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Best Cars for New Drivers

Honda Civic

The Honda Civic has a lot to offer. The first thing we want to mention is that the Honda Civic is inexpensive. Even if you purchased a new model, it would only set you back around $19,750. Naturally, older models would be even cheaper. The 2020 Civic comes with Honda Sensing, which has road departure mitigation, lane keep assist, forward collision warnings, and lane departure warnings.

To add to this, the Honda Civic is reliable and just powerful enough for a new driver to become comfortable with their surroundings. The NHTSA gives the Honda Civic a five-star crash test rating, even for most older models. The final thing we’d like to mention is that the Honda Civic comes standard with a multi-angle rearview camera for parking.

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Toyota Corolla

The Toyota Corolla has long been one of the most reliable vehicles you can buy. It’s well known for lasting a decade or more as long as it’s taken care of properly. On top of that, it’s also super cheap. You can get a 2020 Corolla for as low as $19,600. Naturally, older models are just as good and cheaper, although they may come with different features.

The Corolla was the IIHS Top Safety Pick for 2019, 2018, and 2017. We suggest getting a 2017 or newer model because it has better safety ratings. The 2020 Corolla comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense, which has a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alerts, and Automatic High Beams.

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Honda HR-V

The Honda HR-V is a small SUV, chosen for those that need a little extra space. SUVs are often a concern for new drivers due to rollover risk. The Honda HR-V has a risk of 13.5%, which is lower than the average SUV. Crash-test ratings for the 2020 HR-V are five stars, and it comes with Honda Sensing as well as a multi-angle rearview camera with guidelines.

The Honda HR-V is pretty cheap for an SUV, with the MRSP for the 2020 model being $20,820. While other models are cheaper, we would suggest purchasing a 2019 or 2020 model as they’re safer than the older versions. The 2019 HR-V was IIHS’s Top Safety Pick of the Year, and considering the 2020 model had little change to the interior, we’d suggest purchasing the 2019 model. 

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Subaru Impreza

The Subaru Impreza has a few options that make it unique compared to others on the list. Most notably, it comes with a hatchback trim, although this one is a bit more expensive than the sedan version. The starting MSRP for the basic trim Subaru Impreza is $18,695.

The Impreza is almost like a cross between a sedan and an SUV, although it doesn’t have the same rollover risk as SUVs have. The risk for this is on par with sedans at 9.5%. The crash test ratings are also top-notch at five stars. The 2019 Impreza was a Top Safety Pick with the IIHS, so the 2019 or 2020 version is great for a new driver.

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Mazda 6

The Mazda 6 has a bit more power than the average car. The newest Mazda 6 trims have around 180-250 horsepower, while most sedans range from 120-170 horsepower. Even though it’s got more oomph, it still gets a combined 35 mpg to the gallon, meaning it won’t cost as much at the pump as some other vehicles on this list.

The Mazda 6 comes with Mazda’s Connect Infotainment system and great safety features, including Lane Keep Assist and Lane Departure Warnings. The only downside is that the Mazda 6 is slightly more expensive than some of the compact cars. The starting MSRP for the basic Sport trim is $24,000.

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Toyota Camry

Few vehicles are more reliable and safer as the Toyota Camry, not to mention it’s often one of the top mid-size sedans you can buy. The MSRP of the Camry starts at $24,295 for the L trim. The price of the Camry is a little higher, but it’s a larger sedan than many on the list. One reason people choose the Camry is because it gets excellent gas mileage (29/41 city/highway).

The Camry also comes with Toyota’s Safety Sense P system, which includes a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alerts with Steering Assist, Automatic High Beams, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Accidents are scary, but less of a worry in the Camry as it earned a five-star crash test rating with the NHTSA. IIHS also listed this Camry as a 2019 Safety Pick.

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Hyundai Santa Fe

The Hyundai Santa Fe is one of the larger vehicles on the list. It’s a mid-size SUV that has an MSRP starting at $25,400. There are a few reasons people choose the Santa Fe. First of all, it gets great gas mileage for an SUV – 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. The Santa Fe also has no problem going off the road for emergency situations or just for a little fun.

The SE comes with some good safety features like Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian detection, but our recommendation is to upgrade to the SEL. This trim includes even more features like Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance for an MSRP of $25,900 –$500 more than the base trim. The Santa FE has a five-star crash test rating from the NHTSA with a rollover risk of 15.70%.

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Kia Optima

The Kia Optima is a well-known mid-size sedan that’s pretty reliable. In fact, Kia has appeared on dependability lists from a variety of different sources. As far as price, the Kia Optima has a starting MSRP of $23,190 for the base trim, the LX. Along with providing space, the Optima gets decent gas mileage, 25 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.

Even the base trim comes with a wide range of safety features to keep a new driver safe and sound. The best features include Forward Collision-Avoidance Assistance with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Change Assist, Lane Departure Warnings, and High Beam Assist, a feature that automatically swaps between high beams when another vehicle is detected. Finally, the Kia Optima has a five-star crash test rating with the NHTSA.

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Ford Fusion

The Ford Fusion is another stronger, yet fuel-efficient sedan. The cabin is spacious enough to fit five people comfortably, plus it has a pretty decent-sized trunk to carry whatever you may need. The starting MSRP is $23,170 for the basic 2020 Ford Fusion S. One thing to note about the Fusion is that there is a Hybrid version that gets 43 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway – talk about savings!

The basic trim still comes with tons of features that focus on safety, like a rearview camera, individual tire pressure monitoring system, AdvanceTrac with stability control, SOS Post-Crash, and Personal Safety System. The Ford Fusion has a five-star crash test rating with the NHTSA.

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Subaru Outback

The Subaru Outback is one of the best off-roading vehicles you’ll find on the market. It’s designed to do so while maintaining control, so this would be great for new drivers that plan on going off the path. It’s a larger SUV, so it has a higher price than others on the list. The starting MSRP is $26,645 for the basic trim.

What sets Subaru apart is that it comes with EyeSight Driver Assist. This technology monitors traffic movement, optimizes cruise control, and warns you when you’re swaying outside your lane. The Outback has a five-star crash test rating, but it’s higher off the ground than other SUVs on the list. Because of this, it has a rollover risk of 17.40%.

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Toyota RAV4

The Toyota RAV4 is one of the most popular SUVs on the market for good reasons. One huge reason is the value. The starting MSRP for the RAV4 is $25,950, and it comes with a lot of features from Bluetooth connectivity to an extensive list of safety features. Even the base trim comes with Toyota Safety Sense, which has pre-collision alerts with pedestrian detection, lane alerts, steering assist, lane tracing assistance, and tons more.

The RAV4 also gets pretty good gas mileage, 27 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. As far as crash test ratings, the RAV4 got a five-star rating with the NHTSA as well as an IIHS Top Safety Pick. The rollover risk is also on par with other SUVs on the list at 15.50%.

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Honda Accord

The Honda Accord has been a long-trusted vehicle for a while. If you purchase a new model, it’s also much more reliable than the older versions. The Honda Accord is larger than the Civic, which means it’s ideal for those that need a little extra space or anyone that will carry more passengers. Despite being larger, the starting MSRP is a low $23,870.

Like with other Hondas, the basic trim still comes with numerous safety features. Honda Sensing provides features like Collision Mitigation Braking, Road Departure Mitigation, and more. The NHTSA gave the Honda Accord a five-star crash test rating, and this model is consistently ranked as an IIHS Top Safety Pick.

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Ford Taurus

The Ford Taurus is an ideal first car, albeit an older vehicle to get. It was in production for 34 years, so chances are, you know someone that had a Taurus as their first vehicle. Older models will be cheaper, but you may be sacrificing some safety features you could want. The 2018 and 2019 models come with safety features like Forward Collision Warnings, Lane Departure Warnings, and others, but always check the manual before buying.

The Ford Taurus has consistently earned a five-star crash test rating with the NHTSA for years, so it’s very safe in the event of an accident. On top of that, the Taurus has had good scores with the IIHS for many years now. The best thing we can say about the Taurus is that it’s reliable and cheap but has few frills. 

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Chevrolet Impala

The Chevy Impala has been around since the ’50s, so you know it’s a good car. Over the years, it’s been updated, but one thing’s remained the same: it’s a fantastic first car for a new driver. This sedan seats five people and gets 18 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. It also has quite a bit of power, 350 horsepower, which accounts for the lower gas mileage.

The 2020 Impala LT, the basic trim, comes with a rearview camera and OnStar, as well as Chevrolet Connected Services. That being said, you’ll have to upgrade for features that come basic with other sedans, like lane keep assist. The Impala is another vehicle that’s consistently received five-star crash test ratings with the NHTSA.

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Toyota Avalon

Toyota just makes a good car, and the Avalon is no different. The Avalon is a luxury sedan, which is great for those that want a little more pizazz in their vehicle. Since it’s a luxury sedan, it comes with better features than your average car. Some of those include heated outside mirrors, blind spot warning indicators, solar energy-absorbing glass, and a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines. 

That being said, the Avalon is also a bit more costly. You’re looking at a starting MSRP of $35,800 for the basic trim. There’s also a hybrid option for those that want something a little eco-friendlier, but it has an MSRP of $36,850. The Avalon has a five-star crash test rating with the NHTSA and is an IIHS Top Safety Pick.

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Buick LaCrosse

You can’t get more reliable and safer than the Buick LaCrosse. This vehicle often feels like a luxury car without having the luxury price. The LaCrosse is often ranked as one of the best vehicles you can buy from a variety of different sources. This car’s biggest advantage is its size. It comfortably fits five people while still providing plenty of space for each passenger.

The only downside is that the LaCrosse is another one that is likely purchased used. In 2019, GM decided to discontinue this longstanding model, but that doesn’t mean the older years aren’t worth looking into. Just be sure to check the owner’s manual or research to figure out what features it comes with.

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Hyundai Accent

The Hyundai Accent is one of the best-ranked cars on the market, and it’s especially great for those on a tight budget. The MSRP for the 2020 Accent is $15,195, although the Limited (MSRP $18,300) is the best value as it comes with features like Hyundai’s Blue Link system. This system is especially good for teenagers as it can send alerts to their phone if they’re out past curfew, breaking speed restrictions, or if they’re crossing geographic boundaries.

J.D. Power ranked the Hyundai as 4.5 out of five for reliability, meaning it’s less likely to breakdown on the side of the road. The Hyundai Accent also has excellent crash test ratings. The IIHS gave this model a Top Safety Pick for 2019. Our only complaint is that the basic trims don’t come with safety features like Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist or a blind spot mirror.

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Volkswagen Jetta

The Jetta is definitely a bit more expensive than some others on the list, but it’s still a lower-priced option compared to the larger sedans. The reason many people choose the Jetta (other than for the brand) is because it gets good gas mileage and has decent safety features like a crash-optimized front end. Front-end accidents are one of the most common types of accidents, so this may be valuable to some.

It also comes with Volkswagen’s Intelligent Crash Response System. This system interacts with first responders, unlocks all the doors, disengages all high-voltage electronics, and turns on hazard lights moments after an accident. The 2019 Jetta has a five-star crash test rating at NHTSA. This same model has improved crash test scores on IIHS, so we’d suggest getting a newer model. In addition to that, the SE may be a better choice as it is the first trim with an automatic transmission. The MSRP for the SE is $22,395.

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Kia Forte

The 2019 model of the Kia Forte was completely redesigned and became one of the best compact cars out there. Since it’s also so cheap, $17,790, the 2019 Kia Forte was a finalist with U.S. News for Best Compact Car for the Money. Even though it’s small, we want to mention that it still has plenty of space for you and three of your friends.

The Kia Forte also has plenty of safety features that are standard, including forward-collision warnings and automatic emergency braking. It also includes lane departure warnings and lane keep assist. Spending more to get a better trim will give you other safety features like blind-spot monitoring. The Forte also comes with some quality features, including Bluetooth connectivity and a rear camera.

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Hyundai Elantra

The Hyundai Elantra is one of the more fuel-efficient vehicles on the list. It gets 31 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway. Not to mention, it also has a low starting MSRP of $18,950 for the base SE trim. There’s an Eco version that comes with more features, but it only has slightly better fuel economy while being much more expensive. Because of this, we’d suggest the SE trim for those just starting out.

The SE comes with a number of quality safety features, including a rearview camera with dynamic parking guidelines, Lane Keeping Assist, and Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist. These features at this price make it one of the best deals on the list, although it does lack the power some may want from their sedan. The SE only has 147 horsepower, which can feel underpowered for some. 

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