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What’s the Safest, Most Affordable Car for Teens?

teen drivers 2024 interior iihs 01 jpg Teen driver | IIHS image

Making mistakes is part of growing up for teenagers, and unfortunately, sometimes getting into a car accident is one of them. For caregivers struggling to find a safe and affordable car for new drivers, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Consumer Reports have released their annual list of recommended vehicles for teens. According to the agencies, the 2024 list offers more safety for less, as used- and new-car prices stabilize.

Related: These 71 Cars Earned IIHS Top Safety Pick Awards Amid Tougher Criteria

The 2024 list consists of 58 used models and 22 new cars. All recommended used vehicles have a good or acceptable rating in the IIHS driver-side small overlap test and good ratings in four other IIHS tests. Also, they all have high scores for braking, handling and reliability from Consumer Reports.

The new vehicles on the list have all earned 2024 Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick Plus awards from IIHS.

“Vehicles continue to get safer, and for the first time since the pandemic-era disruptions, prices on the new and used market have stabilized. These trends have enabled us to point families to even better options this year,” Jennifer Stockburger, director of operations at CR’s Auto Test Center, said in a statement.

Check out the lists below.

Used Cars

This category is split into Best Choices and Good Choices. Both groups must have above-average Consumer Reports reliability and score well in the publication’s emergency handling and braking tests, as well as score well in IIHS’ crash tests and earn four or five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Best Choice models level up with a standard automatic emergency braking system that earns an advanced or superior rating from IIHS.

Small Cars: Best Choices

Mid-Size Cars: Best Choices

Large Car: Best Choice

Small SUVs: Best Choices

Mid-Size SUVs: Best Choices

Minivan: Best Choice

Small Cars: Good Choices

  • Mazda3 sedan or hatchback (2014-17; built after October 2013)
  • Ford C-Max Hybrid (2015-16)
  • Honda Civic sedan (2014)
  • Toyota Prius (2014-16; built after November 2013)
  • Subaru Impreza sedan or wagon (2019-20)

Mid-Size Cars: Good Choices

  • Mazda6 (2015-17)
  • Toyota Camry (2014-17; built after December 2013)
  • Toyota Prius v (2015-17)
  • Honda Accord coupe or sedan (2015-17)
  • Subaru Legacy (2017-18)
  • BMW 3 Series (2018)

Large Car: Good Choice

  • Toyota Avalon (2015-16)

Small SUVs: Good Choices

  • Mazda CX-5 (2016)
  • Hyundai Kona (2018-19)
  • Honda CR-V (2015-19)
  • Chevrolet Equinox (2018-19)
  • Honda HR-V (2017-22; built after March 2017)
  • Toyota RAV4 (2015-16; built after November 2014)

Mid-Size SUVs: Good Choices

Minivans: Good Choices

New Cars

To be on the new-car recommended list, all vehicles need to have average or better reliability in Consumer Reports testing, score well in its emergency maneuvers and braking tests, as well as earn one of two Top Safety Pick awards from IIHS. They must also have standard automatic emergency braking.

Small Cars

  • Subaru Impreza
  • Mazda3 sedan or hatchback
  • Toyota Prius
  • Toyota Prius Prime

Mid-Size Cars

Small SUVs

  • Mazda CX-30
  • Kia Sportage
  • Hyundai Tucson
  • Honda CR-V
  • Mazda CX-50 (built after August 2023)
  • Lexus UX

Mid-Size SUVs

Minivan

  • Honda Odyssey

Pickup Truck

What’s Not on the List?

In addition to the vehicle recommendations, IIHS also reminds shoppers that not all cars are created equal when it comes to size and type, which is why the list excludes some models.

Sports cars and anything with a lot of horsepower relative to its weight are excluded; the agencies said these vehicles make it too easy to speed and encourage risk-taking. Tiny cars, or those under 2,750 pounds, have also been excluded because small, light vehicles may not provide enough protection in crashes with other vehicles, the agencies said.

Conversely, you also won’t find large SUVs and large pickups on the list. The agencies excluded these models because they can be hard for a newer driver to handle and take longer to stop. They also pose more risk to others on the road, such as pedestrians and bicyclists, the agencies noted.

“Whatever list you’re shopping from, a teen driver’s first vehicle should follow a modified Goldilocks principle — not too small, not too big and definitely not too fast,” the agencies said in a joint statement.

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Photo of Jennifer Geiger
News Editor Jennifer Geiger joined the automotive industry in 2003, much to the delight of her Corvette-obsessed dad. Jennifer is an expert reviewer, certified car-seat technician and mom of three. She wears a lot of hats — many of them while driving a minivan. Email Jennifer Geiger

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