Best Cars for Teenagers? Let’s Not Get Crazy Here…

We’re going to make an assumption here. We’re going to assume that you’re a parent reading this, looking into getting a car for your teenager. Why do we make that assumption? Well, teens don’t typically search for “the best cars for teenagers”.

Now, if you are a teen, and you’re wildly more mature than some of your teens, let’s stop to give you a pat on the back for being practical about this purchase. We like you already! And this advice will still apply to you just the same.

The first thing, of course, is to think about your budget. Are you buying a cheaper used car, a sensible new car, or something on the higher-end? There’s no right or wrong answer. Maybe you’re chipping in some of the car payments and your teens covering the rest, maybe they’re paying you back over time? Whatever the case may be, here’s what I want you to keep in mind.

3. You Aren’t Doing Them Any Favors By Keeping Up With the Joneses 

Oh, your kid’s friend got a brand new convertible? Cool. Maybe you could afford an even nicer one, just to stunt on their parents? That’s a toxic mindset, and you aren’t doing your teenager any favors.

This doesn’t mean you can’t get them a nicer car, especially if it’s within your means. Good for you. But buying it for the wrong reasons, and handing it over to them simply because they turned a certain age, sends a bad message. Maybe it’s been normalized for you and in your home, but that doesn’t make it any better.

Again, no judgments here, but universally you’d be hard pressed to find a sensible person who recommends buying a 100k car for your teenager just cos they want it, right? 

2. Most Teens First Cars Are Terrible

My first car’s driver door had to be held shut on left turns otherwise it would flip open. That’s bad, I don’t recommend that. A lot of us have stories about our terrible first cars that were all kinds of dangerous. 

Driving a dangerous, unsafe, unreliable car that feels like it’s about to fall apart is absolutely not a rite of passage that everybody should experience.

Safety is important, but a car that’s 10 or 15 years old can still be perfectly safe. Depending on where you live and your local currency and so on, around $5000 is a good watermark to aim for. In the $1000-$1500 range, you’re more likely to encounter a lot more problems.

3. Not All Miles are Equal

Some lower-mileage cars can be lemons, and there are some cars in the 200,000 range that are still running as smoothly as day one. In a way, a car that makes it to 200k has proven that it’s durable and runs well if it’s maintained properly. None the less, no matter how great of a car it is, things are going to start going wrong.

200k on a well-maintained Camry or Civic is a lot different than 200k on some throwaway (let’s change the name so we don’t get in trouble) Meneral Gotors car.

Good cars for Teenagers:

The lower-priced models from Nissan, Toyota and Honda always offer incredible value. They won’t have a ton of bells and whistles, but they’re safe and reliable cars for reasonable prices and you can often find them used. They’ll cost more in the used market than cars like Sunfires, Cavaliers, and similar – and for good reason – they’ll last a lot longer!

Mat Woods

Author Information

Mat Woods is the lead writer at He works tirelessly alongside the rest of the team to create useful, well-researched, trustworthy articles to help parents and their teens.