Anyone who works in the auto industry is bound to hear the same question – frequently – from parents: “What’s the best car to buy for my child?”
It’s not as easy to answer as it might seem. Of course, it depends on the kid. Given a choice, what they’d like to be seen in might not be the wisest option, of course. A first-time drive probably shouldn’t be driving a Mustang GT or a BMW M3. And while short-wheelbase SUVs, like the Jeep Wrangler, might seem a fun alternative, they can have rollover issues when inexperienced young drivers speed around a corner.
Most parents prefer to hold down costs by putting the novice behind the wheel of a relatively recent used car, but the price of the vehicle itself shouldn’t be the only factor to consider. Insurance can be a deal-breaker, though if you don’t check up front you could get a painful lesson after the fact.
So, the folks at CarInsurance.com decided to see what cars, trucks and crossovers might make the most sense specifically based on providing insurance for the “typical” teen driver. They focused specifically on four-year-old vehicles costing less than $15,000 according to price tracking services. They also limited their list to models getting at least 20 mpg and those that had better-than-average repair records.
“The good news is that a newer car with the right safety gear doesn’t cost much more to insure than an old car,” said CarInsurance.com managing editor Des Toups. “The bad news is that your teen will be expensive to insure no matter what he or she ends up driving.”
Among the top 20 models, there were a few surprises. Few might expect to see an a 2008 Audi A3 top the list, with insurance rates averaging just $1,960, or a full $2,400 less than the number 20 model, the Subaru Impreza. Second on the list, the 4-door Honda Accord, at $2,040, followed by the Mercury Sable, at $2,610.
Far less surprising, the most affordable models, from an insurance rate, tended to be midrange sedans and a few crossovers, such as the Honda Accord sedan, Mercury Sable, Subaru Legacy and Ford Escape. Having more safety technology, such as electronic stability control, also paid off in terms of lower rates.
The bad news is that having a teen driver will run up insurance bills no matter what. In Washington State, for example, CarInsurance.com found a typical married couple would pay $1,536 a year for their own coverage. Put the teen in a separate car and that can shoot up to $6,192 – even if the young driver is barred from driving the parents’ vehicle.
Here’s CarInsurance.com’s list of the 20 most affordable cars for teens based on insurance costs:
1. Audi A3: $1,960
2. Honda Accord (four-door models): $2,040
3. Mercury Sable (with electronic stability control, or ESC): $2,610
4. Ford Taurus (with ESC): $2,670
5. Subaru Forester (with ESC): $2,750
6. Mercury Milan (2009 models with ESC): $2,790
7. Scion xB: $2,790
8. Nissan Rogue: $2,900
9. Honda Civic (2009 four-door models with ESC): $2,970
10. Ford Fusion (2009 models with ESC): $2,980
11. Hyundai Santa Fe: $3,050
12. Saturn VUE (built after 12/07): $3,180
13. Saab 9-3: $3,350
14. Volkswagen Jetta (2009 models): $3,480
15. Subaru Forester (2009 models): $3,600
16. Volkswagen Rabbit (2009 four-door models): $3,630
17. Mitsubishi Lancer (2009 models with ESC): $3,980
18. Ford Escape (2009 models): $4,120
19. Subaru Legacy (with ESC): $4,320
20. Subaru Impreza (with ESC): $4,360