When most parents and their teenage children envision the teenager’s ideal car, we can expect that while affordability, reliability, and safety may interest the parents, the teenager may focus on appearance and performance.
Affordability usually means a used rather than a brand new vehicle. A used car is already depreciated and usually costs less to insure. Depending on the make, model, and year, however, maintenance and repair costs could potentially offset these savings. Moreover there is the risk of even greater potential cost from foregoing the more advanced safety features available in newer models.
The safety factor is generally thought to favour bigger vehicles. A bigger car offers more protection in a collision. But because they are more difficult to handle, especially for inexperienced drivers, they also increase the risk of getting into a collision in the first place. Bigger vehicles are harder to maneuver in tight situations like heavy urban traffic, especially for inexperienced drivers. In emergency situations, the vehicle’s sheer mass makes keeping it under control more of a challenge.
Some safety experts suggest that big SUVs, in particular, should be avoided for younger drivers because of their increased risk of a rollover accident. Bigger, heavier vehicles tend to cause more damage to whatever they hit, which increases insurance costs. Fuel costs are higher. In light of all these factors, Consumer Reports recommends for teenage drivers midsize or small cars with good “Government and Insurance Institute crash test results”.
The advanced safety features in newer models include side impact airbags—most vehicles these days, new or used, will have front impact airbags. Head-protecting side airbags are particularly recommended as they help protect occupants if the vehicle is struck from the side by an SUV or truck. Anti-lock brakes have been on the market long enough now to be available in most used cars. On the other hand, electronic stability control (ESC), which helps keep a vehicle under control during abrupt maneuvers, has been available for only a few years.
Performance cars, designed to be driven aggressively, would likely be a step in the wrong direction for a young driver open to the temptation of racing. The availability of fast cars combined with the continued release of movies glorifying street racing, has for a long time been a troubling issue.
What is the right car for a teenager to drive? The following is the top ten list of recommended cars for young drivers, according to experts consulted by CNN. For the full annotating text, search “Best Cars for Teens CNN”:
1. Ford Focus – 2002 or later, except 2-door models
2. Honda Accord EX – 4-cyl. 1998 or later
3. Honda Civic EX– 4-cyl.
5. Mazda Protege ES – 1999 to 2003
6. Nissan Altima 2.5 S – 4-cyl. 2003 or later
7. Subaru Forester 2.5X
8. Toyota Camry LE or XLE – 2002 or later
9. Toyota Corolla LE – 1999 or later
10. Toyota Rav4 – 2001 or later