Safe vehicles for teens

IIHS-HLDI & Consumer Reports collaboration

For many families, a brand new Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ isn't in the budget for a teen's vehicle. In a national phone survey conducted for IIHS of parents of teen drivers, 83 percent of those who bought a vehicle for their teenagers said they bought it used.

With that reality in mind, in 2014, we began publishing a list of affordable used vehicles that meet important safety criteria for teen drivers.

Consumer Reports (CR) has published similar lists of recommended vehicles for teens, using different criteria such as vehicle reliability and performance in braking and emergency handling tests.

Now our organizations have joined forces to recommend safe, reliable and affordable used vehicles. Our goal is to make it even easier for young drivers or their parents to find a vehicle that checks all the boxes for safety, performance and reliability.

There are two tiers of recommended vehicles, best choices and good choices. Prices range from a little over $5,000 to nearly $20,000, so parents can buy the most safety for their money, whatever their budget.

Remember to check for recalls!
Use the Vehicle Identification Number to check for outstanding recalls before buying a used vehicle. To receive future recall notices, notify the manufacturer of your purchase. NHTSA also advises vehicle owners to check its database for new recalls every six months or so.

Best choices

Updated July 30, 2020

All listed vehicles earn good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, as well as a good or acceptable rating in the driver-side small overlap front test. If rated by NHTSA, they earn 4 or 5 stars overall or 4 or 5 stars in the front and side tests under the old rating scheme. All come with standard electronic stability control and have a curb weight greater than 2,750 pounds.

These vehicles have above-average reliability scores from CR for the majority of model years listed and CR emergency handling scores of 3 out of 5 or higher. They also have dry braking distances (going from 60 mph to zero) of 145 feet or less.

Vehicles with substantially higher than average claim frequency under medical payment or personal injury protection coverage are excluded from this list.

Small cars Model years Price
Mazda 3 sedan and hatchback 2014 or newer; built after October 2013 $7,000
Subaru Impreza sedan and wagon 2014 or newer $8,700
Hyundai Elantra GT 2018 or newer $14,000
Kia Forte 2019 or newer $14,600
Kia Niro hybrid and plug-In hybrid 2018 $15,400
Toyota Corolla hatchback 2019 or newer $15,800
Honda Insight 2019 or newer $17,900
Subaru Crosstrek 2018 or newer $18,700
Toyota Prius Prime 2017 or newer $18,700
Midsize cars Model years Price
Subaru Legacy 2013 or newer; built after August 2012 $7,600
Subaru Outback 2013 or newer; built after August 2012 $8,500
Honda Accord sedan and coupe 2013 or newer $9,200
Volkswagen Jetta 2016-18 $9,800
Mazda 6 2015 or newer $10,500
Volkswagen Passat 2016-18 $11,000
Toyota Prius v 2015-17 $12,600
Lincoln MKZ 2016 or newer $13,300
Volvo S60 2017-18 $15,300
Nissan Altima 2019 or newer $17,000
Audi A3 2017, 2020 $18,300
BMW 3-series sedan 2017 or newer; built after November 2016 $18,600
Large car Model years Price
Hyundai Genesis 2016 $18,000
Small SUVs Model years Price
Mazda CX-5 2014 or newer; built after October 2013 $8,200
Buick Encore 2016 and newer $10,700
Chevrolet Equinox 2016 or newer $12,100
Honda CR-V 2015-16, 2019 or newer $12,200
Mazda CX-3 2017 or newer $12,300
Subaru Forester 2016 or newer $12,500
Nissan Rogue 2017 or newer $13,400
Toyota RAV4 2015 or newer; built after November 2014 $13,800
Honda HR-V 2017-18; built after March 2017 $14,000
Hyundai Kona 2018 or newer $14,500
Audi Q3 2016 or newer $17,300
Midsize SUVs Model years Price
GMC Terrain 2014, 2016 or newer $9,400
Kia Sorento 2016 or newer $13,400
Nissan Murano 2015 or newer $13,800
Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2017-18 $15,800
Hyundai Santa Fe 2017 or newer; built after March 2016 $17,800
Mazda CX-9 2017 or newer; built after November 2016 $18,400
Lincoln MKX 2017-18 $19,600
Minivans Model years Price
Toyota Sienna 2015 or newer $11,900
Honda Odyssey 2015-16 $12,400
Kia Sedona 2016-17 $12,600

Good choices

Updated July 30, 2020

All listed vehicles earn good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. If rated by NHTSA, they earn 4 or 5 stars overall or 4 or 5 stars in the front and side tests under the old rating scheme. All come with standard electronic stability control and have a curb weight greater than 2,750 pounds.

These vehicles have above-average reliability scores from CR for the majority of model years listed and CR emergency handling scores of 3 out of 5 or higher. They also have dry braking distances (going from 60 mph to zero) of 145 feet or less.

Small cars Model years Price
Mazda 3 sedan and hatchback 2011-13 $5,300
Honda Civic sedan 2012-15 $5,600
Toyota Corolla sedan 2012 or newer $6,800
Toyota Prius 2011 or newer $6,800
Midsize cars Model years Price
Subaru Legacy 2011-12 $5,700
Lincoln MKZ 2011-12 $6,000
Subaru Outback 2011-12 $6,600
Toyota Camry 2012 or newer $7,500
Toyota Prius v 2012-14 $7,800
Honda Accord sedan 2012 $7,900
Hyundai Sonata 2015-16 $10,100
Large cars Model years Price
Ford Taurus 2011-15 $5,400
Hyundai Azera 2012-14 $7,200
Buick Regal 2015-16 $8,900
Small SUVs Model years Price
Hyundai Tucson 2011-15 $5,400
Ford Escape 2015, 2018-19 $9,300
Kia Sportage 2015, 2018 $10,200
Toyota RAV4 2013-14 $10,900
Midsize SUVs Model years Price
Toyota Venza 2009-15 $7,000
Toyota Highlander 2008-19 $7,800
Ford Edge 2014-15 $10,000
Minivans Model years Price
Toyota Sienna 2011-14 $7,100
  • FootnotePrices, provided by Kelley Blue Book rounded to the nearest $100, are average U.S. values from July 1, 2020, for the lowest trim level and earliest applicable model year. The estimates are based on the following criteria: vehicle in good condition, typical mileage and private party purchase.
  • FootnoteSome listed models include a "built after" date. This applies when a manufacturer makes changes to improve safety in the middle of a model year. Information about when a specific vehicle was manufactured can be found on the certification label typically affixed to the driver door or near it.