5 Reliable And Affordable Cars For Teens, Ranked By Experts

The freedom of cruising behind the wheel for the first time is an exciting milestone, but for parents, it can also trigger major anxiety. Choosing the right car for your teen driver is no small feat. Safety is paramount, but you also need to consider reliability, budget, and maybe even a little bit of style (let’s be honest, teens have opinions!). This guide will help you navigate the sea of sedans, SUVs, and hatchbacks to find the perfect car that instills confidence in your teen driver and peace of mind in you. Buckle up, and let’s find the wheels to do the job! We’ve scoured 10 expert websites for the best cars for teens — and that means the safest, most durable, and longest-lasting vehicles. And as always, if you have your own recommendations, let us know in the comments below!

The List: Best Cars for Teen Drivers, According to Experts

1. Mazda3

2019 Mazda3 Fastback
2019 Mazda3 Fastback (Credit: Mazda)

With high gas mileage and top-of-the-line safety features, the Mazda3 is our top recommendation for teen drivers. According to Kelley Blue Book, this sporty sedan packs a punch when it comes to value, offering tons of great features without a hefty price tag. BankRate even crowns it their champion for tight budgets, highlighting that you can snag a base model 2012 Mazda3 for around $16,000. But the Mazda3’s awesomeness doesn’t stop there.

While safety is your top priority (as it should be!), let’s be honest – your teenager probably doesn’t want a car that cramps their style. CARFAX points out that the Mazda3’s interior is sure to impress both you and your teen driver. The cabin boasts high-quality materials and a sleek, sophisticated design that rivals some luxury cars. So, you can rest assured knowing your teen is cruising in a safe and reliable vehicle, while they’ll appreciate the Mazda3’s sporty good looks and comfortable interior. It’s a win-win for everyone!

2. Honda CR-V

2023 Honda CR-V Sport Touring
2023 Honda CR-V Sport Touring (Credit: Honda)

Our next recommendation packs the power and safety of an SUV into a compact, fuel-efficient package CARFAX assures that this well-rounded SUV ticks all the boxes – safety, comfort, space, and even fuel efficiency! It’s like the Swiss Army knife of teen-approved vehicles.

Rategenius highlights the CR-V’s rugged capabilities, making it a great choice for new drivers who might encounter unpredictable road conditions. Rain, snow, sleet – the CR-V can handle it all, giving you peace of mind wherever your teen roams.

But don’t be fooled by its functionality – the CR-V is a looker too, with sharp styling that won’t embarrass your teen. Kelley Blue Book chimes in to praise the comfortable seating for five, along with ample cargo space for adventures big and small. Plus, you won’t break the bank at the gas pump, thanks to the CR-V’s fuel-efficient engine. So, if you’re looking for a safe, versatile, and stylish SUV that your teen will love, the Honda CR-V is definitely worth a closer look.

3. Mazda CX-5

Mazda CX-5
Mazda CX-5 (Credit: Mazda)

Mazda’s second appearance on our list goes to the CX-5, which packs a powerful punch of safety, fuel efficiency, spaciousness, and sporty appeal. In the world of compact SUVs, the Mazda CX-5 stands out as a fuel-efficient frontrunner with a serious safety game, according to ACV Auctions. This zippy SUV aces crash tests and boasts a reputation for reliability, giving you peace of mind wherever your teen driver roams.

But the CX-5 isn’t all about practicality. Rategenius points out the bevy of high-tech features that teens will love, from LED headlights for nighttime adventures to adaptive cruise control for those long highway stretches. Safety features like rear cross-traffic alert and lane departure warning add an extra layer of security, making you a calmer parent and a more confident teen driver.

Here’s the kicker – the CX-5 drives more like a sports car than an SUV, according to CARFAX. This translates to a smooth, enjoyable ride for your teen, and impressive acceleration with the available turbocharged engine (perfect for merging onto the highway with ease). So, if you’re looking for a safe, reliable, and fun-to-drive SUV that your teen will love getting behind the wheel of, the Mazda CX-5 is definitely worth considering!

4. Toyota Corolla

2022 Toyota Corolla Apex
2022 Toyota Corolla Apex (Credit: Toyota)

A classic for first cars, the Toyota Corolla remains favored for its safety and longevity. This ride is a classic choice for a reason, and CarMax says it shouldn’t be left out of the conversation when it comes to teen-worthy cars. For new drivers, feeling comfortable and confident behind the wheel is key, and the Corolla delivers on both fronts. It’s like a trusty best friend that won’t let you down.

CARFAX dives into the reasons behind the Corolla’s enduring popularity. As one of the best-selling compact sedans ever, it boasts stellar safety ratings, a long list of standard driver-assistance features (think blind-spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking), and a legendary reputation for reliability. So you can rest assured knowing your teen is cruising in a safe and dependable car.

While some might be drawn to the extra space of an SUV, Kelley Blue Book reminds us that the Corolla is surprisingly roomy for its size, offering comfortable seating for five and enough cargo space for weekend adventures. Plus, its maneuverability and easy handling make it a perfect match for a new driver still getting acclimated to the road.

5. Honda Civic

2022 Honda Civic Hatchback with Accessory Wheels
2022 Honda Civic Hatchback with Accessory Wheels (Credit: Honda)

It should come as no surprise that the Honda Civic makes our list. Renowned for its reliability and durability, the Honda Civic makes for a great first vehicle for any young driver. In the realm of reliable rides for young drivers, the Honda Civic reigns supreme, according to CARFAX. This isn’t just any small car – it’s a consistent champion known for its safety features, comfortable interior, and impressive fuel efficiency. Imagine this: your teen cruises in comfort and style, all while saving money at the pump – sounds like a win-win for everyone!

Kelley Blue Book echoes this sentiment, highlighting the Civic’s well-roundedness. It offers a winning combo of safety features to keep you calm, a comfortable interior to keep your teen happy, and excellent fuel economy to keep your wallet happy. But the accolades don’t stop there. Bankrate crowns the Civic their king of overall value. For years, it’s been a top-selling car for a reason – it delivers the perfect blend of affordability, features, safety, reliability, and even holds its resale value well. So, if you’re searching for a practical, safe, and budget-friendly car for your teen driver, the Honda Civic is a strong contender that definitely deserves a test drive!


Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This article may contain affiliate links in which we receive a commission if you make a purchase.


  1. I appreciate seeing this article and learning about the best cars for teens. The part that got me was your suggestion of b getting the Toyota Corolla as it is known for its safety and longevity. A friend is planning to get a car for his sister, so I will suggest this to him as soon as I can. That way, she can get started on familiarizing herself as soon as she finishes her driving lessons.

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