Whether you’re a first-time car buyer or a parent looking for your teen’s first ride, going through all the available options can be a bit overwhelming. Of course, choosing your “first” car can be an exciting experience—but it can also give you a headache due to the many, many options available on the market.
The best first car for you (or your teen) should fit your lifestyle and individual needs. However, remember that because this vehicle is for a new driver, the most important considerations are the car’s safety features, affordability, and ease of use.
Here are some of our recommendations to help you choose the best first car for your needs.
Best Cars for New Drivers
2020 Honda Civic
Starting price: $20,550
Who wouldn’t know this make and model? The Civic has been a fixture on American roads since its debut in 1973. With its reputation for being one of the most affordable and reliable cars on the market, the Civic is definitely a great pick for first-time car owners.
But most importantly, Honda is known for its outstanding safety features. The 2020 Honda Civic is equipped with the Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) to aid you while driving. It also has a 5-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
If the reasons above are not enough to convince you, you will surely appreciate Honda’s fuel efficiency, with an average EPA-estimated rating of up to 32 MPG city / 42 MPG hwy.
Should you decide to get a used Civic (which isn’t a bad idea at this time as used car prices have plummeted considerably since the coronavirus lockdowns began) as your first car, that’s fine too. Honda is a household name for a reason—it’s known for its longevity and reliability, so even a pre-owned one shouldn’t give you any problems.
Also, even if it does break down every once in a while, you certainly won’t have a problem looking for parts.
2019 Mazda 3 Sedan
Starting price: $21,500
If you’re looking for a more stylish vehicle, you may want to explore the 2019 Mazda 3. This sedan’s aesthetics makes it stand out from the rest, along with its reliability and safety. It can come equipped with available tech features like top-of-the-line audio systems and head-up display, making it a perfect fit for teens and young adults.
If you’re a parent and you’re worried about your kid’s safety on the road, the Mazda 3 is offered with ADAS functions, such as automatic emergency braking and rear cross traffic alert, to keep your kid’s driving experience as safe as possible.
Having these safety systems installed are important if you’re a beginner, so keep this in mind if you decide to go with a Mazda for your first car.
2020 Hyundai Ioniq
Starting price: $23,200
There is also an eco-friendly choice for first-time drivers, if going green is important to you.
The Hyundai Ioniq may just look like an ordinary hatchback, but it will surprise you with its outstanding powertrain. The Ioniq is offered with three powertrains: hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric.
Whichever powertrain you choose, you can be sure to enjoy efficiency. The plug-in hybrid variant can run on electric power for about 29 miles. The hybrid and battery electric variants also top the efficiency chart.
With fewer trips to the gas station, you’ll be able to save a lot of money.
2020 Toyota Tacoma
Starting Price: $26, 050
If you’re a young, off-road enthusiast, you may be interested in the new-generation Toyota Tacoma. Its aesthetically appealing headlights and LED inserts make this pickup truck quite a standout, especially if you love the look of a big, rugged truck.
Not to mention, it also offers a brand new infotainment system, with support for Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Amazon Alexa.
The Toyota Tacoma also offers the latest ADAS functions bundled together inside the Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) suite. One of its best features is an available 360-view camera that gives the driver a complete view of what is around the truck.
2020 Toyota Camry
Starting Price: $24, 425
The Camry is best known for its easy-to-use controls and outstanding fuel economy, which makes it one of the best choices for first-time drivers. This midsize sedan also features a comfortable and quiet cabin, making it perfect for long drives.
This model also features the Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) suite of ADAS features for peace of mind.
It’s hybrid variant, the 2019 Toyota Camry Hybrid, has been voted one of the safest sedans by Kelly Blue Book.
2020 Toyota Corolla
Starting Price: $19, 600
The Corolla is one of the most popular Toyota models, and has been for many decades. Known for its fuel economy, safety, and reliability, the Corolla has a reputation for being a favorite go-to car for first-time drivers.
Nowadays, most modern vehicle’s dashboards have become more and more complicated and confusing, given the number of tech features available. But Toyota has maintained the Corolla’s simplicity throughout the years (without compromising on tech advancements)—they’ve also kept the dashboard on their newer model-years relatively simple, which is a godsend for any new driver.
The 2020 Corolla is equipped with the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of ADAS functions. Inside the bundle, you’ll find features, such as an updated pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, which will surely be a big help to you during your first few months of driving.
The current model also has improved handling and enhanced fuel efficiency, making it the perfect choice for a first car.
2020 Honda CRV
Starting price: $25, 050
The 2020 Honda CRV is one of the safest and most affordable compact crossovers on the market. It has been awarded a 5-star overall rating from NHTSA, making it a top choice for young adults and teens.
This model offers a leather-trimmed and spacious interior, making it perfect for out-of-town road trips. It’s also equipped with the Honda Sensing collection of ADAS functions to aid with driving.
Although the 2020 Honda CRV is priced a bit higher than the other options on this list, as previously mentioned, Honda is designed to stick with you for the long haul. That’s why it’s worth the price.
2020 Toyota Rav4
Starting price: $25, 850
Looking for something that looks good, but also offers great power and efficiency? The 2020 Toyota Rav4 may top your wishlist. With pronounced wheel arches and robust shoulders, this vehicle is quite the head turner.
But of course, looks aren’t all this car has to offer a first-time driver. This model is also fully equipped with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, making it a safe bet for your first car.
All models come standard with Wi-fi Connect powered by Verizon, as well as hands-free access to Amazon Alexa and Apple CarPay compatibility. This makes it a perfect choice for young adults and teens.
Choosing your first car can be difficult. But in the end, it all boils down to preference. Whether it’s a truck, a sedan, a crossover, or an SUV, we recommend that you do your research thoroughly and consider several factors—such as fuel-efficiency, ease of use, affordability, and safety features, as previously mentioned—before making a decision.
But if you can, keep safety at the top of the list. Buying a “first” car that is fully equipped to help navigate the roads and freeways safely can certainly help boost the confidence of any first-time driver—and ease the fears and worries of their anxious parents.