Best Cars for New Drivers

girl holding keys in car

As we move into spring, it seems that a lot of parents are thinking about their teenagers and cars. It’s one thing to teach a teen to drive on your car, but what about after they have a license? Not all cars are equally safe for teen drivers, and bigger doesn't always mean better (or safer). Here are some tips for picking out a first car for a new driver:

Compact Car vs. SUV - This debate has been raging since SUVs were introduced to the marketplace, and in the end, there’s no real “better” option. SUVs can offer increased safety in the event of a major accident, but they are more challenging to handle safely on the road. The high center of gravity is great for visibility, but it increases the risk of a rollover. In the end, you need to see how your teen or new driver handles your car. A too-confident driver would probably benefit from a car with less power and easier handling, while an overly cautious driver might be safer in a vehicle with better visibility.

New vs. Used - The most common accidents involving new drivers are fender benders and parking mishaps, all things that are easier to deal with on a used car that already has a few scuffs on the bumpers. However, newer cars offer increasingly sophisticated safety features such as backup cameras, blind spot detectors, and stability control. There are plenty of options that have the best of both worlds. A newer used car will have some of the more advanced safety features (stability and traction control, airbags, anti-lock brakes), but won’t break the bank if you need to find a new bumper after a run-in with a pole.

Manual or Automatic - Automatics are great when you’re first learning to drive, but learning to drive a manual car is an important skill that increases your knowledge of how cars work. Another benefit to manuals is that they make it harder to give into the temptation to text and drive, since both of your hands are busy much of the time. However, some new drivers are too overwhelmed with operating a vehicle to safely manage a manual transmission. Additionally, automatics are the more common choice in the United States so it can be a challenge to find a manual transmission in some of your preferred vehicles.

Here are a few of our favorite cars for new drivers:

  • Honda Accord/Hyunda Sonata/Toyota Camry: These mid-range sedans are plentiful, available in nearly every price range, and reliable. By not getting the low-end models in the range (eg: the Civic/Accent), you are getting the more advanced safety features in each car.
  • Honda CRV/Toyota Rav4/Jeep Wrangler: These smaller SUVs offer the benefits of a higher view, but they are more beginner friendly than their larger cousins (Explorers, Grand Cherokees, etc.). Newer models include most of the safety features discussed above, and their more-rugged design can be a blessing when it comes to bumper scuffs and door dings!

There are plenty of options out there for new drivers, and plenty of ways to pick a first car. Where possible (and safe), have the new driver test drive their potential new ride and make sure he or she is able to safely handle the new vehicle. And if you’re buying used, don’t forget to come by Convoy Auto Repair for an inspection!

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