The knee-jerk reaction to the thought of buying your kid a car is probably to go big or go home.
Most times we equate size to safety, hence the reason you will often see teenagers driving their parents super-sized Suburbans or other SUVs.
In the case of the best cars for your teenage driver, size doesn’t always matter.
“Midsize sedans are the best choice for teens,” Tamra Johnson, manager of public relations for the Automobile Association of America, told Edmunds.com. “Small cars don’t offer as much protection in crashes, sporty cars may encourage speeding or recklessness, and SUVs and pickup trucks are more difficult to maneuver and more likely to roll over.”
There is no shortage of lists or opinions when it comes to the best cars for your teen drivers, but midsized sedans topped just about all of them. Here are few that ranked well in each list that we reviewed.
Chevy Malibu – The Chevy Malibu got a recent makeover, but looks aren’t the only thing when it comes to this vehicle. The Teenage Driving System silences the radio until seat belts are buckled and lets you set the audio levels and top speed. Added bonus, report cards letting parents know distances driven, when the driver exceeded the set speed and instances of hard breaking. Nice! Price Tag = $26,870
Ford Focus – Much like the Malibu, the Ford Focus has a monitoring system for your teenage driver called MyKey. In addition to setting audio and speed limits, MyKey has a Do Not Disturb feature that will hold all text messages and send incoming phone calls to voicemail. A few bells and whistles like drowsy driver detection and lane-keeping assistance make this a fan favorite. Price Tag = $23,135
Honda Fit – If you’re looking for something in the subcompact category, the Honda fit is an appealing route to take. The Fit doesn’t brag about horsepower, but does boast lots of space for those on a tight budget. Its fuel efficiency of 33 miles per gallon and good safety and reliability ratings helped the Fit earn the titles of Best Subcompact Car for the Money, as well Best Hatchback for the Money from U.S. News and World Report. Price tag = $16,690.
Volkswagen Jetta – The Jetta has long been popular with younger drivers. The passenger and cargo spaces are considered generous enough for BFFs and backpacks. But the consistent Top Safety pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) keeps parents coming back for more. Volkswagen’s Car-Net telematics system includes automatic crash notification, roadside assistance and remote vehicle access. Price Tag = $19,600.
Mitsubishi Outlander Sport – If you have your heart set on an SUV, the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport may be the way to go. The IIHS rated the Outlander and Outlander Sport as the most recommended used vehicles to get for teen drivers. Along with the latest technology, the five-passsenger SUV has seven air bags to protect from a crash at all angles. The Outlander Sport employs an active stability control system to keep your child’s wheels on the road and rain-sensing windshield wipers that activate and speed up, depending on the rainfall. Price Tag – $19,960.
With school, sports and plain old hanging out, your teen will constantly be behind the wheel. Making sure he or she is safe while doing so is a constant consideration.
While much of driving safety depends on the driving, picking the right vehicle with the latest safety features doesn’t hurt. So pull up with your child and do a little homework on the best that your budget will allow.