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Auto Club Recommends Best Cars For Teens

teen driver gets keys

Buying a first car can be tough for teens and parents. Not every teen knows what to look for and some parents have forgotten what it’s like to get that first car and slip in behind the wheel.


During National Teen Driver Safety Week, Oct. 19-25, the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center (ARC) reminds teens who drive and their parents to review what it means to be a safe and responsible driver.  The learning isn’t over just because a teen-ager passes a driver’s license test – they’re actually just beginning to get driving experience. 


“While teens seek freedom and mobility with a first car, what new drivers with limited driving experience really need is safe, reliable and affordable transportation,” said ARC Manager of Automotive Engineering Megan McKernan. “A brand new car may be the most desirable option, but in most cases, a previously owned model is a good solution.”  


The ARC recently released its 2014 list of Best Cars for Teens.  The list can help guide parents during the decision-making process when buying or leasing a vehicle for their teen driver or determining which existing family car to let their novice driver use.


In general, the ARC recommends a midsize car that has a four-cylinder engine, an automatic transmission, and high crash-test scores from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). A midsize car is big enough to protect occupants in a crash but small enough for a novice driver to handle easily, according to McKernan.


A four-cylinder engine limits a car’s ability to accelerate, and, it’s hoped, a teen’s desire to show off. Automatic transmissions are easier to driver and allow a novice to focus on steering, proper speed and braking. The crash-test scores were taken from NHTSA’s web site,; The ARC selected only vehicles that scored a maximum 5 stars overall.   Cars not tested by NHTSA were not included in the list.  The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) listed is for base-model vehicles with automatic transmissions.

Make     Model     MSRP
Chevrolet     Sonic 5     $15,595
Hyundai     Elantra     $18,010
Toyota     Corolla     $18,195
Dodge     Dart     $18,240
Chevrolet     Cruze     $18,345
Mazda     3, 5-Door   $19,740
Subaru     Legacy     $21,090
Kia     Optima     $22,300
Ford     Fusion     $22,795
Nissan      Altima     $22,980
Volkswagen   Passat (5 cyldr)     $23,065
Chevrolet     Malibu     $23,165
Toyota     Camry     $23,165
Mazda     6     $23,490
Honda     Accord     $23,545
Hyundai     Sonata Hybrid     $26,810
Ford     Fusion Hybrid     $27,095
Honda     Accord Hybrid     $29,945
Buick     LaCrosse e-Assist     $34,460
Ford     Fusion Energi     $35,525
Lincoln      MKZ     $36,085
Lincoln     MKZ Hybrid     $36,085
Toyota     Avalon Hybrid     $36,615
Lexus     ES 300h     $40,410
Audi     A6     $44,345
Audi     A6 Quattro     $46,095
BMW     528i     $50,425
BMW     5281 xDrive     $52,725
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The Automobile Club of Southern California is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the following California counties: Inyo, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.