The best cars for new drivers put safety first. Whether you're shopping for a first car for your teen or an upgrade, these picks aced government crash tests and have extra appealing safety features.

By Karen Cicero
Updated April 05, 2021

As much as we want our kids to stop growing up so fast, the time will come for them to get a learner permit and—eek!—a driver's license. What car will they use for their first ride behind the wheel? And what will they drive solo to school or practice?

An image of cars on a colorful background.
Credit: Art: Jillian Sellers.

If you've been thinking about getting your teen a new car or buying a family car to eventually pass along to your teen, here's some help whittling down the options. Parents looked at the safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and standard safety features in more than 40 sedans and two-row SUVs. We're never going to stop worrying about our teens on the road, but these six picks will give you a little more peace of mind.

Chevy Equinox
Credit: Courtesy of Chevrolet

Chevrolet Equinox

Starting at $23,800

Why You’ll Like It

Six advanced safety features, like automatic emergency braking and lane departure warnings, come standard on all trims of the two-row SUV. The Equinox also includes General Motors’ awesome Teen Driver Technology: You can set a speed alert, a volume limit, and track your teen’s driving performance. Plus, teens won’t be able to stream their music until passengers in the front seat are buckled.

Why Teens Will Like It

The Equinox’s modern interior and practically effortless steering will appeal to teen drivers. Auto reporter Rob Stumpf notes that highway driving in the Equinox is “comfortable and low-noise” so teens won’t feel as stressed when they venture onto busier roads.

GMC Terrain
Credit: Courtesy of GMC

GMC Terrain

Starting at $28,400

Why You’ll Like It

This sporty two-door SUV also features the same General Motors’ Teen Driver Technology as its sister brand the Chevrolet Equinox. And the Pro Safety Plus package now comes standard, including features like emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring at no extra charge.

Why Teens Will Like It

There’s an onboard Wi-Fi hotspot. Need we say more?

Honda Civic Sedan Touring
Credit: Courtesy of Honda

Honda Civic

Starting at $21,250

Why You’ll Like It

The high-tech Honda Sensing system comes standard on all trims of this sedan. Your teen will get an extra reminder of the speed limit and other road signs because they’re displayed on the dash. Another feature will help new drivers feel more comfortable changing lanes on the highway. An indictor on the side mirrors flashes if a driver puts on a turn signal to change lanes and there’s another vehicle in their blind spot.

Why Teens Will Like It

Its smallish size and easy handling makes it a perfect car for learning to drive. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay enable teens to stream their fave tunes without touching their phone.

Honda Insight
Credit: Courtesy of Honda

Honda Insight

Starting at $23,130

Why You’ll Like It

Just like the Honda Civic, this hybrid sedan includes the Honda Sensing system. Plus, the hybrid components of the vehicle have an eight year or 100,000-mile warranty.

Why Teens Will Like It

They won’t have to stop as often for gas. The Insight gets up to 55 mpg on the highway, saving money and natural resources at the same time. And there’s a cool new color for 2021: radiant red metallic.

Toyota Camry Hybrid Gray
Credit: Courtesy of Toyota

Toyota Camry

Starts at $24,970 for gas-powered, $27,270 for a hybrid version

Why You’ll Like It

Both the 2021 hybrid and gas-powered Camry received perfect ratings in all categories from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Camry’s safety technology is also stellar. For instance, the “lane departure alert” will beep if your teen inadvertently veers out of the lane—a common occurrence for beginning drivers.

Why Teens Will Like It

Thanks to some styling updates this year—including a new bumper and grille—the Camry looks sportier than most mid-sized sedans and is easy to handle. The hybrid version can run more than 50 miles on a gallon of gas, a win-win for teens who are conscious of both the environment and their budget.

2020 Subaru Impreza
Credit: Courtesy of Subaru

Subaru Impreza

Starts at $18,795

Why You’ll Like It

The lowest-priced pick on the list, the 2021 Impreza received a perfect score in all categories from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. All wheel drive, a feature that provides better traction on wet roads, comes standard on all models. Plus, 97 percent of the Imprezas sold in the last 10 years are still on the road today so your teen will likely have the vehicle through college and beyond. (Or get a good price for a trade-in.)

Why Teens Will Like It

The Impreza fits all their stuff! When you fold down the back seats, there’s so much room to haul belongings to college or sports equipment for a weekend adventure.

More Best Family Car Winners

An image of little girls in front of a car.
Credit: Priscilla Gragg.

Check out our overall top car picks for 2021 that scored a spot Parents' annual winners list, including the best minivans, SUVs, and sedans for families. See the Winners


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