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Top 5 cars for teens (November 2018)

The safest, cheapest things on four wheels.

Brian Cooley Editor at Large
Brian Cooley is CNET's Editor at large and has been with the brand since 1995. He currently focuses on electrification of vehicles but also follows the big trends in smart home, digital healthcare, 5G, the future of food, and augmented & virtual realities. Cooley is a sought after presenter by brands and their agencies when they want to understand how consumers react to new technologies. He has been a regular featured speaker at CES, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week and The PHM HealthFront™. He was born and raised in Silicon Valley when Apple's campus was mostly apricots.
Expertise Automotive technology, Smart home, Digital health Credentials
  • 5G Technician, ETA International
Brian Cooley
2 min read
Volvo

Parents and teens agree on little, perhaps least on what car a kid should have. I'm here to settle those arguments with a clear, logical list of the five best cars for teens based on IIHS rankings for safety, size, tech and estimated cost. Kids, I can tell you right now you're not going to like what Uncle Cooley's about to lay on you, but at least you'll be alive to curse me out. I'll take that.
5. 2011 Ford Flex ($8,700)
Ouch. It's gonna be super uncool rolling up to school in this slab-sided thing but I'm giving you the gift of physical fitness: You'll need to ditch your Flex a mile from school and walk in. Via back streets. Wearing a balaclava.

ford-flex-2009-1600-19

I told you this wasn't going to be pretty, but the Flex is a big, solid ride that keeps it copacetic and does so for as little as $8,700, or about $1.89 a pound.

Ford

4. 2013 Ford Fusion ($8,100)
Since this is an iconic rental car, you can convince friends and haters it's actually your Hertz ride while your BMW M3 is being restored. You can sell that line of bull for about a year, then you'll need to get an M3 or get out of town.

3. 2013 VW Passat ($6,600)
At least this is a VW, a car with some enduring cool. But it's a Passat, so that level of cool isn't very high. We gave this car a miserable 5.5 rating when it was new, mostly for its horrendous cabin tech. You're gonna rip that out and drop in a bargain CarPlay head unit anyway. 

Watch this: See the top 5 cars for the new teen driver

2. 2007 Volvo S80 ($3,900)
You'll be safe as hell in this car, but your reputation will be on life support. An old S80 screams "grandpa's car," which might actually be your out: Just say gramps died and you inherited this thing but, remember, if he comes to graduation, it's all blown.

1. 2005 Volvo XC90 ($3,700)
It's the oldest, biggest, cheapest thing on our list and safer than working at a bubble wrap store. But at least I got you into an SUV, right? And old Volvos have always been cool in an old, uncool way. This one tests that theory, hard.