Best Cars For Teens Under $10,000

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Automotive Editor

Based out of the Washington, D.C. area, Joel Patel is an automotive journalist that hails from Northern Virginia. His work has been featured on various automotive outlets, including Autoweek, Digital Trends, and Autoblog. When not writing about cars, Joel enjoys trying new foods, wrenching on his car, and watching horror movies. 

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, Automotive Editor - August 6, 2020

Safety plays a large role when parents and guardians decide to buy a car for a teenager. To lend a helping hand to individuals shopping for a used car for a teenager, Consumer Reports and the Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) partnered to come out with a list of the best used cars for teens under $20,000. Since safety is such a huge thing to consider when purchasing a car for a teen, the list focuses on vehicles that did well in the IIHS’ crash tests, but also considers dry braking distances and Consumer Reports’ emergency handling and reliability scores.

While the list has 43 vehicles that fit under the “Best Choices” category, there were five that really stood out to us. Those vehicles are the Mazda Mazda3, Subaru Impreza, Honda Accord, Volkswagen Jetta, and Subaru Outback. We’ll cover why these vehicles made the list and focus on safety ratings and price (all are available under $10,000) – things that are important to consider when purchasing a vehicle for a teenager.

Here are a few things to consider before looking at the vehicles. All of the cars on this list have electronic stability control as standard, an above-average reliability score from Consumer Reports, a score of at least “average” in Consumer Reports’ emergency handling tests, dry braking distances of less than 145 feet in Consumer Reports’ brake tests, a four-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and four “Good” ratings in the IIHS’ major tests. Prices for the vehicles are based on a U.S. average from Kelley Blue Book and are based on the nearest $100.

2014 Mazda3 – $7,000

Mazda Mazda3

The IIHS and Consumer Reports recommends Mazda3 sedans and hatchbacks from the 2014 model year that were built after October 13. Regardless of which body style you go with, the 2014 Mazda3 received a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS. Models after October 13 made the list, because Mazda made changes to the vehicle’s front suspension to improve occupant protection in the IIHS’ small overlap front crash tests. In the NHTSA’s testing, the Mazda3 received a five-star overall rating.

The Mazda3 came with a good list of safety features for 2014, too. Forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking were optional. Touring and Grand Touring trims came with blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert as standard.

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2014 Subaru Impreza – $8,700

Subaru Impreza

The 2014 Subaru Impreza made the list for both sedan and wagon body styles. In the IIHS’ testing, the Impreza sedan earned a Top Safety Pick award, while the wagon didn’t, but did just as well in the institute’s crash tests. In the NHTSA’s testing, the 2014 Impreza earned a five-star overall rating.

Unlike a lot of the cars on the list, the Impreza comes with all-wheel drive as standard. It may seem like a small difference from other front-wheel-drive models, but the system will give drivers more grip in inclement weather conditions. While the Impreza lacks advanced safety features, a rearview camera was optional for 2014.

It’s important to note that the crash-test scores are for the Impreza and not the WRX model.

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2013 Honda Accord – $9,200

Honda Accord

The 2013 Honda Accord makes the list because of its excellent safety scores. Both the sedan and coupe body styles received a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS. The NHTSA gave the Accord a five-star overall safety rating. It’s rare for a coupe to earn the IIHS’ highest safety rating and the Accord is one of the few two-door vehicles on the full list.

In 2013, the Accord was offered with a variety of advanced safety features. Forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring, and lane departure warning were all available. Honda’s LaneWatch blind spot monitoring may be a little tricky to use, as it provides a live video of the blind spot on the passenger side, but not the driver’s side.

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2016-2018 Volkswagen Jetta – $9,800

Volkswagen Jetta

If you’re looking for a slightly newer vehicle, Consumer Reports and IIHS recommend the 2016 to 2018 Volkswagen Jetta. The sedan received a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS and a five-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA. Despite being one of the newer vehicles on our short list, the IIHS claims that models can be found for just under $10,000.

Volkswagen didn’t offer advanced safety features throughout the entire Jetta lineup in 2016. While adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, and rear cross-traffic alert were available, they were only offered on the 1.8T SEL trim.

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2013 Subaru Outback – $8,500

Subaru Outback

For teens that live in areas that get inclement weather and occasionally tackle dirt trails, the 2013 Subaru Outback is an excellent choice. The IIHS named it a Top Safety Pick+ vehicle for the 2013 model year, while the NHTSA gave the wagon a five-star overall rating. Impressively, the Outback aced the vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention test, earning the highest rating of Superior when equipped with optional equipment.

The 2013 Outback was offered with a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking. Many of the features were available through the automaker’s optional EyeSight system.

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, Automotive Editor

Based out of the Washington, D.C. area, Joel Patel is an automotive journalist that hails from Northern Virginia. His work has been featured on various automotive outlets, including Autoweek, Digital Trends, and Autoblog. When not writing about cars, Joel enjoys trying new foods, wrenching on his car, and watching horror movies. 

Follow On: Twitter

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