For most new teen drivers buying a car is likely influenced by speed, style, color and brand. Parents of teen drivers, however, focus on safety and reliability while trying to not break the bank. Unfortunately, like settling on a curfew, finding a happy medium is not so easy. AAA understands finding the right car for your teen can be a big decision and hopes to simplify the process by releasing their list of top vehicles for teens.
Safety, style and reliability make this list of cars top picks by AAA Car Buying Service experts and savings are listed for Automobile Club of Southern California members who purchase the listed vehicle through a participating dealer in the Auto Club’s Car Buying Service:
Volkswagen Golf/Rabbit TDI: Despite having compact exterior dimensions, these hatchbacks are roomy and flexible. Handling is predictable and stability control has been an option since 2003. The TDI (Turbo Diesel) is the diesel option, with lower horsepower and much better fuel economy ratings than the gasoline powered versions. Teens should avoid the speedier GTI (Grand Tourer Injection) edition; it can be too powerful for less experienced drivers. National estimates show that the 2012 Volkswagen Golf 4 door hatchback is $20,096, 2.3 percent less than the Manufactured Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). Member savings: $1,126 off MSRP for 2012 Volkswagen Golf/Rabbit.
Ford Focus: In addition to being pleasant to drive and a solid performer with good handling, the latest Focus models also give parents the MyKey feature, which will limit speed, radio volume and prevent teens from turning off safety systems. The Ford Focus provides good fuel economy advertising up-to-40 hwy mpg on the SE with SFE package. National estimates indicate that the 2012 Ford Focus 5 door hatchback SE is $17,395, 8.9 percent less than the MSRP. Member savings: $1,396 off MSRP for 2012 Ford Focus.
Honda Civic: A perennial and parental favorite, the Honda Civic offers solid handling, a stout structure, easy maneuvering and good fuel economy. When shopping around, note model types, as the Si model may be too powerful for younger drivers. The 2012 Honda Civic 4 door LX is $18,695, 4.6 percent less than the MSRP, according to national figures. Member savings: $1,396 off MSRP for 2012 Honda Civic.
Hyundai Sonata (2011+): This newest Sonata is offered only with a four-cylinder engine. Handling is secure and the ride is comfortable. Beware of the turbocharged version; it is unnecessarily powerful for teenage drivers. The 2012 Hyundai Sonata 4 door sedan 2.4L SE is $23,253, 3.0 percent less than the MSRP, according to national figures. Member savings: $1,677 off MSRP for 2012 Hyundai Sonata.
Ford Fusion: The Ford Fusion features secure handling and a comfortable ride. Increasing safety, upper trim levels in recent years can be equipped with an optional cross traffic alert feature, which makes backing out of a parking space with limited visibility safer. Choosing the four-cylinder motor or gasoline-electric hybrid are better choices for teen drivers. National figures indicate that the 2012 Ford Fusion SE is $21,292, 10.4 percent less than the MSRP.
Kia Sportage: TheSportage, one of Kia’s midsize crossover utility vehicles, handles well and received 4 starts and a “no tip” evaluation in the NHTSA New Car Assessment Program. The Sportage is economical, dependable and comes with a wide range of safety features. The 2012 Kia Sportage 2-wheel drive SX is $26,563, 4.1 percent less than the MSRP, according to national estimates. Member savings: $1,253 off MSRP for 2012 Kia Sportage.
The Auto Club’s pre-arranged pricing for its members is regularly re-negotiated by the Auto Club and subject to change.
AAA’s top picks are selected by its AAA Auto Buying experts who test drive and evaluate hundreds of vehicles each year. AAA provides free vehicle reviews, pricing information and more for consumers online at AAA.com. You can also download the AAA Auto Buying Tools App here and access information on the go.
AAA offers a wide variety of resources to guide parents through the process of their teens learning how to drive through its teen driver safety website—TeenDriving.AAA.com. This interactive site provides parents and teens with specific information based on where they live and where they are in the learning process— a downloadable brochure on a parent’s guide to choosing a vehicle “So Your Teen Wants a Car” can also be found here.