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What is the best car for a male teenager?


Question: My son is seventeen and lives at home, what car would be good for him?  Will he be able to carry his own insurance?

Answer: You’re in luck; we’ve compiled a list of our top vehicle picks for teen drivers. (See "The best cars for teen drivers")

We assembled our list by looking at safety information from Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, information on pricing from Edmunds.com, reliability data from TrueDelta, and the ever-so-important fuel economy from Fuelly.

Finally, we looked at the cost of insurance.  The auto insurance rates shown on our list of cars will differ from yours, since your personal information like location, miles driven per year, etc. are rating factors that change premiums. However, our list will give you a general idea of how our top picks' car insurance rates stack up against each other and give you a starting point for getting your own quotes.

At the top of our list was the 2008 Audi A3, but there are also models manufactured by Honda, Ford, Nissan and many others, so likely there is a car that you and your son can agree on would be a good fit for him.  If not, you can do your own research using our general strategy:

  • Start with the top safety choices from whatever year or years fall within your price range. Safer cars generally have better claims records, and that allows insurance companies to charge less for premiums.
  • Then look at gas mileage. That should be your largest ongoing expense after insurance, but the fewer miles your teen drives, the smaller the impact of gas mileage.
  • Then look at reliability records. Ultimately, after a certain number of years, reliability records become, well, less reliable, and what matters is how well the previous owner took care of the car.

Adding a young driver to your policy, especially a male, can cause your car insurance rates to go way up, even double in some cases.  I’d advise narrowing down your choices to a few vehicles and then getting rate quotes on each one, to see if the difference in auto premiums will make one car stand out as a better buy.

It may be possible for your son to get a policy of his own, but typically it’s more expensive and it’s more complicated than just adding him and his car to your policy.  First, you’d have to contact your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to make sure your son can put a car in his name as a minor.  Not all states allow this.

If he can title a car in his name, then your son will need to see if he can find someone to insure him as a minor.  Most car insurance companies won’t issue a car insurance policy to a minor unless a parent signs on it as well. 

If he is put on your policy, instead of his own, there are discounts you both could take advantage of, such as multi-car (for insuring more than one car on a policy) and multi-policy discounts (if you have your home and auto policies bundled with the same insurer). 

Shopping around for the best deal on car insurance is a must when adding a teenager to your policy, as is making sure you receive all the available discounts, including a good student discount, if he is eligible. (See "A parent's guide to insuring a teen driver")

More articles from Penny Gusner

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7 Responses to "What is the best car for a male teenager?"
  1. Visitor

    Thanks! This is very helpful list.

  2. Visitor

    I am an adult who had an A3...too fast for a teenager, high repair bills, terrible on snow without quattro. I would recommend a nice used Subaru, unless you want your son getting speeding tickets.

  3. Visitor

    You gave some good answers to obvious questions but you didn't LIST the 10 best choices. You just gave me a study list.

  4. Visitor

    This is a nice article, however I like the website car predictor. They help you rank your preferences after selecting your filters and then give your top choices. I would definitely recommend checking this site to validate your car choice before making a purchase.

  5. Visitor

    My insurance agent suggested a compact 4-door car for my son, other than red. He ended up with a used Saturn sedan, that has served him well.

  6. Visitor

    Great article!

  7. Visitor

    I drove a classic 1969 Galaxy as a first car. My parents wanted something big and heavy around me. Not something made of fiber glass. In hindsight, I guess they weren't too worried about those I might run into.