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Cars for teen drivers
Find a suitable vehicle for your young motorists

Car keys being handed to a young driver.
When buying any vehicle, safety, and reliability are always important. But when the car buyer is a new graduate, these considerations are even more significant since young drivers usually do not often have a lot of driving experience or money. Following are some of the things you should consider before buying.

Safety. Look for vehicles with advanced safety features and good crash-test results. Our used-car profiles note the availability of key safety equipment, such as air bags and ABS on specific models. The profiles also give offset, frontal, and side-impact crash-test results when available.

Recommended cars for teenage drivers

Ford Focus ('02 or later, except 2-door models)

Toyota Camry XLE (V6)

Honda Accord EX (4-cyl.)
('98 or later)

Toyota Camry LE (4-cyl.)

Honda Civic EX

Toyota Corolla LE ('99 or later)

Mazda3

Toyota RAV4 ('01 or later)

Mazda Protege EX ('99-'03)

Volkswagen Passat (4-cyl) ('00)

Nissan Altima 2.5 S (4-cyl)
  ('03 or later)

Subaru Forester 2.5X



In the chart above, we've listed vehicles we have tested that are appropriate for young drivers, based on our emergency handling Ratings and test results, and government and insurance-industry crash-test results. These vehicles have also shown average or better reliability, according to our latest subscriber survey.

We did not consider autos with 0-to-60-mph acceleration times faster than 8 seconds or slower than 11 seconds. Note: All vehicles that have been tested in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) side-crash test without side air bags, including several in this list, have been rated Poor--the lowest rating. Therefore, we recommend that you look for a vehicle with head-protecting side air bags, when possible. You can see all IIHS crash-test ratings at www.hwysafety.org.

Generally, the bigger and heavier vehicles perform better in crash tests. But larger vehicles tend to have unwieldy handling and offer poor fuel economy. Large pickups and SUVs are not recommended for young, inexperienced drivers because the high centers of gravity on these vehicles make them more prone to rollover than other vehicles.

Sports cars are also often a poor choice for young drivers. They beg to be driven too fast and have a higher rate of accidents than other cars.

Reliability. An inexpensive car isn't so inexpensive if you end up paying for major repairs later. Even vehicles deemed reliable in our profiles could be lemons if they were poorly maintained, so it's very important that you thoroughly examine the condition of any car you're considering.

A 2003 Toyota Camry LE. If a teen's family has done a good job of maintaining a car over the years they may consider handing it down, helping to ensure that the young driver inherits a car with a known history.

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