Here are the best new and used cars for teenagers

Sorry, teens, we know you want your freedom. We also know you want to look cool, drive cool, and have fun. We were there once… but as your parents would say, safety first.

U.S. News & World Report, publisher of Best Cars for Families and Best Cars for the Money, today unveiled its list of Best Cars for Teens—code for Best Cars for the Parents of Teens.

“Odds are high that your teen will be involved in a crash, so the idea is to not only protect them but help them develop good driving habits—safe driving habits,” says Jamie Page Deaton, executive editor of U.S. News Best Cars.

Deaton says the Best Cars for Teens criteria includes crash-test scores, reliability, critics’ recommendations, and available advanced driver-assistance features.

“All of the cars on the list have top-of-the-line safety features, including accident prevention and crash protection technologies, as well as features that allow parents to track their new drivers—not so they can keep an eye on them but so they can continue the conversation,” Deaton says. “For example, if you live in Washington, D.C., and the rule is your teen can’t leave D.C. but you receive an alert that the car is in Virginia, you can ask about it. Maybe your teen was goofing off, or maybe they just had to follow a detour. It teaches them to drive as if Mom and Dad were in the car.”

The list of the best new vehicles for inexperienced drivers includes models from Hyundai, Volkswagen, Honda, Kia, and Toyota, which begs the question: Where are the domestics? Cost is a major factor.

2019 Toyota Camry
2019 Toyota Camry Toyota

“Pricing is based on a car having all of the required safety features, and price pushed out cars that might otherwise be very good,” Deaton says. “For example, the 2019 Buick LaCrosse is a great car, but with all of the safety features it costs over $40,000. The same goes for the Nissan Maxima, which is only $940 over the max [for its category].”

(Two domestic vehicles made the list of Best Used Cars for Teens: the 2016 LaCrosse and the 2015 Chevrolet Traverse.)

Deaton says there’s more to the story than price, however. “They are parents out there who could afford to buy their teen a new Corvette, Mustang, or Camaro—which are available with those safety features—but obviously you don’t want to give them a car that will cause them to take chances or drive beyond their skill level. That’s why we didn’t include a coolness factor. When it comes to cool cars, we ran the other way. It doesn’t mean that you can’t get into trouble in any of these cars or that all of the cars on the list are boring. It’s just that if your teen is really lusting after a car, that’s a pretty good sign not to get that one.”

Deaton says the list is even helpful for parents who don’t currently have a teenage driver.

“If you’re in the market for a new car and you have a 12-year-old in the house, chances are your kid will be driving that car in the future,” Deaton says. “Whether it’s the car you let them borrow on a Friday night or it’s a car you’ll pass on to them at some point down the road, you want it to have all these safety features.”

We’re just protecting you from yourselves, kids. It’ll all make sense someday.

2020 Kia Soul
2020 Kia Soul Kia

The 2019 Best New Cars for Teens:

Best Car under $20K — 2019 Hyundai Accent

Best Car $20K–$25K — 2019 Volkswagen Jetta

Best SUV $20K–$25K — 2019 Honda HR-V

Best Car $25K–$30K — 2019 Kia Forte

Best SUV $25K –$30K — 2019 Kia Soul

Best Car $30K–$35K — 2019 Toyota Camry

Best SUV $30K–$35K — 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe

Best Car $35K–$40K — 2019 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Best SUV $35K–$40K — 2019 Toyota RAV4

The Best Used Cars (2014–16) for Teens:

Large Cars — 2016 Buick LaCrosse

Midsize Cars — 2016 Toyota Camry/Camry Hybrid

Midsize SUVs — 2015 Chevy Traverse

Small Cars — 2016 Toyota Prius

Small SUVs — 2016 Hyundai Tucson

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