A blue 2017 Toyota Camry is parked in front of grass and trees after leaving a used car dealer.

Top 5 Used Cars for First Time Car Owners

When you put your teenage driver on the road for the first time, it’s definitely bittersweet. On the one hand, you’re excited about their new freedom, but you’re also utterly terrified of their new freedom. What can help put your mind at ease is putting them behind the wheel of a car that has a track record for safety and reliability without breaking the bank. We all remember our first cars, right?! There’s no need to splurge on your teen’s first car if you don’t want to. Since the most affordable cars are typically used, here is our list of five of the best used cars for your teen’s first car that you can easily find at a used car dealer. They are safe, reliable, and will hold up to a few bumps and scratches along the way.

1. Toyota Camry

The Toyota Camry is the old faithful of used midsize cars. It has a long track record of dependability and exceeds all the expectations from Toyota brand vehicles. A used Toyota Camry is also affordable, and later models have all the latest technology and safety features. IIHS and Consumer Reports included the Toyota Camry on its safe vehicles for teens list because of its good safety ratings by the IIHS and NHTSA and above-average reliability scores by Consumer Reports. Specifically, the 2012 models and newer receive the best ratings.

However, one of the best used models of the Toyota Camry is the 2016 one. This Toyota Camry has a standard backup camera and also includes other safety features available on higher model levels like automatic braking and collision warning. The Toyota Camry consistently receives high dependability ratings. The 2018 Toyota Camry is also a great option because it was redesigned for 2018 and further improves its driving dynamics, which can be useful to a new driver still learning the ropes. This Camry has a variety of trims and options available, so you can find the perfect fit for your new driver.

2. Honda Accord

Another great contender in the midsize car category is the Honda Accord. It’s affordable and has the safety ratings to make it a perfect car for a new driver. The 2013 Honda Accord was an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ and any model 2013 and later received above-average ratings in the safety and reliability categories. What else makes the Accord great? It’s been around for decades, so that elevates its trust factor. Bottom line, the Honda Accord is known for being practical, easy to drive, safe, and dependable. All the things you would want in a first car.

One used Honda Accord model that specifically stands out is the 2018 Accord for its redesign and more standard driver-assist safety features. It also leads its class in fuel economy with an estimated 33 miles per gallon combined. Not only can you save on the front end with the purchase of a used Accord, but you’ll also have long-term savings as you’ll spend less time at the gas pump and repair shop.

A red 2018 Chevy Equinox is shown from the side driving on a suburban street.

3. Chevy Equinox

For the small SUV category, the Chevy Equinox is a strong contender for a teen driver. Chevy builds their SUVs with reliability and safety at the forefront, and the Equinox is no different. IIHS rates a used Chevy Equinox as one of the best choices for a small SUV for teens. The 2016 Chevy Equinox won the Top Safety Pick by IIHS because of its high crash safety test ratings. The 2016 models and newer of the Equinox are particularly rated high for safety and dependability.

The Equinox is widely popular among teen drivers. It’s practical, affordable, and comes equipped with technology that feels premium. The size of the Equinox is manageable for new drivers as it provides the benefits of an SUV, like better height and more interior room, but without the extra-large capacity of a full-size SUV, that can be difficult to manage. It’s an SUV that’s fuel-efficient as well, with the 2018 Chevy Equinox getting an estimated 32 miles per gallon combined. You can’t go wrong with a used Chevy Equinox for your teen driver, and you might even feel more relaxed as they hit the road.

4. Mazda CX-5

There are quite a few options in the small SUV category, but one that keeps coming up on everyone’s “best of” list is the Mazda CX-5. The CX-5 is the small SUV option in Mazda and stands out from its competition because of its high-quality safety features and premium interior. All of the recent Mazda CX-5 model years from 2014 to now have IIHS Top Safety Pick+ awards because they earn the top ratings from IIHS on safety tests.

The 2017 Mazda CX-5 was redesigned and offers standard safety features like automatic braking that you won’t find standard in other SUVs in its class. It also offers a variety of optional safety features like lane departure warnings and rear cross traffic alerts. Safety leads in each Mazda CX-5 and the NHTSA gave the 2019 CX-5 perfect 5-star ratings for each crash test it conducted. What makes the CX-5 especially special is it’s not just safe; it’s also filled with premium tech and convenience features that make it fun to drive. Your teen will feel like they’re driving a luxury SUV, while you will feel confident they’re in one of the safest SUVs on the market.

A white 2017 Kia Sorento is driving around a winding road in the snow.

5. Kia Sorento

The final pick for the best used cars for first cars is also the largest. If you’re in the market for a midsize SUV for your teen’s first car, look no further than the Kia Sorento. In an industry where midsize SUVs are plentiful, the Kia Sorento stands out for its reasonable size, safety ratings, and affordability. The 2017 Kia Sorento received top ratings from NHTSA and received an IIHS Top Safety Pick. Its engineering is solid, and the available safety features like lane departure warning, automatic braking, and rear cross traffic alert make it an exceptional option for a teen’s first car.

The Kia Sorento is also an affordable option for a used midsize SUV, which is nearly as important as a vehicle’s safety records. The 2019 Sorento still costs less than other midsize SUVs in its class but received more safety features like a driver monitoring system. In addition to its safety features and affordability, a used Kia Sorento has its fair share of technology and interior features.

First Cars Are Important: Pick the Best One for Your Teen

Finding the right used car as the first car for a teen can be a challenge. While you want it to be comfortable and look appealing, safety, dependability, and cost rank as the highest search factors. You can search all day at a used car dealer, but knowing the data and ratings will make it much easier to decide on the right car. These five used cars have a track record for safety and dependability without a premium price tag. You don’t have to sacrifice comfort in any of these vehicles either. Each of these used cars is equipped with standard and available technology and convenience features to make each of your teen’s drives fun and safe. Your teen’s first car is important, so talk with them and find a used car that will fit all of your needs and theirs.