How to Pick the Best First Car for New Teen Drivers

Best First Car for Teens

Did you know that 1 in 5 teenage drivers will be involved in a crash within their first licensed year on the road? Beginning drivers need all the help they can get to navigate those chaotic streets, which is where you come in as parents. As you begin searching for the safest starter vehicle for your 16-year-old, consider the factors below.


Many parents will opt to buy the cheapest, smallest first car for their teenage driver. That’s old-fashioned thinking, however, as there is evidence to suggest larger or heavier vehicles offer more protection than teeny cars.

Models like the Honda CR-V crossover or midsize Accord fare better in crashes than smaller vehicles like the Nissan Versa, for instance. They perform well in side and front crash tests, and because their center of gravity is lower, these models are also less prone to rollovers that typically plague larger SUVs and pickups.


A seatbelt, windshield and front airbag are crucial, of course, but there are tons of other safety features you’ll want to look for when buying your teen’s first car.

Side and curtain airbags

Add another layer of protection for all passengers.

SmartVent® airbags

Honda’s patented SmartVent airbags are designed to deploy in the event of a moderate or severe side impact. Using a unique venting function to decrease airbag-related injuries, these side airbags inflate quickly to protect the driver and front passenger.

Electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes

When the road gets slippery, ABS and ESC systems help the vehicle gain traction on the asphalt.

Seatbelt reminders

The vehicle will sound an alarm when it detects seated occupants and belts aren’t buckled. When the vehicle is traveling over a certain speed (usually 10 mph), these systems will notify the cabin via audible cues if seatbelts aren’t fastened.

Driver-assist systems

Many newer vehicles will come equipped with useful driver-assist safety features, including collision mitigation braking, blind-spot assistance, and road departure alerts.

Many certified pre-owned Honda vehicles have these options as part of the Honda Sensing safety suite. Please speak with someone from our Arizona Honda dealerships if you’d like more information.

Insurance Costs

Looking for the cheapest used car to insure for teenage drivers? Unfortunately, your auto insurance premiums are going to increase when you add your teen to the policy – by as much as 150%, in fact. This is part of parenthood in the 21st century. However, you can offset some of those premium increases by choosing a good starter car.

What makes a “good starter car” when it comes to insurance costs? You’re looking for models that carry a lower risk to and for insurers. These vehicles will have historically fewer claims or a lower payout on claims, fewer high-tech features, and lower rates of theft, among other factors. And because your teen is more than likely to be involved in some sort of accident, these vehicles will usually be cheaper to repair.

Car and Driver names the Honda CR-V as one of the most affordable used SUVs to insure, making it an excellent choice for new drivers.

Brand Safety

Few automotive brands have a better track record on safety than Honda. With its signature LaneWatch® blind-spot monitoring system and the comprehensive Honda Sensing safety suite, Honda puts drivers and occupants first. The brand has a storied history of excellent crashworthiness grades with both the IIHS and NHTSA, so you can trust your teen will be as protected as possible when you’re not around.

New vs. Used

While a new car will have all the latest safety features, late-model used cars shouldn’t be overlooked in that department. Many certified pre-owned vehicles are equipped with the newest safety technology, including collision mitigation brakes, adaptive cruise control, and more. You’re ultimately paying less for a comparable level of protection, which is exactly what parents should strive for when buying their teenager’s first car.

If you’d like to receive a quote on a new or certified pre-owned Honda in Phoenix, contact any of our Valley Honda Dealers. We serve the entire Phoenix region, including Tempe, Scottsdale, Surprise, and Prescott. (And don’t forget to bring your teen in for a test drive!)