Driving for the first time can be nerve-wracking. What’s even more stressful? Your first car purchase. It’s a lot to take in, and there are a lot of aspects to keep in mind. Is the vehicle safe? Does it have all the features necessary for a comfortable ride? That’s a lot of questions to ask yourself before purchasing a car for the first time. Thankfully, we will take all the guesswork out of the process with our guide to the best cars for new drivers.
The Best Cars for New Drivers
We made a list of the most reliable and safe vehicles on the market. Most are sedans because sedans are merely one of the safest vehicles you can buy, although there are a few other surprises on the list. All MSRPs and feature information are taken from the manufacturer’s website.
These 20 vehicles will last a while, protect passengers in an accident, and provide an enjoyable ride!
1. Honda Civic
(image via Honda)
The Honda Civic has a lot to offer. The first thing we want to mention is that the Honda Civic is inexpensive, which makes it one of the best cars for new drivers. Even if you purchased a new model, it would only cost you around $24,950 for the base trim. Naturally, older models would be even cheaper. The 2024 Civic comes with Honda Sensing, which has road departure mitigation, lane keep assist, forward collision warnings, and lane departure warnings.
To add to this, the Honda Civic is reliable and just powerful enough for new drivers to become comfortable with their surroundings. In the past, the NHTSA gives has given the Honda Civic a five-star crash test rating and that trend has continued with the 2024 model. The final thing we’d like to mention is that the Honda Civic comes standard with a 7-inch touch-screen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, helping you keep your eyes on the road instead of your phone.
2. Toyota Corolla
(image via Toyota)
The Toyota Corolla has long been one of the most reliable vehicles you can buy. It’s well known for lasting a decade or more as long as it’s properly cared for. On top of that, it’s also super cheap. You can get a 2024 Corolla for as low as $22,000. Naturally, older models are just as good and cheaper, although they may come with different features.
The Corolla was the IIHS Top Safety Pick from 2018 to 2023 – and that continues with the 2024 model. We suggest getting any one of these model years due to the superior safety ratings that make it one of the best cars for new drivers. The 2023 Corolla comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense, which has a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alerts, and Automatic High Beams.
3. Honda HR-V
(image via Honda)
The Honda HR-V is a small SUV, chosen for those that need a little extra space. SUVs are often a concern for new drivers due to rollover risk but less so with the HR-V. The Honda HR-V has a crash-test rating of five stars overall.
The Honda HR-V is pretty cheap for an SUV, with the MRSP for the 2023 model being $23,800. While other models are cheaper, we would suggest purchasing a 2020 or newer as they’re safer than the older versions. The 2019 HR-V was IIHS’s Top Safety Pick of the Year, and this year the safety ratings are just as good for the redesigned HR-V.
4. Subaru Impreza
(image via Subaru)
The Subaru Impreza has a few options that make it unique compared to others on our list of the best cars for new drivers. Most notably, it comes with a hatchback trim, although it is a bit more expensive than the sedan version. The starting MSRP for the basic trim Subaru Impreza is $22,995.
The Impreza is almost like a cross between a sedan and an SUV, although it doesn’t have the same rollover risk as SUVs have. The crash test ratings are also top-notch at five stars. The 2019 Impreza was a Top Safety Pick with the IIHS, so that or 2020, 2021, 2022 or 2023 versions are great for new drivers. Safety features include adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist and forward collision warning.
(image via Mazda)
The Mazda 3 has a bit more power than the average car. The newest Mazda 3 trims have around 190 horsepower, while most sedans range from 120-170 horsepower. Even though it’s got more oomph, it still gets 28 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway, meaning it won’t cost as much at the pump as some other vehicles on this list.
The Mazda 3 comes with Mazda’s Connect infotainment system and great safety features, including blind spot monitoring, Lane Keep Assist, forward automatic emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert, and Lane Departure Warnings. The starting MSRP for the basic trim is $24,650.
6. Toyota Camry
(image via Toyota)
Few vehicles are more reliable and safer than the Toyota Camry, not to mention it’s often one of the top mid-size sedans you can buy. The MSRP of the Camry starts at $26,420 for the LE trim. The price of the Camry is a little higher, but it’s a larger sedan than many on the list. One reason people choose the Camry is because it gets excellent gas mileage (28/39 city/highway).
The Camry also comes with Toyota’s Safety Sense P system, which includes a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alerts with Steering Assist, Automatic High Beams, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Accidents are scary, but less of a worry in the Camry as it earned a five-star crash test rating in every category with the NHTSA.
7. Hyundai Santa Fe
(image via Hyundai)
The Hyundai Santa Fe is one of the largest when it comes to the best cars for new drivers. It’s a mid-size SUV that costs around $30,000. There are a few reasons people choose the Santa Fe. First of all, it gets great gas mileage for an SUV – 25 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. The Santa Fe also has no problem going off the road for emergency situations or just for a little fun.
The SE comes with some good safety features like Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian Detection, but our recommendation is to upgrade to the SEL. This trim includes even more features like forward collision warning, driver drowsiness monitoring, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control. In crash tests, the NHTSA awarded the vehicle a safety rating of five stars overall.
8. Kia Forte
(image via Kia)
The 2019 model of the Kia Forte was completely redesigned and became one of the best compact cars out there. Since it was also so cheap, starting at $17,790, the 2019 Kia Forte was a finalist with U.S. News for Best Compact Car for the Money. Even though it’s small, we want to mention that it still has plenty of space for you and three of your friends.
The Kia Forte also has plenty of safety features that are standard, including forward-collision warnings and automatic emergency braking. It also includes lane departure warnings and lane keep assist. Spending more to get a better trim will give you other safety features like blind-spot monitoring. The Forte also comes with some quality features, including Bluetooth connectivity and a rear camera.
9. Kia Sorento
(image via Kia)
Kia Sorento is an excellent mid-size SUV, essential for those who love their outings with friends. The redesigned vehicle comes equipped with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 191 horsepower. When it comes to fuel economy, you’ll get 24 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.
The Sorento LX standard trim starts at around $32,000. This trim comes with synthetic leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control and a ton of safety features like blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and rear parking sensors. IIHS safety ratings have been good all-around, and the NHTSA awarded it four out of five stars.
10. Subaru Outback
(image via Subaru)
The Subaru Outback is one of the best off-roading vehicles you’ll find on the market. It’s designed to do so while maintaining control, so this would be great for new drivers that plan on going off the path. It’s a larger SUV, so it has a higher price than others on the list. The starting MSRP is $28,895 for the basic trim.
What sets Subaru apart is that it comes with EyeSight Driver Assist. This technology monitors traffic movement, optimizes cruise control, and warns you when you’re swaying outside your lane. The Outback has received a five-star crash test rating in the past, but it’s higher off the ground than other SUVs on the list. Because of this, it had a rollover risk of 17.40%. Stats for the new Outback are not yet available.
11. Toyota RAV4
(image via Toyota)
The Toyota RAV4 is one of the most popular SUVs on the market for good reasons. One huge reason is the value. The starting MSRP for the RAV4 is $28,475, and it comes with a lot of features from Bluetooth connectivity to an extensive list of safety features. Even the base trim comes with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which has pre-collision alerts with pedestrian detection, lane alerts, steering assist, lane tracing assistance, and tons more.
The RAV4 also gets pretty good gas mileage, 27 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. As far as crash test ratings, the RAV4 got a five-star rating with the NHTSA as well as an IIHS Top Safety Pick. The rollover risk is also on par with other SUVs on the list at 15.50%, making it one of the best cars for new drivers.
12. Honda Accord
(image via Honda)
The Honda Accord has been a long-trusted vehicle for a while. If you purchase a new model, it’s also much more reliable than the older versions. The Honda Accord is larger than the Civic, which means it’s ideal for those who need a little extra space or anyone who will carry more passengers. Despite being larger, the starting MSRP is a low $27,895.
Like with other Hondas, the basic trim still comes with numerous safety features. Honda Sensing provides features like Collision Mitigation Braking, Road Departure Mitigation, and more. The NHTSA gave the Honda Accord a five-star crash test rating, and this model is consistently ranked as an IIHS Top Safety Pick.
13. Ford Escape
(image via Ford)
The 2024 Ford Escape is another incredible SUV and it has a starting price of just $29,395. Standard with this trim are cloth upholstery seats, a SYNC infotainment system, and six-speaker audio. The Co-Pilo360 safety suite includes automatic high-beams, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, and lane keeping assist among other features.
The compact SUV offers incredible power and safety. The NHTSA awarded the vehicle five stars in frontal and side crash tests, and four in the rollover test – earning it five stars overall. Its standard 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine generates 181 horsepower. It gets 28 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway.
14. Chevrolet Blazer
(image via Chevy)
The 2024 Chevrolet Blazer 2LT base trim starts at $35,400. This option includes an infotainment system with a 10.2-inch display, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa. A six-speaker stereo and four USB ports are provided as well. A dual-zone climate control system ensures your cabin can be consistently cozy. A turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder generates 228 horsepower, plus it gets 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.
The Chevy Blazer is among the best cars for new drivers, thanks to its Chevy Safety Assist, which offers forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning and automatic high beams. The safety ratings from NHTSA show that the new Blazer performs exceedingly well in the unfortunate event of a crash. The vehicle received five stars overall.
15. Buick Enclave
(image via Buick)
The 2024 Buick Enclave is a great luxury SUV for new drivers. It starts at $43,900 and includes a sophisticated infotainment system, heated and power-adjustable seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, tri-zone climate control and much more. It offers more safety features than most, it has a five-star rating from the NHTSA and good ratings from the IIHS.
The vehicle comes equipped with a 3.6-liter V6 with 310 horsepower in all available trims. Fuel economy estimates are not great at 18 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway, but they are certainly better than some. Seating seven passengers, the vehicle works as a family car, so if you have a teen driver who will be borrowing the car, they’ll be in good hands.
16. Hyundai Accent
(image via Hyundai)
The Hyundai Accent is another one of the best cars for new drivers, especially great for those on a tight budget. The alll-new 2024 model will make it a fantastic option for new drivers. The vehicle features an infotainment system with a large touchscreen and smartphone integration – and that’s about it. But for drivers who are distracted easily, this is for the best.
J.D. Power has ranked the Hyundai as 90 out of 100 for reliability, meaning it’s less likely to breakdown on the side of the road. The Hyundai Accent also has had excellent crash test ratings. The IIHS gave the vehicle a Top Safety Pick award for 2019. Safety scores for the 2024 model should be good as well. On top of that, drivers can expect more standard driver assistance features than ever before!
17. Volkswagen Jetta
(image via VW)
The Jetta is a lower-priced option compared to the larger sedans. The reason many people choose the Jetta (other than for the brand) is because it gets good gas mileage and has decent safety features like a crash-optimized front end. Front-end accidents are one of the most common types of accidents, so this may be valuable to some. With the SE model, you will get plenty of safety features and infotainment features – all for $24,875.
The Jetta also comes with comfort and convenience features like synthetic leather upholstery, a sunroof, dual-zone climate control, and proximity keyless entry. The 2023 Jetta had a five-star crash test rating at NHTSA. Since the 2024 model remains mostly unchanged, the ratings should stand for 2024.
18. Ford Bronco
(image via Ford)
The 2021 Ford Bronco was a popular SUV for years until it was discontinued, but now it’s back and better than ever. The brand-new model is the best car for new drivers who love roaming the great outdoors. The base engine is a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder that generates 300 horsepower. Fuel economy estimates are at 20 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway.
Safety ratings are not yet available but you can be rest-assured you are in safe hands with Ford’s Co-Pilot360 suite. This suite includes safety features like forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection. At $39,130, you’ll also get features such as an infotainment system with 12-inch display, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and even a seven-speaker stereo.
19. Kia Soul
The 2024 Kia Soul is one of the best cars for new drivers due to its low starting price and incredible warranty. You’ll get a 5-year overall and 10-year warranty on the powertrain. Starting at 19,990, you’ll get a slew of standard features such as an infotainment system with smartphone integration, conveniences like remote keyless and Kia’s Drive Wise safety suite.
The Kia Soul is available for under $25K even at the highest trim level. While its 147-horsepower engine provides underwhelming acceleration, it should perform well under most driving situations.
20. Hyundai Elantra
(image via Hyundai)
The newly-redesigned Hyundai Elantra is not just the top choice among the best cars for new drivers; it’s also one of the more fuel-efficient vehicles on the list. It gets up to 33 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the highway. It also has a low starting MSRP of $21,475 for the base SE trim. With this trim, you’ll get an 8-inch display infotainment system, HD radio, two USB ports, four-speaker audio and voice recognition.
The SE comes with a number of quality safety features, including a rearview camera with dynamic parking guidelines, Lane Keeping Assist, blind spot monitoring and Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist. These features at this price make it one of the best deals on the list, although it does lack the power some may want from their sedan. The SE only has 147 horsepower, which may feel underpowered for some, but there are other engine options such as the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that generates 275 horsepower.