8 Great Used Cars for Teenagers for Under $10,000
Graduation ceremonies are in full swing as this post is written, and a popular gift for teenagers at this time of year is a car. Your son or daughter may need a car to take to college in the fall, or perhaps you’ve got a younger driver in the house in possession of a newly minted license and a voracious appetite for your car keys. In either case, the subject of a car for the kid(s) has almost certainly arisen in your household, and it has almost certainly sparked heated debate over what to get and how much to spend.
Your kid wants a set of wheels they’ll look good in. Period. But you want your teenager driving a car that is affordable, safe, and dependable, preferably one with a low cost of ownership that is cheap to maintain and insure. But when you’re faced with a vast market of used cars for sale, selecting one that meets all of these criteria is a daunting task.
Don’t worry. We’ve made it easy. Speedy Daddy has picked eight cars that you need to consider for your kid, saving you the time and hassle of digging all this data up on your own.
To make our list of eight recommended models, each contender needed to:
- Sell for less than $10,000 with average mileage
- Weigh at least 3,000 pounds
- Get impressive crash-test scores
- Rate highly for reliability
- Offer a four-cylinder engine for better fuel economy
- Have four doors for lower insurance rates
- Seat no more than five passengers
- Be less than 10 years old
Your little boy or baby girl might look at the models on this list and throw a whole bunch of attitude your way, but don’t give in. When they’re on their own, and you’re not pitching in to buy a set of wheels, they can get whatever they want. For now, tell them they can choose one of these affordable, safe, and dependable used cars, which we present in alphabetical order by make and model, or they can continue to ride a bike.
We’re pretty sure they’ll trade-in the Schwinn.
2007-2008 Ford Fusion/Mercury Milan
The Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan twins are midsize sedans with good crash-test scores, excellent reliability ratings, and fuel economy rating of 23 mpg in combined driving. That’s with the four-cylinder engine. Get the V6, and mileage drops. Buyers in snow country might not care, though, since the V6 could be paired with an all-wheel-drive system.
Traction control and antilock brakes were optional, but all 2007 and 2008 models have side-impact airbags for the front seat occupants, and side-curtain airbags for the front and rear seats. The 2008 Fusion and Milan could also be optioned with Sync hands-free wireless connectivity.
Given how much time today’s teenagers spend poking their fingers at their phones, this is technology that any parent can appreciate.
2005-2006 Honda Accord
Choosing the Accord over the Fusion/Milan twins means you’ll be getting a midsize sedan with higher miles and less equipment, a result of the Accord’s ability to retain its value like few other cars in its class.
There’s a good reason the Accord costs more, though. It’s basically bulletproof in terms of reliability. Add excellent crash-test scores (except for a “Poor” rating for rear-impact injury prevention in IIHS testing), and a combined fuel economy rating of 25 mpg with the four-cylinder engine and the automatic transmission, and the Accord ought to prove both safe and cheap to operate.
Just keep in mind that traction control, stability control, and brake assist were offered only with the V6 engine.
2005 Honda CR-V
Honda’s reputation for reliability also boosts used Honda CR-V values higher than other compact crossover SUVs, but given the CR-V’s impressive dependability record and this particular model year’s outstanding crash-test ratings, we think it’s a smart buy even with the higher odometer readings.
In 2005, all CR-Vs received standard antilock brakes and stability control, prompting the NHTSA to upgrade the SUV’s rollover resistance rating to 4 Stars. All-wheel drive was optional, and fuel economy ranged from a low of 19 mpg in the city to a high of 26 mpg on the highway.
2006-2008 Hyundai Sonata
Equipped with standard antilock brakes, traction and stability control, six airbags, impressive crash-test scores, and better-than-average reliability ratings, this version of the Hyundai Sonata makes plenty of sense for a young driver. Plus, the Sonata was rated to get 24 mpg in combined driving with its four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission. In 2007, Hyundai added a tire-pressure monitoring system as standard equipment.
One thing to remember about the Sonata is that it came with an impressive 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. As a used car, Hyundai drops the coverage to 5 years or 60,000 miles, but just knowing that the Sonata is engineered to go the distance brings a certain peace of mind.
2006.5-2008 Kia Optima
The redesigned Kia Optima was a huge improvement over the previous model when it arrived halfway through the 2006 model year, but it remained invisible to family sedan buyers and, as a result, simply has not held its value over time. That means the safe, dependable, and fuel-efficient Optima represents an excellent bargain.
Reliability with this model has been slightly better than average, and the Optima received excellent crash-test scores – aside from a “Marginal” roof-crush-strength rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Antilock brakes with brake assist, traction control, and stability control were available on models with an automatic transmission. Fuel economy with the four-cylinder engine and the automatic rates 25 mpg in combined driving, and the Optima’s original powertrain warranty coverage was good for 10 years or 100,000 miles.
In fact, you might even find a 2008 Optima model that still has its full original warranty in place, including bumper-to-bumper and roadside assistance coverage, which was good for the first 5 years or 60,000 miles traveled.
2006-2007 Mazda 6
In addition to being quite fun to drive, the Mazda 6 is available as a four-door sedan, a five-door hatchback, and a station wagon. All three versions came with antilock brakes and traction control, but stability control was reserved for the all-wheel-drive Mazdaspeed 6 model.
You don’t want your kid in that turbocharged high-performance sedan. Stick with the four-cylinder 6i model, equipped with a peppy motor and a 23-mpg combined fuel economy rating with the available automatic transmission. Wagons were only offered with a thirsty V6 engine. Side-impact and side-curtain airbags were optional on the base 6i models in 2006, but Mazda made them standard across the board for 2007.
Reliability for this car has been slightly better than average, and as long as the side airbags are present and accounted for, the Mazda 6 received impressive crash-test ratings, though the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found rear-impact injury protection to rate “Marginal.”
2003-2007 Subaru Impreza
Before your teenager gets all excited and asks for a WRX, let’s be clear: we’re talking about the standard Impreza and Outback Sport models here. Forget the WRX.
Thanks to its standard all-wheel-drive system, the compact Impreza is heavy enough to meet our 3,000-pound curb weight criterion, though 2006 was the first year the Impreza sedans weighed that much. The weight gain came the same year Subaru added standard side-impact airbags and whiplash reducing front head restraint designs to all Impreza models. Safety ratings, however, are excellent even without the side airbags, and reliability for all years proved better than average. Fuel economy ranged from 19 mpg in the city to 26 mpg on the highway, depending on transmission choice.
2004 Toyota Highlander
In 2004, Toyota added stability control and a tire pressure monitoring system to its popular Highlander crossover SUV, a vehicle that has proven to be among the most resilient models on the market with regard to reliability. Crash-test ratings for this model year were impressive, though rear-impact injury protection is “Marginal” at best.
The Highlander is a midsize SUV, equipped with five standard seating positions and a four-cylinder engine that gets 22 mpg in combined driving. A V6 engine is available, and V6 models can be equipped with all-wheel drive.
The Highlander can also be equipped with a third-row seat for seven-passenger capacity, but we don’t recommend this for young drivers. The idea is to limit the number of extra people causing distraction while your child is driving, not add them.
SPEEDY DADDY SAYS…
Car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers. Once your son or daughter learns how to drive, give them the right tool for the job – a car that’s relatively heavy, equipped with modern safety features, and rated favorably in crash tests. The lower to the ground it is, the better it will handle, and the less likely it will be to roll over in a lateral skid. And by sticking with a model that is proven to be dependable, that is equipped with a four-cylinder engine, and that is relatively conservative, the car ought to be inexpensive to own and maintain.
Here’s what to do with those savings: Invest in a great driver’s education program for your teen, so that the most precious person in your life can develop the skills to drive safely, responsibly, and to negotiate dangerous situations when – not if – they arise.
– Christian Wardlaw
Category: 8 Great, Buy, Car Advice, Car Lists, Car Ratings, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Safety Ratings, Subaru, Toyota · Tags: good cars for kids to take to college, great used cars for teenagers, safe and affordable used cars, safe and fuel efficient used cars, safe and reliable used cars, safe used cars for teenagers, used cars that are safe for teenagers