For most young drivers, obtaining a license and their first car is a huge achievement. Many teens can’t wait to finally go to school or arrive at college with a brand new set of wheels. However, parents are more concerned about their teenager’s first car being safe, efficient, and affordable. Here are some of the best used cars for teen drivers. Keep these on your radar when shopping for used cars in New Jersey.
The Accord has won the Car and Driver 10Best prize for 2022, making it a winner for 36 years running. It’s also a regular recipient of the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award. From 2013 or later, the Accord provides a dependable and easy-to-learn driving style.
Depending on the model year, you can find an Accord with fuel ratings as high as 30/38 city/highway mpg. Braking and turning are both dependable in any engine configuration, and the horsepower ratings are sufficient but not excessive. As a sedan or coupe, teens will get a well-sized and classy-looking car. Accord models from recent years get more air bags in the cabin and advanced driver aids like a multi-angle rearview camera. You can also depend on Honda’s electronic stability control to help you teen stop on icy or wet roads.
The ideal starter car is generally a smaller vehicle with high safety ratings. The Volkswagen Jetta is a compact sedan with a lot of comfort features easily found for under $10,000. Its 2016 and later models include a suite of front crash avoidance technology, especially useful for inexperienced drivers. For less than $10,000, you can get a used Jetta with a reliable infotainment system and up to 31/41 city/highway mpg.
The Corolla and Corolla Cross are both dependable cars for teens, full of interior technology and safety. The Corolla Hatchback is a handy fit if your teen will need more access to the rear cargo area, and the up-tilted rear spoiler is pretty cool. What’s really cool for parents, though, are driving features such as automatic emergency braking with front pedestrian detection, automatic high-beams, and lane-keep assist. Models from 2020 and onward have lane tracing assist, a feature that helps teach newer drivers to signal before changing lanes.
Nissan is on the upper end when it comes to reliability and ownership cost. They designed the Altima to be equal parts safe and convenient. Smart Key remote start and Bluetooth connectivity are included standard on many editions, along with a rearview camera. The Nissan Altima has continuously received a five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the four-cylinder engines put out fuel ratings of up to 28/39 city/highway mpg. An Altima from recent generations will be fun to drive and worth keeping throughout college, if not longer.
Critics have heaped praise onto the Civic for years, and it’s not hard to see why. The ninth-generation Honda Civic is safer and more efficient than ever, with up to 33/43 city/highway mpg. Finding a sub-$10,000 Civic sedan with fewer than 100,000 miles is relatively easy, and nearly every model today uses an advanced continuously variable transmission. The Civic is fun to drive but balanced, emphasizing control through tight turning and handling.
The Toyota Prius or Prius Prime have been optimized with the latest safety technology, all with the benefits of the original hybrid car. You can find Prius cars at very low prices and fantastic fuel economy numbers like 58/53 city/highway mpg. It also uses the latest Toyota continuously variable transmission, which transfers power up and down in a perfectly smooth manner. You can find some Toyota Prius models with automatic climate control, a 4.2-inch color driver information display, and even electronic on-demand compact all-wheel drive for maximum traction.
Perhaps a subcompact SUV is the best style of vehicle for your teen. In that case, parents and teens alike get a lot out of the latest HR-V models. Filled with Honda’s active safety technology and hands-free phone features, the HR-V has one exclusive advantage: the second-row Magic Seat. You can easily lift up the rear seat bottoms or completely recline the front passenger seat, and these loading options can be a lifesaver when it’s time to move to college.
You can find models from the 2018-2020 generation of the Trax for very low prices. The included rearview camera will help your teen avoid a fender bender, and the 48.4-cubic-foot cargo area on recent models will fit any instruments or large school projects. The NHTSA awards the Trax with a five-star rating every year. If you’d like something similar to the Trax but in a larger body, keep an eye out for a used Chevy Equinox.
You can consider the five-seat Escape a slightly more compact version of the Ford Edge with the same safety features. The Escape benefits from sprightly engines, excellent handling and braking, and a comfortable fuel rating of up to 28/34 city/highway mpg. Recent models have received the maximum five-star rating from NHTSA crash tests. Sports gear, luggage, and more will all easily fit inside the back cargo zone, with up to 37.5 cubic feet.
Subaru is known for safety, and the all-wheel-drive compact Forester SUV provides thorough protection and an encouraging performance. You can easily find a used Subaru Forester with blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross traffic alert, two features that help drivers avoid an accident. Pre-collision throttle management and automatic emergency braking are included standard on more recent models. Some models even have adaptive cruise control, a feature that maintains the driver’s following distance automatically. Newer drivers can use adaptive cruising to get more experience on highways.
All of these vehicles have some level of included phone connectivity features, like Android or Auto and Apple CarPlay, to keep teens from touching their phones while driving. They also have advanced safety features and come from dependable manufacturers. All told, the best used cars for teens should be safe, efficient, and a great bargain. Check out our used car inventory containing vehicles of every make and model. New Jersey State Auto Used Cars is here to take the doubt and frustration out of pre-owned car shopping.