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14 best (safest, most reliable and fuel-efficient) cars for teens

Meridian Studios
Meridian Studios / Meridian Studios

Maybe your teen has just received a driver’s license. Or perhaps gotten a diploma and is headed off to college next autumn. Whatever the reason, finding a smart, safe and affordable car for teenagers is a challenge parents face.

The good news is that plenty of used vehicles fall into that category. Better yet, most of the 14 Best Cars for Teens ranked by are also likely to have enough of the cool factor to keep the kids happy.

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The insurance site focused on reasonably affordable used vehicles from the 2009 model-year -- those available for under $15,000. These are vehicles still new enough to ensure above-average reliability. In fact, many might still be covered by original or extended warranties. The 14 models had to be in the top tier in terms of fuel economy – meaning a minimum 20 mpg combined, according to the EPA -- and all had to earn top safety ratings in the government’s crash tests.

The good news is that nearly half are available – either as standard equipment or option – with electronic stability control which, “is a godsend because it limits a lot of the dumb moves a young driver can make,” Des Toups, managing editor of, said in a release. “But like every safety feature, it appears first on expensive cars and works its way down to the cheap ones.”

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The final measure also falls into the affordability category, in this case insurance costs. That’s a significant factor parents should consider as young drivers typically have some of the highest premiums even if they’ve taken a driver’s education program and have a good record. The premiums quoted were based on insurance rates for an 18-year-old male living in Pensacola, Fla., commuting 12 miles each way to school, carrying standard levels of coverage, with no accidents or violations on their driving record.

“There’s a big difference in insurance rates among the cars on the list,” Toups said in the statement. “But a teenage driver is going to pay a small fortune even if he chooses the most insurance-friendly car.”

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How much? Anywhere from $3,322 for a big 2009 Ford Taurus to $4,392 for a more sporty Mitsubishi Lancer GTS. Here’s the complete list:

Rank/Model/Annual premium

1. Ford Taurus: $3,322

2. Honda Accord: $3,334

3. Ford Fusion*: $3,494

4. Scion xB: $3,506

5. Subaru Legacy: $3,518

6. Volkswagen Jetta sedan: $3,524

7. Audi A3 2.0T: $3,622

8. Toyota Corolla*: $3,656

9. Subaru Impreza 2.5i: $3,732

10. Honda Civic four-door*: $3,738

11. Ford Focus coupe*: $3,800

12. Volkswagen Rabbit four-door: $3,974

13. Honda Fit Sport*: $3,976

14. Mitsubishi Lancer GTS*: $4,392

Vehicles marked with an asterisk (*) offer electronic stability control, either as an option or standard feature. As with all used vehicles, features may vary, along with vehicle condition and parents should take care to ensure they’ve been properly maintained. It’s also smart to check with a dealer about whether a used vehicle has been recalled and, if so, make sure that the appropriate repairs have been made.

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