Not every incoming teenager or college student needs a car, of course, but it’s a nice luxury to have if their parents can afford it. When it comes to buying a car there’s a lot of things to consider. Like what’s the most affordable car to get within your price range? Something affordable in the low teens is a good start, and it should be reliable, safe and should garner low insurance rates. Here’s our take on the cars that will ease the stresses of insuring your teens and buying them a car. We’ve included a mix of old and new cars for you to choose from:
10. 2009 Chevrolet Malibu
With newly available Bluetooth connectivity, standard stability control and the widespread adoption of the six-speed automatic for four-cylinder models, the already respected 2009 Chevy Malibu makes a stronger case on this top 10 list. It boasts an average starting price of $12,925 (a 45 percent drop in the retail value over the MSRP) and has a four-cylinder engine equipped as standard, with the option to trade up to a more potent V6. More importantly, the Malibu earned five stars (the highest rating possible) in both frontal- and side-impact tests. In the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety frontal-offset crash test, the Malibu scored a “Good” rating, again the highest possible.
9. 2009 Ford Focus
The 2009 Ford Focus will run a bit less than the Malibu, coming in at $10,388 or so, a 38 percent drop in value from the MSRP. The Focus sports a sensible 2.0 litre four cylinder, good for about 24 miles per gallon in the city and about 35 on the highway. Six airbags are standard on all Focus models, including front-seat side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags for both front- and rear-seat occupants. Antilock brakes and stability control are optional on all trim levels. The sedan earned four stars (out of a possible five) for the protection provided to those in front in head-on collisions, five stars for protecting front occupants, and four stars for protecting in the rear during a side impact collision.
8. 2015 Toyota Prius
If you can afford the $24,000 entry price, the Prius is a smart way to cut down on gas costs, averaging 44 mpg overall and 55 mpg on the highway, according to Consumer Reports. There’s also a plug-in version that delivers around 12 miles on electricity and boosts gas mileage to 67 mpg. Consumer Reports rates the reliability of both versions well above average.
7. 2010 Kia Optima
The Kia Optima is a mid-size four-door sedan manufactured by Kia Motors since 2000 and marketed globally through various nameplates. The 2010 Kia Optima will provide your teen all the bare essentials, but nothing extraneous or over the top. The Optima earned the highest possible rating of “Good” in the frontal-offset test, and a second-best “Acceptable” rating in the side-impact test from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Affordability and a quality warranty are some of Kia’s — and both are crucially important while your newly minted teenage driver earns their stripes.
6. 2012 Hyundai Accent
The Hyundai Accent stands solidly in the number six spot on our list of perfect cars for today’s cost-conscious teenagers and college student. Described by Car and Driver as “delightful,” the Accent has a sticker price of less than $11,000 brand new, and boasts affordability, sleek styling, a five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, and a 10-year/100,000-mile drivetrain warranty that minimizes unexpected expenses. Hyundai has become a true leader in the automotive industry, especially in North America. It believe that being a leader means venturing away from the mainstream and challenging convention and the Hyundai Accent is a true testament to that belief.
5. 2014 Chevrolet Sonic
Chevrolet’s Sonic gives the brand a satisfyingly well-equipped and engaging entry in the segment. Available in sedan and hatchback body styles, the Sonic’s handsome, masculine styling belies its economical objective. Its agile and responsive suspension tuning means it’s no bore to drive, although enthusiasts will prefer the 1.4-liter turbo four over the standard 1.8-liter. It’s a perfect car for teens and college students because it is affordable, keeps insurance costs down, and fuel efficient. Most things you see as upgrades in luxury cars come standard with the Sonic. Call your dealer today and take a spin in this car.
4. 2011 Honda Accord
The Honda Accord has been a favorite for a teen’s and college students for many years because of its safety and its affordable car price, and 2011 models are no exception. The 2011 four-door sedan received the highest overall rating — five stars — from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, which tests cars and measures them based on crash and rollover safety. This accomplishment is especially noteworthy because beginning with 2011 models, NHTSA updated its tests to make them more stringent.
3. 2013 Dodge Dart SXT
Dodge revives the Dart in 2013, bringing us a sporty small sedan that every Dodge lover considers the top of the line. The Dart combines it all — fun styling with race-inspired LED taillights, and a six-speed manual transmission paired to a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that returns up to 36 mpg on the highway. If you aren’t interested in driving manual, there are automatic options available for you as well. The Dart has more interior room than any competitor, and Dodge says there are more than 100,000 ways to configure it. You’ll probably not get the chance to try all of them within the first few years. Opt for this new kid on the block for a fun, safe drive with decent room to haul your girlfriend around or to try commute from campus to home on a monthly basis.
2. 2010 Toyota Corolla
The Toyota Corolla is one of best-selling vehicles year after year, and for good reason. Easy and cheap to maintain, the ubiquitous Corolla has proven itself through reliability and user-friendliness. Many driving instructors opt to use it for driving lessons and exams, and the transition to freedom is flawless. While it’s not a car one would take to the track, the Corolla has good, dependable mileage, and four out of five stars for its protection of occupants in frontal collisions. Side impact testing resulted in a perfect five stars for front occupants and four stars for rear passengers. In IIHS testing, the Corolla scored the top rating of “Good” for its performance in both frontal-offset and side impact collisions.
1. 2010 Volkswagen Jetta
As the only European vehicle on this list, the Volkswagen has a lot riding on it, and fortunately it doesn’t disappoint. Though the mileage on the VW will suffer, buyers have a plethora of engine options to choose from, which your anxious, road-going teen will certainly appreciate. The car has four out of five stars for frontal impact, and a perfect score for side impact from the NHTSA. The IIHS gave the Jetta the highest rating of “Good” for frontal offset and side crash protection. While maintenance can be more expensive, the $13,831 price target — 39 percent of the MSRP — makes the Jetta highly worthy of consideration.