While most parents are all too glad to vacate the role of permanent chauffeur once their teenage kids get their drivers licenses, it can be challenging to find an affordable used car that’s safe, reliable and economical and won’t suffer sky-high insurance rates. While the kids may prefer a racy Mustang GT or an open-top Jeep Wrangler, parents most likely would prefer their offspring settle for a more rational choice.
To that end, the experts at CarInsurance.com in Foster City, Calif., compiled a list of used cars that should be ideal for teen drivers, which we’re featuring below with our own commentary. Each is from the 2009 model year and is valued at $15,000 or less. They’re all rated to get 20 or more mpg in city/highway driving, scored above average in reliability/repair ratings and garnered top marks in industry crash tests.
What’s more, each carries reasonably low car-insurance rates – or at least as far as teen drivers are concerned, and we’ve noted the averages below. These are based on quotes for a hypothetical 18-year-old student in Pensacola, Fla., with no tickets or accidents, maintaining a separate policy from his parents (rates vary according to a driver’s age, gender, zipcode and driving record, and are usually cheaper if the driver is carried on a parent’s policy).
“There’s a big difference in insurance rates among the cars on the list,” said Des Toups, managing editor of CarInsurance.com. “But a teenage driver is going to pay a small fortune even if he chooses the most insurance-friendly car.”
Here's the 10 smartest buys for young drivers among 2009 model-year cars:
1. Ford Taurus. Far from being the sexist ride on the road, the Taurus gives Mom or Dad the opportunity to own something sportier and still have a big sedan in the family to fall back on. Estimated premium: $3,322.
2. Honda Accord. The midsize Accord is officially classified as a “large” car because of its generous interior volume. Choose a version equipped with the standard four-cylinder engine for top fuel economy. Estimated premium: $3,334.
3. Ford Fusion. This stalwart midsize sedan drives well and affords a spacious interior; the base four-cylinder engine delivers the best fuel economy. Estimated premium: $3,494.
4. Scion xB. The boxy XB wagon delivers quick acceleration, and there’s enough room in the back seat to fit two six-footers with legroom to spare. Estimated premium: $3,506.
5. Subaru Legacy. Coming standard with all-wheel-drive, this is a great choice for those living in foul-weather climates. Choose a model with the standard four-cylinder engine for the lowest operating costs. Estimated premium: $3,518.
6. Volkswagen Jetta. This generation of VW’s compact Jetta afforded more precise European-style handling than most cars in this segment, which makes it something of a bargain-priced BMW 3 Series. Estimated premium: $3,524.
7. Audi A3 2.0T. Audi’s compact luxury hatchback combines sportiness and practicality. The standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine delivers plenty of pep, and you’ll find some used versions with all-wheel-drive. Estimated premium: $3,622.
8. Toyota Corolla. This is a safe choice for drivers of all ages. The Corolla performs well, is reasonably comfortable, has proven to be reliable and gets good fuel economy. Estimated premium: $3,656.
9. Subaru Impreza 2.5i. The compact Impreza is well suited to journeyman drivers with its predictable handling and standard all-wheel-drive. Stick with the base four-cylinder engine for top fuel economy and low insurance rates. Estimated premium: $3,732.
10. Honda Civic. Some might say the prior-generation version of Honda’s popular compact sedan is superior to the current iteration. Avoid the sportier Si rendition to keep the cost down. Estimated premium: $3,738.
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