Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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Top 5 Safest and Affordable Cars for Teens

Experts agree that a teen driver should drive the safest, most reliable, and newest vehicle if at all possible. So does this mean that when it comes to your teen’s safety, less expensive or used vehicles are out of the question? No, but not surprisingly, you will need to do some research in order to find a budget-friendly vehicle with all or most of the now Federally-required safety features found in new vehicles.

Some important things to consider when purchasing a car for a teen driver include:

  • Midsize cars are big enough to protect the driver and passengers in the event of a crash, but small enough for teenage drivers to handle easily.
  • A four-cylinder engine, as opposed to a V6 engine, has limited acceleration capabilities, making it far less likely for your teen to drive beyond the speed limit.
  • Older, used cars may not have the latest safety features Federal law requires of all new vehicles. However, many can come close. Highly recommended safety features include front and side air bags, an antilock braking system (ABS), automatic transmission, electronic stability control (ESC), and daytime running lights.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducts crash tests on new vehicles and reports their performance on its safercar.gov website. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducts its own testing program and issues safety ratings as well. Both are good resources to check when shopping for a car for your teen.

The five cars listed below are recommended by either Consumer Reports or Edmonds for their affordability and safety features particularly suited to teen drivers. Upon further research, you may find an even lower-priced vehicle, so consider the list below a place to begin shopping for your teen.

      1. 2005 Saab 9-3 Linear: The mid-sized, relatively inexpensive 2005 Saab 9-3 features plenty of passenger room and trunk space. Safety features include stability control and front and side airbags. Teenagers might not be thrilled with its unexciting interior and weak sound system, but may come to appreciate that this is a car designed to keep its driver and passengers safe.
      2. 2009 Honda Accord Sedan: All Accords come with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, and front and side airbags. The 2009 Honda Accord sedan received five starts in government crash tests and currently has one of the highest resale values around. Hondas are known for being extremely reliable, and newer models have features like automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning. With all these safety features, parents enjoy lower rates on collision coverage.
      3. 2010 Chevrolet Malibu: Yep, you guessed it, it’s another sedan (do you sense a pattern here?). The fuel-efficient 2010 Chevrolet boasts high crash test scores, including a perfect five stars in all government frontal and side crash categories. Standard safety features include antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front and side airbags, and the OnStar emergency communications system.
      4. 2008 Saturn Aura XE: The attractively-designed and budget-friendly 2008 Saturn Aura includes stability control for all V6 models. Additional safety features include antilock disc brakes, front and side airbags, traction control, and the OnStar emergency communications system.
      5. 2013 Chevrolet Malibu: Newest and priciest on our list of safe, budget-friendly cars for teens, the fully redesigned 2013 Chevrolet Malibu is a stylish, mid-sized sedan with a full complement of standard safety features. Rear side airbags will be standard on all Malibus beginning in the summer of 2013. Interestingly, the 2013 Chevy Malibu was worked on by a team of engineers who also happened to be moms!

How Do You Choose A Budget-Friendly Car Right for Your Teen?

Midsize sedans are low to the ground and moderately sized to get your teen where they need to go. There’s a low risk of rolling, and the above cars have strong safety ratings. If you choose a newer model, features like collision warning have been added to these and other models. More importantly, you don’t necessarily need to pay to add safety features as manufacturers have made them part of the base model.

Keep in mind, your teenage driver doesn’t need a super trendy or stylish sports car to learn. Safety and dependability should come first for the best auto insurance rates and teens who become effective adult drivers. For auto insurance quotes and more, enter your zip code and start the process today.