Cars for Teenage Drivers – Uncool, Slow & Safe for SAFETY?

Why Picking The RIGHT Kind of Vehicle is IMPORTANT

safest cars for teenagersYou as a parent or guardian of your teenager, know that there are a few key aspects of automobiles which ensure they have the best experience. The first one being safety, the second one being affordability, the third one being reliability, and the fourth one being practicality.

This short abbreviation for that is SARP. Now I’ll cover those four points in a second, but before I do, do understand that when you pick the right type of vehicle from the very beginning you will set-up your teenager on the right path for the most savings financially and the most safety.

Let’s dive into each one and learn briefly why each criterion matters.


safety is importantYou’ll either hear it on the news, or it will be someone you know… “Teen Fatally Wounded During A Crash”. Teenagers are KNOWN to react out of emotions a lot of the times, especially nowadays, distractions are getting worse. Having something that will let them stay safe and hold them in place as much as possible, will be the best choice. A cars structure and amount of area which can absorb impact are crucial.

A car such as a Mazda Miata is a tiny, lightweight sports car which while not the fastest car in the world and not the hardest to drive, will be destroyed if it hits something at anything greater than 35 miles per hour. While cars such as the Volvo SUV’s (XC90 as an example) are structurally ROCK SOLID. Even the worst type of accidents will have the highest probability your child comes out unscathed. The list of cars below has this characteristic in common.


affordability is importantWhile you may not want your child to be driving a $500 dollar beater, which most likely has a LOAD of reliability issues waiting to happen (if not already).

Affordability to most means a few thousand dollars, so anywhere between $5000 to $8000 is a good indicator that it’s a cost-effective option to go after. Below you’ll find the cars ranging from $3500-$9000 for well-maintained options.


reliability is importantReliability is just as important as affordability, after all, what’s the point of saving a few thousand dollars, if the car you bought suddenly has a few thousand dollars in repairs pending.

While electric cars are emerging as the most reliable methods of transportation, quite a few gasoline-powered cars are known for their rock-solid reliability and thousands upon thousands of miles with problem-free driving. This part is VERY important, and your teenager’s pocketbook will thank you later on.


practical vs not practicalThe last point here that I’d like to point out, is practicality. You see, your teenager already is just getting used to driving… why make it harder for them by giving them vehicles which are not too practical or easy to maneuver. Good examples of bad vehicles would giant lifted trucks. While safe yes, they most likely to curb the wheels, swipe someone, or worse. In addition, the extra bed in the back is not necessary and is just taking up room.

A good example of a good vehicle is a Toyota Rav4 crossover. Being a small SUV, it’s practical because it has a short wheelbase and it can turn anywhere without a problem. In addition, it has easy controls and is about as fast as a turtle. It will be able to drive in bad weather conditions, and if storage is needed… the vertical opening trunk with folded down seats, will give you PLENTY of room.

Top 5 Cars Which are EXCELLENT for Teenage Drivers

#1 Chevy Volt 

chevy voltNow this car is underappreciated by many adults for how AMAZING it actually is. We will cover each criterion mentioned above, starting with Safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rated this car as Good for overall safety. For moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restrictions + seats, it gets a green light for being safe. In addition, there have been very few fatal crashes with these Volts involved. That is a BIG bonus.

Now moving on to affordability, this is where it shines as well. While not EXTREMELY cheap like you’d find an old Honda Civic, it is very reasonable considering the oldest model is 2011. A 2011-2012 Volt can be had for $7000-$9500, a steal when it comes down to quality car bargains.

Unlike with 100% gasoline powered automobiles, this new breed of half electric half gas powered cars is causing for MUCH better reliability. Here’s the difference between the two. You see, usually tiny engines give a very hard time accelerating and to get up to speed… the way around that, is by simply making those tiny engines NOT connected to the front wheels, but instead act as a generator to power two small electric

motors which by the way deliver instant torque, a MUST in city driving and getting on the highway. This aspect alone puts LESS strain on the engine, resulting in fewer problems. Did I forget to mention there’s no transmission? Perfect!

chevy volt old vs new

Practicality, it does not get much better with the Volt. It’s a little bigger than a Cruze, but not by much. The rear trunk opens up, actually, it’s more of a hatch than a trunk. While comfortably seating only four people front and back, its worth mentioning that it’s all that people usually bring with them in the first place. Getting in and out whatever your height is, is simple as can be.


#2 Nissan Leaf

try driving a nissan leafIn less than 8 years, Nissan has reached a milestone of the MOST sold electric car model in the world. This is GOOD news for your teenager. I’ll explain the four criteria above. First of all, let’s talk about safety, it reached the exact same results as the Chevy Volt did with an overall score of Good.

Unsurprisingly with so many Leaf’s on the road today, it was expected that they TANK towards the sub $10K mark in a few years and they do just that. You can now find 2011-2014 Nissan Leafs for under $10,000 and in some cases, less than $6,000. The reason for that is the first generation no one wants to buy because of their limited range. For a teenager, they don’t really need more than 75 miles of range for daily driving… this makes it perfect for them to come home and charge overnight. At the same time, save more than a thousand dollars over the course of a year in gasoline.

Reliability has been a BIG topic for MOST models, except the Leaf. With the 100% electric drivetrain, there’s no oil changes, no transmission changes, nothing else except the tires, brake fluid, wiper fluid, and occasional break pads every 100K miles or so. With that being said, their battery degradation is known to be a common issue with the early models from 2011-2014. If you take yours to Nissan and its within the warranty period, you can get a brand new problem-free battery replacement. This to me is not a deal breaker.

2011 nissan leaf Other than that, it is an AMAZING bargain.

*You also have control of your child because of the range, so they are limited to how far they can drive.

Practically would be the last part of the car and it’s quite nice. If you’ve ever seen a Volkswagen Golf hatchback, it’s about the same size. The Leaf has four doors, and one hatch with decent storage for things you want to put. You can place a roof rack on top with a cargo box for even MORE storage, so it’s definitely worth mentioning

#3 Toyota Prius

toyota prius imageIf you haven’t seen one of these on the road, odds are you probably live under a rock. They are everywhere for a reason because they are GREAT cars (and this is coming from a car guy). There’s also a reason why no car enthusiast or young person is usually driving them, it’s because they have a bad reputation for being just uncool looking cars and just the name “Prius” people associate someone being a “grandpa” driving a car…

Actually, quite the contrary.

The Prius after their first generation started to become one of the safest automobiles on the market today. With each generation, they have improved their safety ratings more and more. IIHS rated it as a very safe car from each generation to today.It’s a tiny bit bigger than a compact sedan, with impressive fuel economy.

It’s extremely affordable, with the 2005-2009 models selling for $6000 to $8,000 with not too high mileage. The better looking and more efficient generation from 2010-2015, is going from $7000 to $14000. There are always exceptions for cost, as you can get a 150K+ mile Prius 2010 for as little as $5000. But what I mentioned a few sentences ago, is the norm.

The two brands that come to mind with reliability is Honda and Toyota. Toyota’s Prius is no exception, it has AMAZING reliability with the most common issue being the battery going dead (which is actually RARE if you look at the whole at % of them which had this issue).

these cars are practical

Having a pre-purchase inspection is always recommended, to ensure no other issues are present.

The last part is practicality, and this is where like fuel efficiency, it shines. The 4 doors open up comfortably and can seat any sized teenager.

Also, the rear hatch has excellent space which stores ALL school belongings, and can even house someone in the time of need. It has been said that the Prius is one of the easiest cars to drive whether you are a novice teenage girl or boy, to 80-year-old senior.

#4 Volvo V70

not cool but indestructible Before you settle down to the good old American Ford below, consider getting your teenager a Volvo wagon. Why may you ask?

Because they are TOUGH AS STEEL, especially when it comes to safety.

When it comes down to safety, Volvo has done it really well. If you look up on YouTube a Volvo V70 from 1998 going off a 50-70 foot cliff and bouncing back like nothing really happened to it, you’ll see the idea of safety right there. Most cars would be DESTROYED, but not the older Volvo V70 wagons. This alone is a good enough reason to buy.

When it comes to affordability, you are looking at less than $5000 USD in most cases, and that’s quite impressive. Yes, it will be an older vehicle with less than a perfect overall appearance in and out (in most cases). But on the rare occasions, you’ll be able to pick on up that is in MINT condition from someone who is finally moving on to something new.

the old volvo's are amazingReliability is largely a non-issue. Being the first 100% gas powered automobile on this list, it’s not going to have a large number of problems that a BMW or Mercedes of that generation would have.. not even close. Your teenager would benefit from a bulletproof car in terms of maintenance.

Practicality is something the older Volvos were known for. The long roof enables you to place multiple bikes using a rack. Being a wagon lets you open up the rear hatch and place a LOT of storage in the back. Also when it comes to electronics, there is nothing fancy… just basic things to get the car going. Power steering and brakes, yes. Fancy cruise control, stability control, traction control…. no, as you don’t really need all that.

#5 Ford Crown Victoria

crown victoriaThe last car on this list is the Ford Crown Victoria, you’ve probably seen one… every day. There are THOUSANDS of these, and that’s not including the THOUSANDS of them as police cars nationwide.

While you may look at this car and think “my daughter/son would have a hard time driving one of these, these are rather big cars…”. However, they don’t feel that way once you get inside.

When it comes to safety, this thing is as good as the Volvo mentioned above. So much steel, so much to absorb the impact of an accident, there’s a reason why seniors like the twin brother made by Mercury. It’s an exceptionally nice car, with a LONG track record of use and millions of miles clocked by its drivers.

If you’re TRULY on a budget, you can grab one of these for $1000 if you attend a police auction. You can also hunt down one that was NEVER used in law enforcement, and possibly grab one for around $1500 to $2000. Because there’s so many, they will keep their prices at EXTREMELY LOW levels… scrap metal prices even if the car is still running fine.

ford crown vic pictureThere’s not much that is as affordable to fix, as a Ford Crown Victoria. There are SO MANY parts, it’s ridiculous. And if it ever breaks, which it usually tends to not do.

This car isn’t the most practical car in the world, and I’m talking about drivability and efficiency. It weighs a lot, has a big engine with poor power output, and is quite big (almost like a boat) to move around. However, because of that, it has air suspension which makes for a VERY comfortable ride. It’s essentially a car for a senior citizen, but with a lot less leather.

Good for teens, absolutely. Easy to use every day? Yes!

Let’s Wrap This Up

Those are the FOUR things to look into when buying a first-time automobile, for your teenager. It does not have to be your own money, they can buy it themselves. You being a parent can give guidance with those points in mind. Also, the 5 examples provided are excellent choices and should be embraced as really good options for your child. Before I end this article, I’ll sum it up with cars starting from cheapest to most expensive.

  • Good used Ford Crown Victoria 2003-2006 from $3500 to $5000
  • Good used Volvo V70 1997-2000 from $3750 to $6000
  • Good used Toyota Prius 2005-2008 from $4500 to $7000
  • Good used Nissan Leaf 2011-2013 from $6000 to $8500
  • Good used Chevy Volt 2011-2013 from $8000 to $10000