The Best Cars for New Drivers
Driving for the first time can be nerve-wracking. Sure, we’re excited, and our hands are jittering, but there’s also a lot of nervousness. Then, there comes the first car purchase. It’s a lot to take in, and there’s a lot of aspects to keep in mind. Is the vehicle safe? Does it have all the features necessary for a comfortable ride? What about crash test ratings? That’s a lot of stuff to ask yourself before you purchase a vehicle for the first time. Thankfully, we’re going to take all the guesswork out of the process.
We made a list of the most reliable and safe vehicles on the market. Most are sedans because sedans are merely one of the safest vehicles you can buy, although there are a few other surprises on the list.
These 20 vehicles are sure to last a while, protect passengers in the event of an accident, and provide an enjoyable ride!
All MSRPs and feature information are taken from the manufacturer’s website.
1. Honda Civic
(image via Honda)
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 $21,700. Naturally, older models would be even cheaper. The 2022 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 new drivers to become comfortable with their surroundings. In the past, the NHTSA gives has given the Honda Civic a five-star crash test rating – however, the 2022 model year is a newly redesigned, so safety ratings could be different this time around. The final thing we’d like to mention is that the Honda Civic comes standard with a 7-inch touch-screen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, helping you to keep your eyes on the road instead of on your phone.
2. Toyota Corolla
(image via Toyota)
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 $20,075. 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 2021, 2020, 2019, and 2018 – and that continues with the 2022 model. We suggest getting any one of these model years due to the superior 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.
3. Honda HR-V
(image via Honda)
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 but less so with the HR-V. The Honda HR-V has a crash-test rating of five stars overall.
The Honda HR-V is pretty cheap for an SUV, with the MRSP for the 2022 model being $21,420. While other models are cheaper, we would suggest purchasing a 2020 or 2021 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 most recent models had little change to the interior, we’d suggest purchasing the 2019, 2020 or 2021 model.
4. Subaru Impreza
(image via Subaru)
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 $18,795.
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 crash test ratings are also top-notch at five stars. The 2019 Impreza was a Top Safety Pick with the IIHS, so that or 2020, 2021 or 2022 versions are great for new drivers. Safety features include adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist and forward collision warning.
(image via Mazda)
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 blind spot monitoring, Lane Keep Assist, forward automatic emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert, 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 $24,475.
6. Toyota Camry
(image via Toyota)
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 $24,970 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 in every category with the NHTSA.
7. Hyundai Santa Fe
(image via Hyundai)
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 $27,200. 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 forward collision warning, driver drowsiness monitoring, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control. In crash tests, the NHTSA awarded the vehicle a safety rating of five stars overall.
8. Kia Forte
(image via Kia)
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, starting at $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.
9. Kia Sorento
(image via Kia)
Kia Sorento is an excellent mid-size SUV, essential for those who love their outings with friends. The redesigned vehicle comes equipped with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 191 horsepower. When it comes to fuel economy, you’ll get 24 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.
The Sorento S standard trim starts at just $31,890. This trim comes with synthetic leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control and a ton of safety features like blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and rear parking sensors. IIHS safety ratings have been good all-around, and the NHTSA awarded it four out of five stars.
10. Subaru Outback
(image via Subaru)
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 $26,945 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 received a five-star crash test rating in the past, but it’s higher off the ground than other SUVs on the list. Because of this, it had a rollover risk of 17.40%. Stats for the new Outback are not yet available.
11. Toyota RAV4
(image via Toyota)
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 $26,150, 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 2.0, 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%.
12. Honda Accord
(image via Honda)
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.
13. Ford Escape
(image via Ford)
The 2021 Ford Escape is another incredible SUV and it has a starting price of just $24,885. Standard with this trim are cloth upholstery seats, a SYNC infotainment system, and six-speaker audio. The Co-Pilo360 safety suite includes automatic high-beams, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, and lane keeping assist among other features.
The compact SUV offers incredible power and safety. The NHTSA awarded the vehicle five stars in frontal and side crash tests, and four in the rollover test – earning it five stars overall. Its standard 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine generates 181 horsepower. It gets 28 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway.
14. Chevrolet Blazer
(image via Chevy)
The 2022 Chevrolet Blazer 2LT is the base trim that starts at $33,400. Included with this option is an infotainment system with 8-inch display, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa. A six-speaker stereo and four USB ports are provided as well. A dual-zone climate control system ensures your cabin can be consistently cozy. A turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder generates 228 horsepower, plus it gets 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.
The Chevy Blazer is a safe vehicle for new drivers, in part thanks to its Chevy Safety Assist which offers forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning and automatic high beams. The safety ratings from NHTSA show that the new Blazer performs exceedingly well in the unfortunate event of a crash. The vehicle received five stars overall.
15. Toyota Avalon
(image via Avalon)
The 2021 Toyota Avalon, starting at $36,125, is on the pricier side in the 2021 lineup but it’s a terrific car for new drivers, nevertheless. It’s jam-packed with features including an infotainment system with 9-inch touchscreen, smartphone integration, five USB ports and HD radio. Listen to everything on an eight-speaker audio system. As for performance, the 3.5-liter V6 delivers 301 horsepower. And even with these impressive specs you’ll get a decent fuel economy – 25 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway.
Safety is always important for drivers, so it’s important to point out that while the Avalon only received four out of five stars in the frontal crash test performed by the NHTSA, it received a rating of “Superior” when it came to Front Crash Prevention. With that said, the vehicle offers good safety ratings all-around and it’s loaded with safety features. The standard safety suite includes blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning.
16. Buick Enclave
(image via Buick)
The 2021 Buick Enclave is a great luxury SUV buy for new drivers. It starts at $41,195 and includes a sophisticated infotainment system, heated and power-adjustable seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, tri-zone climate control and much more. Although it is light on safety features, it has a five-star rating from the NHTSA and good ratings from the IIHS.
The vehicle comes equipped with a 3.6-liter V6 with 310 horsepower in all available trims. Fuel economy estimates are not great at 18 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway, but they are certainly better than some. Seating seven passengers, the vehicle works as a family car, so if you have a teen driver that will be borrowing the car, they’ll be in good hands.
17. Hyundai Accent
(image via Hyundai)
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 2022 model will be available at around just $15,595, making it a fantastic option for new drivers. The vehicle features an infotainment system with a large touchscreen and smartphone integration – and that’s about it. But for drivers who are distracted easily, this is for the best.
J.D. Power has ranked the Hyundai as 4.5 out of five for reliability in the past, meaning it’s less likely to breakdown on the side of the road. The Hyundai Accent also has had excellent crash test ratings. The IIHS gave the vehicle a Top Safety Pick award for 2019. Safety scores for the 2022 model are good as well.
18. Volkswagen Jetta
(image via VW)
The Jetta is 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. With the base model, you won’t get these safety features but the SE model for $22,895, does offer these features.
The Jetta also comes with comfort and convenience features like synthetic leather upholstery, a sunroof, dual-zone climate control, and proximity keyless entry. The 2021 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.
19. Ford Bronco
(image via Ford)
The 2021 Ford Bronco was a popular SUV for years until it was discontinued, but now its back and better than ever. The brand new model is perfect for new drivers who love to roam the outdoors. The base engine is a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder that generates 275 horsepower. Fuel economy estimates are at 20 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway.
Safety ratings are not yet available but you can be rest-assured you are in safe hands with Ford’s Co-Pilot360 suite. This suite includes safety features like forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection. At 28,500, you’ll also get features such as an infotainment system with 8-inch display, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and even a six-speaker stereo.
20. Hyundai Elantra
(image via Hyundai)
The fully-redesigned Hyundai Elantra is one of the more fuel-efficient vehicles on the list. It gets up to 33 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the highway. Not to mention, it also has a low starting MSRP of $19,650 for the base SE trim. With this trim, you’ll get an 8-inch display infotainment system, HD radio, two USB ports, four-speaker audio and voice recognition.
The SE comes with a number of quality safety features, including a rearview camera with dynamic parking guidelines, Lane Keeping Assist, blind spot monitoring 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 may feel underpowered for some but there are other engine options like the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that generates 275 horsepower.