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Published November 07, 2023

Best cars for teens: Affordable and safe options for young drivers

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Kia Soul

Getting that first car is one of the biggest milestones for teenagers – and often a source of concern for parents. While you might be excited for your teen during this time, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some natural anxieties that parents have about their child’s first vehicle. From safety concerns to car reliability and affordability, there’s probably no end to your worries when choosing a car for your teen or letting them choose a car for themselves.

We understand that this time can be pretty stressful for parents, especially if you’re struggling to balance safety and budget. This guide will help you by offering the best cars for teens based on numerous factors like safety, affordability, reliability, and critical vehicle features so you can make a balanced, educated decision on your child’s first car!

Top safety features to look for in the best cars for teens

Keeping your child safe should be paramount when helping them find their first car. Some safety features to look for in vehicles include the following:

• Stability control

• Blind-spot monitoring

• Lane departure warning

• Anti-lock brakes

• Traction control

• Forward-collision warning

• Backup cameras

• Parking sensors

• Brake assist

• Adaptive cruise control

Along with these features, you should always consider car safety ratings before buying. Safety ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are your best bets for finding reliable safety ratings.

1. Mazda3 sedan or hatchback: The safest small-size car for teens

Mazda 3 Hatchback
Mazda 3 Hatchback

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), one of the safest cars for teenage drivers is the Mazda3 Sedan or Hatchback. These cars are affordable and reliable, making them a good option for teens. They include several excellent safety features:

• Superior front-crash prevention

• Standard lane departure warnings and prevention

• High small overlap front driver- and passenger-side rating

• Robust roof strength

• Optional blind spot detection

• Cross-traffic alerts

The Mazda3 is also notable for its affordability, with select used Mazda3 trims from EchoPark under $25K. This model is also highly fuel-efficient to save you costs, with an EPA MPG rating between 23-28/city and 32-37/highway.

Insurance costs for Mazda3 vehicles range from $11 to $91 monthly, so factor this into your car expenses if you’re considering this vehicle for your teen. Your car insurance premiums are based on several factors, such as your driving habits, demographic factors, coverage, limits, deductibles, and, of course, the car itself.

The Mazda3 is known for its reliability and dependability, and because of its robust safety features, you can trust this car to get your teen to their destination safely. Among the notable key features this car offers that your teen will love include:

• Navigation system

• Apple CarPlay

• Android Auto

• Adaptive cruise control

• Backup camera

• Leather seats

• Keyless start

• Available AWD

Mazda3 cars have reliable engines with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder base engine with 191 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. It also has upgraded turbo-four engines to give the car more power if you prefer a stronger engine for your teen.

2. Subaru Legacy: The safest midsize vehicle for teens

Subaru Legacy
Subaru Legacy

Another vehicle highly rated for its safety features is the Subaru Legacy. It won a 2023 Top Safety Pick from the IIHS and maintains a 5-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), making it a viable competitor for the safest car for teen drivers. With an excellent front-crash prevention system, standard daytime running lights, blind spot detection, and lane departure warning and prevention, there’s no doubt that the Subaru Legacy is a safe and reliable vehicle for teenagers just getting their licenses.

The Subaru Legacy is also an affordable option. The average car insurance rate for the Subaru Legacy is $1,548 annually or $129 monthly, while the average cost to insure the vehicle is $160. Though higher than the Mazda3, these costs are still cheaper than most.

This vehicle contains numerous standout features that make it a top choice for parents with teenage drivers. The Subaru Legacy is packed with advanced technology, with notable solutions like the Subaru STARLINK Multimedia keeping your teen’s vehicle connected and giving them access to more safety features and control. Other features like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a backup camera make this car even more practical to ease your teenager into the driving world.

3. Hyundai Accent: The most affordable car for teens

Hyundai Accent
Hyundai Accent

Affordability is a significant concern for parents shopping for a new car for their teenager. With the average used car costing around $27,000, parents seek affordable alternatives that prioritize budget without sacrificing safety. The Hyundai Accent maintains a good safety rating from the IIHS for the 2022 release and a 4/5 safety rating from the NHTSA for its 2020 release. Among the car’s safety features include:

• Superior front-crash prevention

• Daytime running lights

• Ample roof strength

• Anti-lock braking system

• Brake assist

• Front, side, and overhead impact airbag

While its safety ratings are average, its cost stands out most about the Hyundai Accent. When you shop for Hyundai Accent vehicles from EchoPark, you can expect to pay under $17,000 – significantly lower than the national average. Insurance costs for the Hyundai Accent are relatively low, ranging from $11 to $98 monthly, depending on numerous factors. And with a 33/city and 41/highway MPG rating, there’s no denying this car’s fuel efficiency.

Along with its reliability, the Hyundai Accent is a good option for teenage drivers because of its standout features. The car includes Bluetooth wireless technology, a touchscreen monitor, a hands-free phone, cruise control, and a remote keyless entry system.

4. Kia Soul: Balancing affordability and style for teens

Kia Soul
Kia Soul

While few cars can beat the Hyundai Accent’s affordability, some certainly come close. The Kia Soul is another affordable option, with prices as low as around $15,000 for used models. Along with its low initial cost, the Kia Soul has an EPA rating of up to 35 MPG for highway driving, making it a highly fuel-efficient option. Beyond these, insurance costs for the Kia Soul typically range from $20 to $81 monthly, making it a relatively affordable option.

The Kia Soul has high safety ratings from the IIHS and includes Kia’s standard safety features:

• Lane-keeping and lane-following assist

• Driver attention warning

• Highway drive assist

• High beam assist

• Forward collision warning system

• Blind spot detection

• Lane departure warning

As well as its affordability and safety measures, the Kia Soul is a reliable vehicle with several key features that could make it a big hit with your teenager, especially newer models. The car has excellent cargo capacities and is the perfect size for teenagers getting used to driving. Newer versions also boast a suite of technology features that make this car one of the most stylish a teen could ask for:

• The 2023 Kia Soul includes a touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, USB ports, Android Auto, and a comprehensive audio system.

• The Soul LX has Kia DriveWise Driver Assist safety features, including driver attention monitoring and emergency braking systems.

• The Soul S, EX, and GT-Line have a larger touchscreen than the 2023 model and include the same comprehensive safety features as the Soul LX. They also have SiriusXM Satellite Radio, navigation features, wireless device charging options, and an extensive audio system with LED speaker lights.

5. Honda Civic: Affordable and practical

Honda Civic
Honda Civic

The Civic is a staple in Honda vehicles and one of the best options for parents looking for a car for their teens. It’s not only affordable, with options from EchoPark costing under $20,000, but it is one of the safest vehicles you could expect from a car suitable for teens.

The Honda Civic is a 2022 and 2023 Top Safety Pick from the IIHS. It maintains a 5/5 star safety rating from the NHTSA, with superior ratings based on the vehicle’s suite of safety features, collision tests, and other criteria. All Honda Civics come equipped with the following standard safety features:

• Driver and front-passenger front, knee, and front-side airbags

• Outboard rear-passenger side airbags

• Side curtain airbags with rollover sensors

• Anti-lock braking system, brake assist, and electronic brake distribution

• Tire pressure monitoring system

• LED daytime running lights

• Adaptive cruise control

• Lane departure warning

• Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ (ACE™) structure

• Rearview camera

• Blind-spot monitoring

The initial price of a Honda Civic isn’t the only affordable factor about this car. A Honda Civic is budget-friendly because of its incredible fuel efficiency. The Honda Civic EX boasts a fuel efficiency rating of 33/city and 42/highway MPG, keeping fuel costs affordable. However, insurance premium costs vary widely with the Honda Civic – for a 2022 Honda Civic, a new teenage driver will pay an estimated $7,079 annually, while a 40-year-old driver would only pay $1,574. Age – of the vehicle and the buyer alike – will play a big role in whether this model is the right purchase for your teen.

6. Toyota Corolla: Small and safe

Parents who want to get their teen a small car that doesn’t sacrifice safety can look no further than the Toyota Corolla. Another of IIHS’s Top Safety Picks for 2023, the Toyota Corolla Hybrid is equipped with numerous safety features to ensure your teens can drive smart. The car also has a 5-star rating from the NHTSA, ensuring safety. It comes with features like blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, automatic braking, a pre-collision system, lane departure alert, steering assist, road sign assist, and radar cruise control for a well-rounded package to protect your teenager.

The Toyota Corolla is also affordable, with most of the used options from EchoPark available for under $21,000. The car’s fuel economy rating makes its competitive pricing even better, with the 2022 model falling at an estimated 33 MPG for city and highway combined. Insurance rates vary for this model and can get somewhat pricey, with 16-year-olds paying an average of $7,112 annually for the car’s insurance premiums. In contrast, a 40-year-old driver would pay an average of $1,575 annually.

The Toyota Corolla is known for its reliability and exciting features that make your child's driving experience more enjoyable. The 2022 Toyota Corolla Hybrid includes many connectivity features, including a multi-information touchscreen display screen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Amazon Alexa compatibility.

7. Chevrolet Equinox LT: Equipped with teen driver technology

Chevrolet Equinox
Chevrolet Equinox

If you’re looking for a vehicle prepared to protect your teen, consider the Chevrolet Equinox LT. This trim is equipped with Teen Driver Technology, which Chevrolet boasts as a technology with parental instincts. This system includes emergency braking, lane-departure warnings, lane-keeping assist, forward collision warnings, and other features designed to keep drivers safe no matter what. It’s rated generally favorably by the IIHS, and 2020 models maintain a 5-star safety rating from the NHTSA.

Ranging anywhere from $18,000+ to $26,000+ when you buy used from EchoPark, there are plenty of options to fit your budget if you decide on the Chevrolet Equinox LT. The car has a slightly above-average fuel economy. It is fuel-efficient, with the FWD having 28 MPG for combined city/highway and the AWD maintaining a 27 MPG combined score. Full-coverage insurance costs vary for this vehicle – depending on the insurance plan, some 16-year-old drivers might pay around $6,600+ annually for newer models.

Despite high premiums, many exciting features can make the Chevrolet Equinox LT a fantastic choice for your teenager. The 2022 Chevrolet Equinox LT includes an Infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen, a keyless open and start model, auxiliary input jacks, USB ports, a rear vision camera, and numerous other features to make your teen’s ride practical and fun.

8. Audi A4: A safe and luxurious teen ride

If you’re not too worried about budget and want your teen to have a luxurious, stylish ride, the Audi A4 is right up your alley. When buying this car used, you can expect to pay close to $30,000 – but its safety features more than make up for that cost.

The Audi A4 is an IIHS Top Safety Pick for 2011, 2012, 2013, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022, making it one of the best cars you could ask for regarding consistent reliability and performance. The vehicle maintains a high, steady rating from the NHTSA, showing its excellence in safety.

While the Audi A4 is a bit more of an investment than some parents are looking for, it’s an amazing choice if you don’t mind paying a little extra for your teen to unlock all the benefits of this vehicle. The vehicle has an average fuel economy, with different versions of the 2021 model ranging from 26-28 EPA MPG for combined city and highway. Insurance costs range from $15 to $107 monthly, depending on various factors, so account for this in your final decision.

Along with its luxurious appearance, the Audi A4 has various features to make it an enjoyable ride for your teen. Among the top features of the 2022 Audi A4 include:

• Apple CarPlay

• Android Auto

• Sunroof/moonroof

• Heated seats

• Lane departure warning

• Forward collision warning

• Backup camera

• Power seats

• Keyless start

9. Subaru Outback: For the outdoor-loving teen

If your teen enjoys exploring the great outdoors, no car will appeal to them more than the Subaru Outback. This vehicle is incredibly safe, receiving the IIHS Top Safety Pick for many years. The Subaru Outback has a symmetrical AWD and a flat-four engine and is equipped with advanced safety features for a fun drive that stays safe.

The many safety features of the Subaru Outback include superior front-crash prevention, blindspot monitors, brake assist, and Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology. This technology protects your ride by monitoring traffic movements, warning you if you go outside your lane, and optimizing cruise control to detect possible threats to your child’s safety while driving.

Depending on the year and condition of the used vehicle, you might find the Subaru Outback relatively affordable or slightly pricey for your budget. EchoPark provides numerous purchasing options for the Subaru Outback starting at $23,000. These vehicles have an average fuel economy, with the 2022 Outback ranging from 24-29 combined city/highway MPG. Insurance costs for the Subaru Outback are relatively affordable, with monthly costs ranging from $10 to $74.

But what other features make the Subaru Outback a special choice for your teenager? Options like the 2022 Subaru Outback Premium include features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to keep your teen connected, while options like the 2022 Subaru Outback Limited come with additional features like a navigation system, keyless start, premium audio system, and many others. Simply put, there’s no going wrong with this car when purchasing for your teen, and new drivers will love this model's several features.

10. Honda Accord: A comfortable choice for all car needs

If you want to get your teen a balanced and relatively inexpensive car, a Honda Accord should definitely be on your list of options. The Honda Accord is consistently rated as one of the IIHS’s Top Safety Picks for its safety features included in the Honda Sensing Suite. This suite contains ample safety measures, including lane assist, collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, and more.

Honda Accords typically sell for an average price, with options from EchoPark starting at around $22,000. These vehicles have an incredible fuel economy rating, making them ideal if you’re looking for the most fuel-efficient vehicle for your teen. According to the Department of Energy, a 2022 Honda Accord, depending on the engine, can reach an MPG as high as 47 for a combined city/highway rating. Insuring a Honda Accord is relatively affordable, with most owners paying an estimated $1,417 annually.

Many Honda Accord cars have additional features to make your teen’s ride more enjoyable, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, to remain connected while in the car.

Tips when buying cars for teens

Beyond finding the safest car for teen drivers or the most affordable one, everyone needs some basic buying tips before approaching such a major purchasing decision. Here are a few pieces of advice before making your final choice:

• Always prioritize safety. While budget and other factors certainly play a role in your overall decision, there’s nothing as important as a safe vehicle. Make sure you know every safety feature different cars offer before you buy.

• Consider the car’s size and weight. Since larger, heavier cars provide better crash protection, many teens begin driving with these vehicles. However, if your teen prefers a smaller car for easier maneuvering, there are plenty of options for compact vehicles with advanced safety features.

• Buy your cars used. Well-maintained used cars like the ones provided by EchoPark are reliable, affordable, and safe, making them an obvious choice instead of buying a much more expensive new model.

• Check your car’s maintenance history. If you choose a used vehicle, ensure you have its entire maintenance history to ensure it’s been well taken care of over the years.

• Always listen to what your teen has to say. While you want to make sure your teen’s new ride is safe, their input matters in this decision. Let them express their needs and preferences when deciding and work with them rather than independently. Doing this also promotes responsibility and ownership of the car, meaning your teen will likely take better care of it.

Find the best in used cars from EchoPark

Whether looking for the safest cars for teen drivers or a new ride for yourself, you’ll find plenty of used cars available from EchoPark. Our selection of used cars is up to $3,000 less than the competition, and we make it easier than ever to find a used vehicle with top safety features that stay within your budget.

EchoPark understands the needs of parents and teens alike to find a vehicle that connects and excites. No matter what you’re looking for, we’ve got you covered at EchoPark. Find a location near you to explore our options and see what EchoPark offers its drivers.

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