota Corolla

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The Toyota Corolla is offered with three different engine types, a 1.8-liter four-cylinder hybrid producing 121-horsepower (HP), 1.8-liter four-cylinder producing 139-HP, and a 2-liter four-cylinder producing 169-HP. The hybrid option of the Corolla boasts great fuel economy with 49 MPG overall, compared to the non-hybrid version which achieves 33 MPG overall.

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No matter the engine type, the Corolla comes standard with advanced safety features such as antilock braking system (ABS), side airbags, head protection airbags, electronic stability control, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking.

The infotainment system is easy to use and is compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Toyota Corolla received positive ratings through IIHS. The Corolla is offered in FWD and seats five comfortably. A used Corolla can be purchased for $17,500 - $21,025 for the 2019 model year.

Browse used Toyota Corolla listings here.


Midsize Cars

3. Subaru Outback

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The Subaru Outback is a midsize car that offers a unique alternative to a midsize SUV through its wagon body style. The Outback has more cargo space, is more fuel-efficient, and is offered at a lower price than most of its competitors. The Outback achieves 25 MPG city and 33 MPG highway. The AWD drivetrain provides confidence in all driving situations and is a competent vehicle on and off-road. Subaru found a sweet spot between a wagon and a crossover with the Outback.

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The two engine types offered in the Outback are a 2.5-liter four-cylinder producing 175-HP, and a 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine producing 256-HP. The Outback seats five and is run with a CVT transmission that provides smooth shifts. The 2021 Outback was chosen as a top safety pick through IIHS. A 2015 model year Outback can be purchased for $13,100 - $17,025. The Outback comes standard with automatic emergency braking, electronic stability control, side airbags, and head protection airbags.

Browse used Subaru Outback listings here.


4. Volkswagen Jetta

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The Volkswagen Jetta is great for young drivers as it is packed with safety features and is fun to drive. The Jetta also looks sportier than its counterparts in the midsize car category. The Jetta has user-friendly controls and is fuel-efficient with an overall MPG of 34. The Jetta is a great first car due to its spry 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 147-HP, or optional 2-liter four-cylinder turbo producing 228-HP.

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The Jetta is offered with an eight-speed automatic transmission, six-speed manual, or a seven-speed sequential gearbox. The Jetta has a spacious interior that seats five comfortably and has a soft suspension. The Jetta is equipped with safety features such as automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, and blind-spot warning standard as standard on all except for the base trim. The Jetta has an overall good rating through IIHS. A Volkswagen Jetta can be found on the used market for $13,300 - $18,500 for the 2017 model year.

Browse used Volkswagen Jetta listings here.


5. Hyundai Sonata

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The Hyundai Sonata is offered with five different engine types the 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbo producing 178-HP, 2-liter four-cylinder electric producing 202-HP, 2-liter four-cylinder hybrid producing 193-HP, 2-liter four-cylinder turbo producing 245-HP, and a 2.4-liter four-cylinder inline producing 185-HP. All of these engine options are offered with a FWD drivetrain, and a six-speed automatic or seven-speed sequential gearbox.

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The Hybrid engine option has great fuel economy with 44 MPG overall. The ride quality in the Sonata is a bit stiff, and the cabin is cramped for the rear passengers similar to a coupe. Forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection are standard on all trims, and blind-spot warning is included in all trims except for the base model. The Sonata received a five-star crash test rating from NHTSA. The infotainment system is easy to use and is presented on an 8-inch touch screen display. A used 2017 model of the Sonata can be purchased for $14,200 - $21,825 depending on trim level.

Browse used Hyundai Sonata listings here.


6. Toyota Camry

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The Toyota Camry has been a staple in the automotive world for new drivers and seasoned drivers alike. With excellent safety ratings, the Camry is rated as one of the best models of midsized sedans according to consumer reports. The Camry is offered in three engine configurations: a 2.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid with 200-HP, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 178-HP, and a 3.5-liter V6 with 268-HP. Depending on your choice of an engine, the Camry has great fuel economy, with the hybrid version getting 47 MPG overall.

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The infotainment system in the Camry has had upgrades in the past five years and is compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The handling is more responsive than Camry's of the past and offers more safety features such as forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and blind-spot warning as an optional feature. The Camry is one of the best-used cars you can purchase for a new driver.

The Camry has an optional drivetrain of FWD or AWD and both are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The Toyota Camry scored an overall five-star safety rating from NHTSA. A used 2017 model year can be purchased for $16,975 - $21,625.

Browse used Toyota Camry listings here.


Luxury Midsize Cars

7. Audi A3

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The Audi A3 is offered in three different body styles: a four-door hatchback, convertible, or sedan. An AWD drivetrain is standard in all body styles and models of the A3, and the A3 offers four engines from which to choose from. Mostly all turbocharged engines, the A3 offers a 1.4-liter four-cylinder hybrid with 204-HP, a 2-liter four-cylinder turbo with 220-HP, a 2-liter four-cylinder turbo with 292-HP, and a 2-liter four-cylinder turbo that offers 186-HP.

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The Audi A3 is a great entry-level luxury vehicle and has a sports car feel that is enjoyable to drive. The ride quality is firm and the interior leaves little to be desired. The A3 seats five in all body style configurations and the seats are comfortable and supportive.

The A3 comes equipped with safety features such as forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking except for the sports car designed RS3 model. The A3 scored great in all areas through IIHS. The Audi A3 can be found in a 2017 model year for $18,150 - $30,625, depending on trim level and mileage.

Browse used Audi A3 listings here.


8. BMW 3 Series

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The BMW 3 series packages enjoyable driving, luxury comforts, tech, and good fuel economy into a midsize vehicle. The 3 series is offered in three body styles including sedan, wagon, and a four-door hatchback. The quick acceleration and exhaust sound add to the sports car feel of the 3 series depending on which engine you purchase. The BMW 3 Series is offered with six different engine options, the most popular being the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo outputting 248-
HP.

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The 3 series is offered in both AWD and RWD, seats five, and has three different gearbox options, a 7-speed Sequential, 8-speed Automatic, and a 6-speed Manual. The 3 series is agile and provides confidence on the road. Safety features in the 3 series include forward collision warning, city-speed automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection standard. Highway speed automatic emergency braking and blind-spot warning are optional and dependent on trim level.

The interior of the 3 series is what you expect from a luxury midsize car and offers a well-crafted interior. The 3 series BMW scored an overall good rating with IIHS. With a fully-loaded BMW 3 series, you could spend as much as you would purchasing a new car, but a used 3 series can be found in a 2017 model year for as little as $18,300.

Browse used BMW 3 Series listings here.


Small SUVs

9. Chevrolet Equinox

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The Chevy Equinox is the most spacious compact SUV on the market today. The Equinox is equipped with the latest infotainment technology and is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Equinox is made with only one powertrain option of a 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.

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The seats are comfortable and there is room for five, but the interior quality is a bit lacking when compared to other small SUVs in its class. The Equinox does earn a five-star crash test rating from NHTSA in 2021, and comes equipped with forward collision warning, and city-speed automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection standard. A used 2017 model year Equinox can be purchased for $13,800 - $18,800.

Browse used Chevrolet Equinox listings here.


10. Kia Niro

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The Kia Niro is a subcompact SUV with a wagon body style that seats five. The Niro is offered in either an all-electric option with 201-HP or a 1.6-liter four-cylinder hybrid engine that produces 139-HP. The Niro seems to be underpowered, but either engine mixed with the six-speed sequential gearbox operates smoothly and delivers power efficiently to the FWD drivetrain.

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The Niro achieves 43 MPG overall and achieves a four-star crash test rating from NHTSA. The Niro has a large list of optional and standard safety features such as forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking sensors, lane keep assist, lane change assists, driver drowsiness monitoring, and adaptive cruise control. The Kia Niro can be found used in a 2019 model year for $18,375 - $28,600.

Browse used Kia Niro listings here.


11. Toyota Rav4

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The Rav4 is a popular option among new teenage drivers for its spacious and inviting interior, and its relatively quick acceleration delivered by its 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Paired with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, the Rav4 is fun to drive and has room for five allowing for multiple adventurers.

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The Rav4 gets 27 MPG overall and is upped to 37 MPG for the hybrid variation. The Rav4 performs well in normal street driving as well as complicated weather conditions through an optional AWD drivetrain. The ride quality is a bit stiff, and the interior controls are large. The Rav4 is compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and has standard safety features like forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, and blind-spot warning.

The Rav4 scored a five-star crash test rating from NHTSA and can be purchased in the 2017 model year for $18,350 - $25,050.

Browse used Toyota Rav4 listings here.


12. Ford Escape

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The Ford Escape is offered in both AWD and FWD with three engine options of a 1.5-liter four-cylinder turbo with 179-HP, a 2-liter four-cylinder turbo with 245-HP, and a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 168-HP. All engine options are paired with a six-speed automatic. The Escape seats five and all models are equipped with forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and blind-spot warning.

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The Escape has an overall five-star safety rating from NHTSA and can be purchased for $15,775 - $21,725 for a 2018 model year.

Browse used Ford Escape listings here.


Midsize SUVs

13. Mazda CX-9

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The Mazda CX-9 is a three-row SUV that seats seven and is offered in both AWD and FWD. The CX-9 is equipped with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder turbo producing 227-HP and paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission.

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The CX-9 is fun to drive is very responsive to steering direction. Overall, the CX-9 gets 22 MPG and the interior is comfortable for all passengers. The higher trims offer individual captains' chairs and the infotainment system is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Safety features in the CX-9 include forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and blind-spot warning all standard. The CX-9 received a five-star overall safety rating from NHTSA and pushes the entry-level budget at $19,375 - $28,175 for a 2017 model year.

Browse used Mazda CX-9 listings here.


14. Nissan Murano

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The Nissan Murano is a midsize SUV equipped with a 3.5-liter V6 that is paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). With an overall MPG of 21, the Murano is less fuel-efficient than other vehicles in its class.

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The interior of the Murano has an upscale feel to it, and the rear seats are comfortable and the SUV seats five. The Murano has a five-star overall safety rating through NHTSA and has standard safety features such as forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic warning, and rear automatic braking.

The ride quality of the Murano feels soft, while the handing lacks a sporty feel and has light steering creating a more comfortable ride. The Nissan Murano can be purchased used for $17,500 - $23,775 in the 2017 model year.

Browse used Nissan Murano listings here.


15. Honda Odyssey

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The Honda Odyssey is a FWD only minivan with a 280-HP 3.5-liter V6 engine that provides plenty of power and works well with the 10-speed transmission. The second-row seats slide sideways, and the interior is roomy and can seat eight comfortably.

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The Odyssey is equipped with safety features such as anti brake system, side airbags, head protection airbags, forward collision warning, and electronic stability control all standard. The Odyssey has an 8-inch infotainment touch screen system in 2021, which is an upgrade from earlier models.

The Odyssey gets 19 MPG city and 28 MPG highway and has a five-star crash safety rating from NHTSA. A used 2017 Odyssey can be purchased for $18,000 - $26,650, depending on trim level and mileage.

Browse used Honda Odyssey listings here.