The Safest Cars for New Drivers

by Lori Straus

Although car safety has increased dramatically over the years, safety ratings still show some cars are overall safer to drive than others. In this blog post, we’ll share with you tips for evaluating a vehicle’s safety as well as a few recent listings of the safest cars on the market.

What to Look for in Cars for Teens

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is an American organization dedicated to reducing the losses and property damage that result from motor vehicle crashes. It provides a few overall suggestions for parents when shopping for a vehicle for their teen driver.

  • Avoid cars with high horsepower, because these cars can entice young drivers to test their limits, which could lead to accidents.
  • Let teens drive bigger and heavier vehicles, because they protect better in a crash.
  • Ensure the vehicle has electronic stability control, because it helps drivers maintain control on curves and slippery roads. The IIHS says it “also reduces risk on a level comparable to safety belts.”
  • Check for safety recalls if you’re going to buy a used car. (Transport Canada has a list.)

Starting off with these points will help you filter out the cars that could pose a threat to your teen driver’s safety at this point in their life.

Caring parent teaching son how to drive car, spending time together, familyThe Safest Cars for Teens

When you research safety ratings for vehicles, you’ll come across different lists. We’ll share some highlights with you here, but read the lists in their entirety, including how each site came to its conclusions. Not all safety rating systems are the same.

Consumer Reports published a list in January 2019 of the best cars for teenage drivers. The top winners were the Mazda3, Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Honda Fit, and Hyundai Elantra GT. All five cars were within three points of one another, so several were tied.

Useful for those considering used cars is Young Drivers’ 2017 list: the Honda Fit, Nissan Sentra, Mazda3, Chevrolet Cruze, Kia Soul, Toyota Yaris, and Chevrolet Sonic received top safety ratings. Another source for used cars is the IIHS: their list is more general and includes car make and recommended model years. It was last updated in 2018.

If you’re not sure whether you’ll buy used or new, check out U.S. News’s 2019 list of best new and used cars for teens. They show you the winners of each price category for new cars (prices in USD):

  • 2019 Hyundai Accent (best new car under $20k)
  • 2019 Volkswagen Jetta (best new car $20k-$25k)
  • 2019 Honda HR-V (best new SUV $20k-$25k)
  • 2019 Kia Forte (best new car $25k to $30k)
  • 2020 Kia Soul (best new SUV $25k to $30k)
  • 2019 Toyota Camry (best new car $30k-$35k)
  • 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe (best new SUV $30k- $35k)
  • 2019 Toyota Camry Hybrid (best new car $35k-$40k)
  • 2019 Toyota RAV4 (best new SUV $35k-$40k)

They list their best used cars and SUVs for teens based on car classification:

  • 2016 Toyota Prius (best used small car)
  • 2016 Hyundai Tucson (best used small SUV)
  • 2016 Toyota Camry (best used midsize)
  • 2016 Chevrolet Traverse (best used midsize SUV)
  • 2016 Buick LaCrosse (best used large car)

Research and Let Testing Guide You

Finding the right car for a new driver is not the time to judge a car solely by its appearance or cool factor. Although the new driver needs to feel comfortable in the vehicle, they need a car that “has their back,” so to speak. But involve your teen driver in the research. Keeping them engaged in the buying process will not only teach them how to research vehicles the next time they need to buy one, but it will also show them how the car-buying process works in Ontario.