New vehicle sales are still going strong despite some availability problems due to the chip shortage. With young drivers readying to head back to classrooms, it may be time to find them a vehicle to ensure they can get there safely and on time.
Selecting the “best” car for your teen driver can be an arduous process. It’s often a balancing act between what they like and a likely much more restrictive budget.
That said, plenty of new, or new-ish, drivers get new vehicles too as parents take some comfort in their young motorists having the latest safety technology, which is often standard equipment in those vehicles.
Each year, U.S. News & World Report compiles its “Best Cars for Teens” awards to help wary parents and overly excited teens weed through the options — new and used.
What makes a good car for teens?
This year saw Hyundai capture the most awards in the Best New Cars for Teens, with three. Across the eight new-car categories, five of the winners are hybrids, which should appeal to climate- and budget-conscious teens. In the used car categories, Toyota took home four of the five awards, the publication noted.
“The winners of the Best Cars for Teens awards all have active safety features that can help teens safely develop their driving skills while lowering the risk that they’ll be involved in a collision,” said Jamie Page Deaton, executive editor of U.S. News Best Cars.
“The winners also have strong crash test ratings, so if a collision occurs, there’s a better chance of occupants being protected.”
When it comes to the new vehicles, the magazine requires the vehicles come equipped with forward collision warning and forward automatic emergency braking, as well as lane departure warning and lane keep assist.
The new vehicle winners include:
- Best Car for Teens $20K to $25K: 2021 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid
- Best SUV for Teens $20K to $25K: 2021 Hyundai Kona
- Best Cars for Teens $25K to $30K: 2021 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid
- Best SUVs for Teens $25K to $30K: 2021 GMC Terrain
- Best Car for Teens $30K to $35K: 2021 Nissan Altima
- Best SUV for Teens $30K to $35K: 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid
- Best Car for Teens $35K to $40K: Toyota Camry Hybrid
- Best SUV for Teens $35K to $40K: 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid
Additionally, this year’s winners feature teen driver controls or smartphone apps allowing parents to receive alerts when the car goes over a set speed or is driven outside a set geographic area or time. These features allow parents to set limits for teen drivers and have an ongoing conversation with their teens about responsible driving habits.
Winning used vehicles for young drivers
Not every parent can — or wants to — run out a spend big money on a new vehicle for a teen who is likely to do things to make it depreciate even quicker than it already will. So, there are some late model vehicles the publication highlights. The award winners for best used cars are:
- Large Car: 2017 Toyota Avalon
- Midsize Car: 2018 Honda Accord
- Midsize SUV: 2017 Toyota Highlander
- Small Car: 2018 Toyota Corolla
- Small SUV: 2017 Toyota RAV4
Noticeably absent from these lists are full-size trucks and SUVs as well as sports cars. That’s because the magazine recommends avoiding them. In the case of full-size trucks and utes, they require skills and experience beyond those of most new drivers. Plus, more seating means more passengers, which means more distractions.
Sports cars are generally pretty small, which can affect their crashworthiness, plus teenager + horsepower = speeding tickets — or worse.