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The FCG List: 10 Cheap, Safe New Cars for Teens

2011 Chevrolet Cruze

2011 Chevrolet Cruze

Tired of being the family chauffeur to your teenage son or daughter? If they’re responsible and you think the time is right to get them their own car, there are some inexpensive and safe choices to consider.

First of all, you want your teen’s ride to be safe. That’s why all the vehicles in this two-part series are highly rated by government safety agencies. Second, here at FamilyCarGuide, we’ve arbitrarily set a price cap at $20,000. Sure, there are cars that have higher trim models that exceed that limitation, but what we’re after here is a listing of ten cheap, safe 2011 rides for teens.

2011 Chevrolet Cruze

It’s not the cheapest on the list, nor the most expensive. But what the all-new 2011 Chevrolet Cruze has going for it is a low starting price of $16,275, great looks, good handling, quiet and comfortable ride and Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Among Cruze’s safety features are 10 standard airbags, including rear side and front knee airbags. Also impressive is the compact car’s EPA-estimated 36 mpg highway fuel economy. See why TheCarConnection editors give the 2011 Chevy Cruze an overall 8.3 (out of 10 rating) here.

2011 Ford Fiesta

2011 Ford Fiesta

2011 Ford Fiesta

 While adults might not be partial to the lime green color that’s offered, the 2011 Ford Fiesta microcar does come in other colors -- like this black one. The Fiesta, a big hit in Europe since 2008, finally arrived in the U.S. in 2010. With its low starting price of $13,320, the Fiesta already offers a strong value proposition to price-conscious parents, but the IIHS Top Safety Pick is another equally compelling reason to buy. Fun to drive with its 120-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, the Fiesta is easy on the gas as well, achieving 29 mpg city/38 mpg highway with automatic transmission. Also see TheCarConnection review of the 2011 Ford Fiesta.

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Comments (5)
  1. Subaru Impreza wagon: AWD, safe, practical.

  2. When it comes to buying a teen a car, the most important concern is the kid's safety. Forget the mpg, 0-60, or tech numbers; car accidents are the #1 killer of young adults. None of these cars compare to a full sized sedan or pick-up truck during a collision. If price is an issue buy a used vehicle, 20k is too much anyway.

  3. I agree completely with Larry!!! I'm a 18 year old by the way driving a 2010 Civic most of the time and a G37 at night. I'd laugh at my parents if they ever thought of any of these cars. Better off paying 2K to 3K for a 02 Camry if you ask me.

  4. The industry and the state governments are missing an opportunity on this subject. Why not create a special class of car for teen drivers? When I was a teenager we were allowed to get a moped license at 15, then graduate to a motorcycle (side note-no way mom and dad would have let me get a cycle). You could make a vehicle that has a limited top speed and only needs to be a 1 or 2 seater. You could focus the design on visibility and safety. You could make it electric since you don't want your teen to get too far from home anyway. And you could let the kids start driving at 15 if the vehicle is limited in top speed and restricted from certain roads. Harry might have been mortified to be driving a safety-mobile but it would be good for him, builds character. (G37, seriously? I was borrowing my dad's 9 year old Chevette at 18.) PS - make your kids drive a crappy car so when they get their first real job they can go buy a nice car and feel good about what they've accomplished.

  5. @Larry, Harry, and Tom - all great comments, thank you. Yes, a full-size car or a pickup offers the potential of faring better in the event of a collision. And buying used is certainly recommended when price is primary, right after safety. And, teens should not only be encouraged but required to pay something toward the purchase of any car for their driving needs. Ownership does help build a sense of responsibility. Don't miss part two of this series for some more choices among 2011 vehicles -- which, after all, is the subject of this Family Car Guide piece. Thanks again for the comments.

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