AAA's Top Cars for Teens

Top Cars for Teens

For many teen drivers, decisions about buying a car are likely influenced by its speed, style, color and brand. For parents, though, the focus is typically on safety and reliability – and not breaking the bank. To help families simplify the car-buying process, AAA compiled a list of top vehicles for teens.

  • 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, because it can be too powerful for less experienced drivers. The TrueCar national market average* of the 2012 Volkswagen Golf 4-door hatchback is $20,096, 2.3 percent less than the MSRP.
  • 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 and 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 model with SFE package. The TrueCar national market average* of the 2012 Ford Focus 5-door hatchback SE is $17,395, 8.9 percent less than the MSRP.
  • 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, do note model types, as the Si model may be too powerful for younger drivers. The TrueCar national market average* of the 2012 Honda Civic 4-door LX is $18,695, 4.6 percent less than the MSRP.
  • Hyundai Sonata (2011+): The newest Sonata is offered only with a four-cylinder engine. Handling is secure and the ride is comfortable. Beware of the turbocharged version, because it is unnecessarily powerful for teenage drivers. The TrueCar national market average* of the 2012 Hyundai Sonata 4-door sedan 2.4L SE is $23,253, 3.0 percent less than the MSRP.
  • 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. The TrueCar national market average* of the 2012 Ford Fusion SE is $21,292, 10.4 percent less than the MSRP.
  • Kia Sportage: The Sportage, one of Kia’s midsize crossover utility vehicles, handles well and received 4 stars and a “no tip” evaluation in the NHTSA New Car Assessment Program. The Sportage is economical and dependable, and it comes with a wide range of safety features. The TrueCar national market average* of the 2012 Kia Sportage 2-wheel drive SX is $26,563, 4.1 percent less than the MSRP.

AAA’s top picks are selected by AAA Auto Buying experts who test-drive and evaluate hundreds of vehicles each year. AAA provides vehicle reviews, localized pricing information and more at Additional information on AAA Auto Buying is available at You can also download the AAA Auto Buying Tools App here and access information on the go.

AAA also offers a wide variety of resources at to guide parents and their teens through the learning-to-drive process. In addition, a downloadable brochure, “So Your Teen Wants a Car,” can also be found here.


* The TrueCar market average is estimated based on the national average of recent vehicle transactions, including destination and delivery charges after incentives that are subject to change, but does not include tax, title, licensing, documentation or processing fees, other state and governmental charges and/or fees, or any other charges or fees allowed by law. Percent discount is rounded to the nearest tenth.