Getting your first car is one of the most important rituals of your teenage years. And while Hollywood has made it seem like every 16 year old wakes up on their birthday to a brand new sports car, most of us end up with hand-me-down cars of our own.

I remember my first car, a 2008 automatic Mini Cooper. I named her Audrey and she took me anywhere I wanted to go in style. If your teenager is nearing driving age, it might be time to start researching the best cars for new drivers, or take a look at potential hand-me-down cars you might already own. 

In our experience, here are some of the best picks for drivers just getting started on the road, based on Consumer Reports and the IIHS: 

1. Subaru Impreza (2014 or newer)

Subarus have long been known for their reliability and high safety standard, which is probably why you bought your Impreza in the first place. But if you’ve got a little one who isn’t so little anymore, gifting them your Subaru could be a great move in the world of hand-me-down cars. 

2. Toyota Prius Prime (2017 or newer)

If you’ve got an environmentally-conscious teen, they’ll love the hybrid Prius Prime. While it can only go about 23 miles on electricity, it’s likely enough to get them to their favorite destinations and back. 

3. Volkswagen Passat (2016-2018)

In terms of its infotainment and safety systems, the Passat is a great mid-sized car for new drivers who want to ride in style. 

4. Toyota Sienna (2015 or newer)

Putting your teenager on babysitter duty? They’ll be able to haul everyone around safely while still being able to enjoy the latest in car tech (like Apple Play). How’s that for a total hand-me-down cars win? 

5. Mazda CX-5 (2014 or newer)

As far as smaller SUVs go, the Mazda CX-5 is a smooth rider with plenty of safety features present on the base trim. And for new drivers who may be anxious, the responsive and nimble handling could be a (literal) life-saver. 

6. Subaru Crosstrek (2018 or newer)

As the current driver of a 2018 Crosstrek, I can confidently say that this is a car I’d not only keep for as long as I could, but would pass down to a teenager. With its robust (and forgiving) safety features and roomy interior, it’s great for kids who want to drive their friends around. 

7. Kia Sorento (2016 or newer)

Now this is an easy-going vehicle, and perfect for a teen that’s already more confident in their driving skills. Safety features include adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, blind-spot detection, and rear cross-traffic alert, as well as a surround-view monitor. 

Want more great car recommendations for young drivers? Keep reading here.

Claire Biggerstaff
Claire Biggerstaff is a freelance writer and photographer from Charlotte, NC. Her curiosity leads her to write about a wide variety of topics. On her off days, she enjoys reading Polygon articles, and curling up to a good YouTube playlist.

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    1 Comment

    1. My hand-me-down car was a 1993 Buick. It was a great reliable car. I usually don’t think of the newer caars as hand-me-downs.

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