These Are The Best Cars For Teen Drivers, According To Readers

Photo: Chevrolet
Photo: Chevrolet

Teen drivers may lack fully developed brains, good judgment, impulse control and experience behind the wheel, but that doesn’t change the fact that for most families in the U.S., their teenagers will need cars to get around in. Or their parents will need those teens to have a car because they have jobs and can’t take time off to cart their kids around to every single class or appointment.

When it comes to actually getting a car for a teen driver, though, there are so many options to pick from that it can be overwhelming. That’s why, on Tuesday, we asked what cars you thought were the best for teen drivers. We got all sorts of different answers, some of which we agreed with more than others, but if you’re trying to figure out what kind of car your teen should have, here’s what our readers recommend.

Volkswagen Beetle

A VW Beetle:

Get them something underpowered and simple enough forcing them to wrench on it to keep it working, you know, what the ungrateful brat deserves.

If the whiner complains their new wheels embarrasses them, then fine; now they have incentive to save up their own money for something better. Until then they’ll have basic transportation—that’s all the ingrate deserves.


If you’re worried your teen hasn’t broken enough bones yet, an old Beetle makes a perfect first car.

Suggested by: the1969DodgeChargerFan

Ford Mustang GT Convertible

A Mustang GT convertible is a great choice if it’s a manual

It’s true. No teen has ever crashed a Mustang GT that has a manual transmission.

Suggested by: Sinister Silverado

NC Miata

NC Miata. Here’s why:

1. Modern enough to be safe in a crash

2. Small enough to make them think to drive defensively

3. Manual transmission to make them actually pay attention while driving (and prevent phone use)

4. Only seats two, so your kid can’t be driving hordes of their delinquent friends around.

5. Kinda cool, but not real cool to where other kids are gonna ask to drive it (plus, manual trans, so they likely couldn’t anyway)

It’s an unconventional choice, but Give Me Tacos or Give Me Death makes a solid argument here. Maybe Miata really is always the answer.

Suggested by: Give Me Tacos or Give Me Death

Nissan Altima

Teens tick every box of a terrible driver: don’t signal, lack of situational awareness, drive way too fast or way too slow, tailgate, and generally beat their cars to hell within days of ownership. What is the one car that matches to that kind of driver in the most complete way possible?

Ah, of course...the answer couldn’t be any more obvious

This also seems like a risky one. Is it the driver who ruins the used Altima, or is it the used Altima that ruins the driver? Until more research is done, we’re going to recommend approaching this suggestion with extreme caution.

Suggested by: paradsecar

Scion TC

1st gen Scion TC. Looks sporty but has a Corolla engine so they won’t get in too much trouble for speeding.

Yes, they burn oil but the car is dirt cheap and just check the oil every few months to top it off and you’re good to go.

As was pointed out in the original QOTD, it was a Camry engine, but it was still a four-cylinder that offered a somewhat sporty driving experience without going overboard on power. The question is, can you trust your teen to keep the oil topped up?

Suggested by: Tacofan

Mazda 2

The 2013 Mazda 2 (stick shift) we’ve held onto specifically for this purpose. Wellgruntled & Spouse LLC’s Social Experiment v2 just got their learner’s permit a few weeks back and has already taken to the wee go-kart like they’ve been driving for years.

Arguably, the only way to improve the Mazda 2 as a choice for teen drivers would be to get rid of the rear doors so it’s even less convenient for them to give rides to their friends.

Suggested by: wellgruntled

Volvo S60

Find a 5-10 year old Volvo S60 or V60.

There’s nothing mechanical on the car that is going to break before your teen will test a safety system.

Reasonable for power, reasonable gas mileage, and Moose Test approved, because the best way to come out of a crash unscathed is to not be in the crash in the first place.

Your teen may not appreciate how much of an upgrade a Volvo is over some of the alternatives until after they’ve crashed it and have to replace it with something cheaper, but it’s still a solid choice.

Suggested by: PotbellyJoe and 42 others

Toyota Prius

Ten-year-old Toyota, ideally a Tacoma or a Prius. Both would be reliable, safe enough, and cheap enough. It mostly depends on miles-driven part of the equation. The Tacoma can double for household weekend chores while the Prius would be the better answer if the kid is racking up more than 20 miles a day.

Oh, you’re a car enthusiast, son? Well, you can be enthusiastic that you’ve now got a car that gets fantastic gas mileage and should last at least 200,000 miles with minimal maintenance.

Suggested by: JimmyZZZZZZZ

Chevrolet Bolt

A first gen Chevy Bolt. Has some modern safety features I’d want for my kids and you can pick up a used one for ~$10k after that $4k credit. It is a no-brainer.

This is an outstanding suggestion, especially since the Bolt has enough range that, unlike an early Leaf, they could probably drive it to college as long as they stay in-state.

Suggested by: Killing Time

Ford Escape

Let me preface this with what my first car was: 1986 Hyundai Excel GL hatchback 5spd. This was in 1994, and was one of the first year models that was sold in the US by Hyundai. The hatch wouldn’t lock, the rear hatch struts had given up the ghost long ago and when it rained I learned to spray WD-40 on the distributor cap and spark plug wires or it wouldn’t run. The real fun was when the driver’s seat fell through the floor while I was on the highway driving home from work after my 11pm-7am shift ended. It was not, in any way shape or form, suitable for human occupancy.

I was the 3rd child, so really of no import. My spawn is an only, and all of my eggs are in that basket so his relative health and safety are of some interest to me. He will be taking his DL on 4/1 of this year and the game plan is for him to inherit my wife’s 2019 Ford Escape on his 18th birthday. Decent size, modern enough for a good set of safety features, a “Goldilocks” amount of hp, and *doesn’t* have all the distracting lane assist and adaptive cruise control features to ensure he pays just a little bit more attention to what he’s doing. Also, new enough that we’re not unduly worried about hidden gremlins or excessive frame rust etc.

Can you still get a ridiculous speeding ticket in an Escape? Sure. But a five-ish-year-old compact crossover is going to require some determination to get there, and it’s got plenty of safety features. Plus, now mom has an excuse to get a new car.

Suggested by: IstillmissmyXJ

Kia Soul

We got our teen a kia soul. They still have it 8 years later and 85K miles and the only repair has been a bad gas cap.

It’s not so big that it’s hard to drive, but there’s still plenty of room for hauling stuff to college. Your teen really could do a lot worse.

Suggested by: 4jim

Kia Rio

something compact, with no HP, and you wouldnt want to show off in. Like a Kia Rio.

Newer Kia Rios are nicer than you might think if you go for some of the higher trim levels, but no one could ever accuse a Rio of being too quick. With teen drivers, that’s a good thing.

Suggested by: ikaiyoo

Toyota Tacoma

Toyota Tacoma with a manual transmission. Apart from keeping you focused on the road and away from watching Tik Tok videos whilst driving, learning on a manual will teach them vehicle dynamics that no auto can. Plus, if your ignition goes, you can always do a push start and pop the clutch. I would have said a Miata but with all of the Bro-dozers and Chevy Tahoe’s careening about with little to no concern for public safety or rules, I worry about my son getting crushed by some teenager in a Tahoe their daddy just bought them while she’s watching Kardashian’s kids pedantically peddle skin care anti-ageing creams.

The Tacoma is a solid, practical suggestion even though you’ll be paying the Toyota tax to get one. Still, while it’s no 5.0-liter Mustang, few things encourage teens to burn out of their school parking lot quite like a manual transmission and no weight over the rear tires.

Suggested by: Andres Etxeverriharza

Honda Clarity

While I strongly support the old Miata crowd, ours is winding up with a hand-me-down Honda Clarity.

Had it since new, five years old, 58,000 miles, and on a trade they’re only offering 13K. I can’t find a better car with a full history and no issues for the same or less.

It’s a PHEV, so he’ll save gas money, has all the safety equipment, and the only real issue is ridiculous insurance.

The Honda Clarity variants were never as popular as the Toyota Camry, but it’s hard to go wrong with a used Japanese hybrid. Especially if you live in an area where your kid could take advantage of the plug-in hybrid’s electric range for most trips.

Suggested by: ekimyllek

Honda Fit

Used 3rd gen Honda Fit.

It’s practical, safe, reliable, cheap to insure, has 90s visibility paired with 2010s safety features, parts will continue to be cheap and plentiful for years to come, and it’ll hold value super well, especially near cities where there just aren’t any good subcompact cars anymore. And if they take a car to college, it’ll be a fantastic road trip/friends-help-you-move mobile.

If the kid wants to learn stick, there are tons of manual ones out there. Also, it only has ~120 HP so they really can’t get into too much trouble.

Related to that, it’s shocking how few “starter” cars can be had with <150HP anymore. The car I drove the most in high school was a 99 Civic with 95HP and it was plenty to learn with.

It really is hard to beat the Fit and its fancy folding second-row seats, especially since it’s still somewhat fun to drive. Also, who doesn’t love a subcompact hatchback?

*checks subcompact hatchback sales in the U.S.*

OK, what enthusiast doesn’t love a subcompact hatchback?

Suggested by: OnceInAMillenia

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