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8 Recommended Used Cars for New Drivers

Buying your first car is a huge step that needs careful deliberation. If you’re on a budget and want something already tried-and-tested, used or pre-owned cars are a great option. They often perform well, come with a wide variety of useful features, and are available at affordable prices.

To help you choose your first vehicle, we’ve compiled a list of seven of the best used cars currently on the market. Get the low down on their safety ratings, reliability ratings, and other specifications.

Note that the safety ratings discussed below come from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), while the reliability ratings come from RepairPal. Prices are based on the current prices on US News & World Report and reflect the lowest price the model may cost.

2018 hyundai tucson

2018 Hyundai Tucson

The 2018 Hyundai Tucson is one of the best used car models in the compact SUV class, thanks to its great safety and reliability ratings, lots of available safety features, and a spacious cabin. It also has a straightforward infotainment system with lots of physical controls and an excellent climate system. This 2018 model also handles well, with great driving dynamics.

  • $16,000

    Average price

  • Average

    Fuel economy

  • 5

    Seating

  • 5/5

    Safety rating

  • 4.0 out of 5.0

    Reliability

2018 kia sportage

2018 Kia Sportage

The 2018 Kia Sportage has a good reliability rating and excellent safety scores. It offers blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic warning, and lane change assistance. Owners of the 2018 Kia Sportage also enjoy a roomy cabin with agile handling, resulting in a smooth ride. Aside from accident-avoidance technologies, the 2018 Kia Sportage boasts more back-seat headroom and legroom than most models in its class.

  • $15,000

    Average price

  • Below-average

    Fuel economy

  • 5

    Seating

  • 5/5

    Safety rating

  • 4.0 out of 5.0

    Reliability

2018 subaru forester

2018 Subaru Forester

The 2018 Subaru Forester has a well-rounded performance and a spacious interior, with significant cargo capacity and plenty of advanced safety features. It also has excellent safety scores and average reliability ratings. Some trims of the 2018 Subaru Forester also offer adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assistance—perfect for first-time drivers.

  • $20,000

    Average price

  • Good

    Fuel economy

  • 5

    Seating

  • 5/5

    Safety rating

  • 3.5 out of 5.0

    Reliability

2018 toyota corolla xse

2018 Toyota Corolla

The 2018 Toyota Corolla boasts comfortable handling and smooth driving. It has great fuel economy, a user-friendly infotainment system, excellent reliability ratings, and high safety scores. It also comes with a wide range of advanced safety features, like forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control. All these make it perfect for first-time drivers who are trying to get a hang of driving.

  • $13,000

    Average price

  • Great

    Fuel economy

  • 5

    Seating

  • 5/5

    Safety rating

  • 4.5 out of 5.0

    Reliability

2015 subaru legacy

2015 Subaru Legacy

The 2015 Subaru Legacy boasts an excellent safety rating and above-average reliability. It offers sporty handling, standard all-wheel drive, and great fuel economy. This midsize sedan also comes with different driver assistance features, including adaptive cruise control, a blind-spot monitoring system, a lane-departure warning, a forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and adaptive fog lamps.

  • $7,500

    Average price

  • Great

    Fuel economy

  • 5

    Seating

  • 5/5

    Safety rating

  • 4.5 out of 5.0

    Reliability

2015 subaru legacy

2016 Toyota Prius

When it comes to hybrid cars, the 2016 Toyota Prius easily tops the list. It has a roomy interior, generous cargo space, great handling, superb fuel economy, and excellent safety and reliability ratings. Its cushioned ride also shrugs off bumps efficiently. Compared to older models, the redesigned Prius has a more sporty feel, perfect for first-time drivers who want a model in that style.

  • $17,000

    Average price

  • Excellent

    Fuel economy

  • 5

    Seating

  • 5/5

    Safety rating

  • 4.5 out of 5.0

    Reliability

2015 honda civic

2015 Honda Civic

The 2015 Honda Civic is perfect for younger first-time drivers as it is available with a manual gearbox. Its base engine is a 140-hp inline-four with an EPA-estimated 39 mpg on the highway. It also comes with the Honda LaneWatch system, which uses a small camera on the passenger-side exterior window. The camera sends a live, expanded-view video feed to its infotainment screen for increased rear visibility. On top of that, the Civic offers good fuel economy, balanced ride and handling, spacious interior, and top-notch interior materials. It’s available as a sedan or coupe.

  • $10,000

    Average price

  • Good

    Fuel economy

  • 5

    Seating

  • 4/5

    Safety rating

  • 4.5 out of 5.0

    Reliability

2014 mazda cx5

2014 Mazda CX-5

The 2014 Mazda CX-5 is a joy to drive, with its powerful engine and agile handling. It also boasts a roomy cabin, excellent fuel economy, responsive steering, and a well-controlled suspension. This SUV is perfect for the driver who wants a sleek-looking exterior. The 2014 CX-5 is available with front- or all-wheel drive.

  • $8,000

    Average price

  • Excellent

    Fuel economy

  • 5

    Seating

  • 5/5

    Safety rating

  • 4.5 out of 5.0

    Reliability

Why Are Used Vehicles a Good Choice for New Drivers?

If you’re on a budget, used cars are the best choice for new drivers like you. But there’s more to it than just affordability. Here are all the reasons why used vehicles are better for first-time drivers:

used vehicles

Affordable

Buying your first car is a huge investment. And when you’re on a budget, scouring the market for used cars is a great strategy. Pre-owned cars are often relatively affordable, providing you with a wide variety of options for your budget compared to buying a new one. You can buy a car that’s just a few years old for significantly less than a brand new version of the same kind.

Minor Dents Aren’t A Big Deal

As a first-time driver, you’re probably just getting the hang of driving. This can be disastrous, especially if you’re driving a new car. But with an old car, you don’t have to worry as much about getting minor dents and dings on its exterior. You can drive confidently without the pressure of keeping your car in pristine condition.

Cheaper Insurance

Car insurance companies determine your premiums based on how much they expect they’d have to pay out if you file a claim. A used car is relatively cheaper to replace than a new one would be, so you may have to pay lower insurance rates if you choose a pre-owned vehicle.

Lower Registration Fees

Some states base the cost of vehicle registration on the car’s age. Brand new cars usually have the highest registration fees, but these slowly decrease as the vehicle ages. If you live in a state that calculates registration fees this way, then you’ll save money each year with a used car.

Rich Aftermarket Community

Lastly, buying a used car means it already has a rich aftermarket community. This makes it easy to shop for replacement parts and performance upgrades without breaking the bank.

To Sum Up

Getting that first car can be thrilling for new drivers, and ensuring a good match is key to keeping that excitement going. While family and friends may recommend their trusted car brands, it's always wise to check out the wide array of great used cars that are available on the market today before deciding on anything.

What should new drivers prioritize while shopping for a used car?

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