Best car for a teen driver? Bigger is better

WASHINGTON — The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an Arlington-based research company, has a simple recommendation for parents who are shopping for their teenager’s first car: big, boring and slow.

And you don’t have to buy a brand-new car to make sure your teen is safe. Personal finance site NerdWallet says among parents who buy a car for a teen, 83 percent buy a used vehicle.

NerdWallet is out with its new list of the best cars for teens, with an eye toward low horsepower and large size, and safety features, including electronic stability control and high safety ratings from both IIHS and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

All of the vehicles (most of which are used) cost around $20,000 or less, based on NADA data. They also all have above-average reliability ratings from Consumer Reports.

Best teen choices if you’re looking at midsize cars:

  • 2012 Ford Fusion ($11,400)
  • 2015 Chevrolet Malibu ($16,950)
  • 2013 Suburu Legacy ($16,650)
  • 2013 Hyundai Sonata ($13,200)
  • 2013 Kia Optima ($13,875)
  • 2012 Honda Accord ($12,975)
  • 2013 Suburu Outback ($20,750)
  • 2012 Toyota Camry ($13,725)
  • 2012 Volvo S60 ($16,500)
  • 2012 Toyota Prius V ($17,275)
  • 2014 Mazda 6 ($16,925)

Large cars:

  • 2012 Buick Regal ($13,975)
  • 2013 Toyota Avalon ($19,750)

Small and midsize SUVs:

  • 2014 Suburu Forester ($19,425)
  • 2013 Kia Sportage, AWD ($16,500)
  • 2012 Honda CR-V ($16,275)
  • 2013 Buick Encore, AWD ($16,075)
  • 2013 Toyota Venza ($18,100)

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has an online teen driver buying guide here. NerdWallet also has some tips for lowering insurance rates for teen drivers here.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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