Auto insurance coverage for adolescents can quickly get expensive, especially if your young driver just got their license or has been involved in an at-fault accident. One way to help keep premium costs down is to stress safe and responsible driving.

Another is to pursue applicable discounts, such as a rate reduction for being a good student in school. You can also possibly save money by having your teenager drive a vehicle that costs less to insure.

Eager to learn which makes and models are most recommended when your goal is to save money on auto insurance? This article provides cash-cutting tips and suggestions on vehicles that insurers prefer.

Key Highlights
  • Car insurance companies charge less to cover some vehicle models than others when a teenage driver is behind the wheel.
  • Honda Civic is a popular car for teenage drivers and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also named the Civic the safest car on the roads. 
  • Teens and young drivers usually save money on car insurance by being listed as a driver on their parent’s policy instead of having their own policy.
  • If your teen is attending a college or university more than 100 miles away from home and they don’t bring a vehicle with them, you can get a “student away at school” discount.

What are the best cars for new drivers?

If you have a teen driver in your family and the goal is to keep your premium bill reasonable, it pays to do your homework. That’s because insurers charge less to cover some vehicle models than others when an adolescent is behind the wheel.

The best cars for teenagers offer several combined benefits. These include recommended safety features like electronic stability control, airbags, anti-lock brakes and accident rollover protection.

They also tend to cost less to maintain and have good records for reliability and longevity. Vehicles with better gas mileage are also important, particularly nowadays with rising gas prices. And, of course, the best cars are also those that are the cheapest to insure.

“Since insurance rates are typically higher for newer drivers, it’s best to find a used car that will not require full coverage,” recommends Lauren McKenzie, an insurance broker at Learnandserve.org powered by A Plus Insurance.

Learn more about what is the best car insurance for new drivers.

Kelley Blue Book’s best used cars for teens that cost less than $20,000:

  • 2017 Toyota RAV4
  • 2018 Mazda CX-5
  • 2017 Honda CR-V
  • 2020 Toyota Corolla
  • 2019 Mazda3
  • 2017 Honda Accord
  • 2017 Toyota Prius
  • 2018 Kia Sportage
  • 2018 Honda Civic
  • 2019 Chevrolet Equinox

Kelley Blue Book’s best used cars for teens that cost less than $15,000:

  • 2018 Kia Soul
  • 2017 Toyota Corolla
  • 2018 Mazda3
  • 2015 Honda CR-V
  • 2016 Mazda CX-5
  • 2015 Toyota Prius

Another reason to drive a used vehicle? Not to worry about making a monthly car payment on top of your insurance payments. McKenzie recommends used Chevys, Dodges, and Toyotas as better values.

“The good news is that if the driver stays with the same insurer for a few years, the insurance prices will soon decrease. At that time, they should consider purchasing or financing a newer vehicle if desired,” McKenzie says.

Shawn Laib, a Kent, Washington-based car insurance expert, advises purchasing a used Honda Civic or Toyota Camry.

“These are often the cheapest to insure for teenagers because they are reliable and have great safety features,” Laib says. “The SE version of the Camry is a great family car that comes with a lot of cutting-edge tech; they look great and have lower insurance rates. And the Civic has minimal distractions. It handles well and can be driven just about anywhere with the peace of mind that great safety features will help prevent injuries and car accidents.”

Attorney Ben Michael cautions against solely prioritizing the lowest cost.

“While it can be tempting to go for the cheapest car you can find for your teen driver, I recommend going a step or two up from this to get them something more reliable and likely to last,” he says. “Make sure you look into the car’s history through Carfax or similar services to avoid buying a lemon.”

Read more about how long are you considered a new driver.

If your wallet is more generous when it comes to your adolescent’s auto, there are lots of viable options to consider, including new vehicles. Fortunately, brand-new cars come with the latest safety features and a warranty (usually three years or more), providing peace of mind that your new young driver will be better protected.

Below are the rates for the 2022 models of vehicles with high safety ratings for an 18-year-old male with full coverage insurance.

Average annual insurance costs for 2022 vehicle models for 18-year-olds
MakeModelAverage Annual Premium
ChevroletEquinox$6,328
HondaAccord$6,598
HondaCivic$6,918
HondaCR-V$5,609
KiaSoul$6,167
KiaSportage$5,969
MazdaCX-5$5,644
MazdaMazda3$6,930
ToyotaCorolla$7,183
ToyotaPrius$7,165
ToyotaRAV4$6,170

What’s the best way to get cheap insurance for your teen?

Determined to save the most money on auto insurance coverage for your teenage driver?

Try these tips:

  • Keep your teen on your policy. “Teenage drivers are best off starting on their parent’s insurance policy first, assuming they live in the same household,” suggests McKenzie. “Most adults have had their policy with the same insurer for years, so they are likely already getting good insurance prices. By adding a teenage driver, you may get discounts for multiple vehicles as well as multiple drivers.”
  • Drop comprehensive and/or collision coverage if your young driver has an older car. Dropping this coverage can yield significant discounts on your premium. One option is to keep comprehensive but eliminate collision coverage if the vehicle is paid off, or select a higher deductible for just collision and a lower deductible for comprehensive coverage. Be careful to calculate how much coverage you’re potentially losing (the value of the car minus your deductible) versus how much you’d save.
  • Shop around for insurance quotes from various carriers and compare coverages, discounts, and premiums carefully to find the best deal. First, contact your existing insurer and learn how much it will cost to add your teenage driver to your policy so that you have a baseline to measure against.
  • Inquire about applicable discounts. One of the most commonly applied is a good student discount, applicable if your child earns a B average or better in high school or college – up to age 25. You can save even more if your young driver takes an optional defensive driving course for which your carrier provides a discount. Also, if your teen will be attending a college or university more than 100 miles away from home and don’t need to bring a vehicle with them, you can apply for a “student away at school” discount.
  • Be sure to update your policy as your teen’s driving skills improve. Your young driver may qualify for an accident-free discount, especially if they are below age 21 and maintain a good driving record with no claims over a set period. “As your teen gets more experience behind the wheel, their rates will likely go down. Be sure to update your policy accordingly to get the best premium rate possible,” says Stine.
  • Use a telematics device and/or dash cam in your teen’s car. Your carrier may offer a telematics device that, when connected to your teen’s vehicle, can yield crucial data about their driving habits. This may result in a lower rate quote. Additionally, inquire with your carrier if using a dash cam device can reduce your premium.
  • Assign the right car to your teen driver. Your child probably has a designated vehicle they exclusively drive or share with you. But if this car is the most valuable in your household, you might want to reassign your teenager to the cheapest vehicle, which can lower your rate. Or, if your daughter or son is assigned to an auto that has a high safety rating based on government crash tests and other criteria, you may also pay less.

What is the best starter car for a teenager?

Margarette Stine, automotive expert with 4WheelOnline in Tampa, says you cannot go wrong with a Honda Civic, Toyota Camry, Subaru Outback, or Ford Escape as a teenager’s first vehicle.

“The Honda Civic is a popular car for teenage drivers because it is both affordable and safe,” she says.

“The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has named the Civic one of the safest cars on the road. It comes equipped with various safety features that help protect drivers and passengers in the event of an accident, including airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control. It’s also one of the most affordable cars to insure. This makes it a good choice for parents looking for a safe and affordable car for their teenagers.”

Likewise, the Toyota Camry earns high acclaim.

“The IIHS has given the Camry its highest rating for safety, and Kelly Blue Book named it one of the 10 best cars for teens in 2016. In addition, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners rates the Camry as one of the least expensive cars to insure,” adds Stine.

How much does car insurance cost for teens and young drivers?

Teens and young drivers can save the most money on car insurance by being listed as a driver on a parent’s policy rather than having their own policies.

See the rates for drivers aged 16-21 in the table below.

Annual insurance rates for females and males on their own and on a parent’s policy
AgeParent with FemaleFemale PolicyParent with MaleMale Policy
16$4,144$6,782$4,462$7,625
17$3,861$5,576$4,156$6,272
18$3,584$4,918$3,865$5,565
19$3,112$3,615$3,363$4,132
20$2,940$3,305$3,168$3,759
21$2,742$2,702$2,958$3,026

Learn more in detail about how much it costs to add a teenager to car insurance in 2022.

What should you consider when shopping for used cars for teens?

Before committing to a used vehicle for your young driver, follow these best practices:

  • Check closely for safety ratings: At a minimum, look for good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests. If you are checking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), only consider vehicles that have a four or five-star rating.
  • The bigger the better when it comes to safety: If your teen is in an accident, typically the larger the vehicle, the better the outcome. This doesn’t mean you have to put your teen in a Hummer, just avoid the smallest cars and consider going for a midsize or above if possible. A small SUV weighs roughly the same as a midsize car making these vehicles a good choice.
  • Steer clear of sports cars: The ideal vehicle for a new driver is never a sporty, speedy model. A powerful engine and a hankering for speed make these autos a recipe for disaster when it comes to teen drivers. Stick to a boring small or mid-size sedan with a relatively smaller engine.
  • Opt for an auto with electronic stability control (ESC): ESC helps a driver maintain control of the vehicle in slippery conditions and curves. It also has a major impact on accident risk. ESC should be standard equipment on any vehicle you are considering for a teen. ESC was required as standard equipment starting in 2012.

Check out our other article on whether it is cheaper for a teen to be listed on a parent’s car insurance policy.

Resources & Methodology

Sources:

Kelley Blue Book. “Best Cars for Teens: The List Every Parent Needs.” Accessed October 2022.

Methodology:

CarInsurance.com commissioned Quadrant Information Services in 2022 to pull rates for an 18-year-old male driver with a good driving record and full coverage insurance driving 2022 vehicle models.

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Contributing Researcher

Erik J. Martin is a Chicago area-based freelance writer whose articles have been published by AARP The Magazine, The Motley Fool, The Costco Connection, USAA, US Chamber of Commerce, Bankrate, The Chicago Tribune, and other publications. He often writes on topics related to insurance, real estate, personal finance, business, technology, health care, and entertainment. Erik also hosts a podcast and publishes several blogs, including Martinspiration.com and Cineversegroup.com.