The Top Cars For Teens

Teen in car

Top cars for teens?! But I'm not ready to have my teen driving!

Believe it or not, there really are some great reasons to get your teenager a car. They can drive themselves to school and back, or to their many sporting events and extacurriculars. A great way to save money on college is to live at home, and a car that gets them to the nearby university is far less costly than room and board on campus -- and still affords them a sense of independence.

While the things that matter most to teens are important, what's more important is what matters most to you, the parent. In selecting the top cars for teens, only cars that garnered at least four stars out of five in the latest National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ratings made the cut. Featured models also get at least a 30 miles per gallon city/highway based on the official EPA fuel economy numbers. Lastly, all have a base model MSRP under $20,000.

Ford Focus

One of the most popular compact cars in the world, the Ford Focus is available as a sedan or hatchback. It offers a smooth, quiet ride, pleasing looks, and is well-made -- an overall excellent choice for a first car. The Focus also includes a standard rearview camera, making parking much easier.

Safety ratings: 5 of 5 (Note: rating is for 2014 model. 2015 model not yet tested.)

Fuel efficiency: 30 combined

Subaru Impreza

Subaru has been gaining popularity in the United States with an impressive line-up of cars that combine safety, fuel economy and reliability. Like the Focus, the Impreza is available as a sedan or hatchback. Both offer excellent handling and a comfortable ride. For those in rougher climes, all-wheel drive comes standard.

The interior is spacious and well-designed and there's plenty of visibility. A slew of optional safety features are also available, including blind spot monitoring, a rearview camera, and "EyeSight," which can automatically slow the car down as it gets closer to other vehicles.

Safety ratings: 5 of 5

Fuel efficiency: 31 combined

Mazda 3

The sporty Mazda 3 hatchback delivers on price, economy and safety -- and looks great. The interior looks closer to something you might find in a true sports car. Mazda 3 offers excellent pick-up and handling, though all that horsepower can be a bit loud. While the hatch is roomy, the rear seat is a bit cramped.

Safety ratings: 5 of 5

Fuel efficiency: 33 combined

Toyota Corolla

The Toyota Corolla has long been the vehicle of choice for first-time car buyers around the world. It's somewhat plain looks mask just how much value the car offers: roomy interior, comfortable ride and sleek, digital controls. The 60/40 rear seat split makes it easier to carry somewhat larger cargo. The reliable four-door Corolla isn't a looker, but it's certainly a do-er.

Safety ratings: 5 of 5

Fuel efficiency: 32 combined

Volkswagen Jetta

Many car buyers still mistakenly believe Volkswagen vehicles are expensive, or that all models require diesel fuel. Not so. The Jetta is a top safety pick, is available for under $20,000, and sports sleek, European styling. The Jetta is a roomy sedan that offers a steady ride, solid handling, a comfortable interior and well-crafted controls.

Safety ratings: 5 of 5

Fuel efficiency: 30 combined

Honda Civic

When compiling a list of the top cars for teens, there may be no more obvious choice than the Honda Civic. It's been a great value for decades. Noted for its superior reliability, the Civic may offer everything you require in a car for your son or daughter. Thoughtfully designed controls, easy handling, and excellent gas mileage are a given. There's plenty of room upfront, though rear seating is tight. The two-door model is sportier, but the four-door model can take your teen from high school to college to marriage.

Safety ratings: 5 of 5 (Note: 2-door model received 4 of 5)

Fuel efficiency: 33 combined

Ford Fiesta

This sporty little hatchback is extremely affordable, with a base sticker price under $15,000. It looks good, handles well and is fun to drive. Unfortunately, there's not much interior room. Be mindful of that if your teen is still growing -- or if he or she will be chauffeuring more than one passenger.

The Fiesta has a pleasing interior and the optional "MyFord Touch" screen supports streaming music, turn-by-turn navigation and smartphone-style apps. If your teen is willing to learn how to drive a stick, the 5-speed manual base model has decent pick-up, excellent fuel economy and a price that's hard for even pre-owned vehicles to beat.

Safety ratings: 4 of 5 (note: only 2 of 5 in side crash tests)

Fuel efficiency: 31 combined

Happy Driving!

You can find an in-depth listing of new and used cars available near you at the LendingTree Autos site. In addition, LendingTree Auto Loans offers tools to help you find just the right auto loan.

Photo of teen driver courtesy of State Farm, used under CC License.

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