The 10 Safest Used Cars Under $10,000 for Teen Drivers

teen drive

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Every parent faces a dilemma when children hit the legal driving age. How do you encourage independence by providing a car for teen drivers while keeping your kids safe and doing it on a budget? A look at the safest new cars on the road reveals mainly pricey SUVs and luxury sedans leading the pack.

Most families will by necessity turn to the used car market in order to find wheels for a teenager. According to Consumer Reports, there are many vehicles available from recent model years that fit the bill on safety even when your budget cannot exceed $10,000. Above all, the recommendations prize electronic stability control (ESC) and adequate air bags throughout the vehicle your children will be driving.

Consumer Reports also considered a vehicle’s size (midsize to large cars are safer), the distance it takes a car to stop, and handling in emergency situations.

Putting it all together, here are the 10 safest used cars under $10,000, perfect for teens ready to hit the road. Cars are listed in alphabetical order by the automaker’s name.

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 1. Chevy Malibu

Parents hoping to protect teens behind the wheel should consider the Chevy Malibu from model years 2009 through 2012. Responsive handling, user-friendly controls, and adjustable steering wheel and pedals made this a safe bet for teenagers in the eyes of Consumer Reports. Decent fuel economy and prices starting at or below $8,000 say Malibu is a solid teen choice as well.

2011 Ford Focus

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2. Ford Focus

Though smaller than most cars recommended on this list, Ford Focus from model years 2009 through 2011 model won over testers on safety for its peppy drive qualities. Consumer Reports suggested going for models with optional Sync rather than MyFord Touch. Hands-free controls are huge when teen drivers are at the wheel. You may even be able to nab a 2009 Focus for less than $6,000.

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3. Ford Fusion

Though it isn’t as stylish as the version brought to market for the 2013 model year, the Ford Fusion from 2010 to 2012 delivers on value and safety when shopping for a teenage driver. Consumer Reports liked the simple controls, the Fusion’s responsiveness, and the Sync Bluetooth controls that keep teens focused on the road rather a mobile device in their hands. From 2010 on, prices start as low as $8,000 for well-cared-for models.

The Hyundai Sonata 2.0T with a turbochar

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4. Hyundai Sonata

For economy and cabin comfort in a midsize sedan, Consumer Reports recommends the Hyundai Sonata from model years 2006 through 2014. Testers were not in love with the Sonata’s handling, but good visibility and impressive fuel economy make it an excellent choice for teens when you are on a strict budget. Earlier model years may be available for less than $5,000.

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STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

5. Kia Soul

The funky Kia Soul from model years 2010 and 2011 had a strong showing in tests for its fuel economy and responsiveness on the road. Hands-free calling and music playing from smartphones also contributed to higher marks in teen safety, as did the high driving position from where kids can see the road with ease. A Soul from this era should be less than $8,000 on the used market.

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Source: Mazda

6. Mazda3

Do you need any more reasons to buy a Mazda3? Just in case “affordable, safe teen car” wasn’t one of the associations you had for the 3, Consumer Reports fills that slot with its safest under $10,000 list. Mazda’s compact car rated high because its crisp handling, efficiency, and ability to avoid danger are perfect for teens. Models years 2011 through 2013 have the makings of the ideal teen car on a budget.

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Source: Mazda

7. Mazda6i

As with the 3, the Mazda6i from model years 2009 through 2013 rated as one of the safest teen cars because of its smart handling and simple controls. Used options with available blind-spot monitors may be the ultimate antidote to the follies of youth driving, but it is hard to go wrong with any options in the 6. Going back to 2009 models could yield a buy near $8,000.

ROBERTO SCHMIDT/ AFP

ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images

8. Toyota RAV4

Before handing down a larger SUV to teen drivers, Consumer Reports suggests opting for a Toyota RAV4 from model years 2004 to 2012. Testers love the responsiveness for young drivers as well as the fuel economy and Bluetooth features. Stick to models with two rows, as four passengers provide enough distractions for teens to deal with on the road.

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Source: Volkswagen

9. Volkswagen Jetta

Because of its reliability, comfort, economy, and excellent visibility, Consumer Reports says the Volkswagen Jetta from model years 2009 and 2010 would be great for drivers fresh out of the DMV with their first license. Economy quotes include 34 miles per gallon average in the diesel model to 50 miles per gallon on the highway. For used prices near $7,000, Jetta is a safe bet for teens on the road.

Sean Gallup Getty Images

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

10. Volkswagen Rabbit/Golf

If you’re looking at 2009 models, you’ll be considering a Volkswagen Rabbit, while for model years 2010 through 2014 you’ll be looking for a VW Golf. With either name, parents will get a compact German car with good handling and a comfortable ride. That makes it easier on young drivers learning the rules of the road. Efficiency is superior in diesel models, but gas Golfs and Rabbits will be available at lower prices (starting near $7,500).

Source: Consumer Reports

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