The Worst Cars for Teen Drivers


A first car is a big deal. Let us help you avoid making a mistake with your purchase.

ford mustang muscle car
5 min read

Bad news for kids who want to be like the cool kids: Consumer Reports found that the ideal car for a teenager is a four-cylinder, midsized sedan. There’s a lot to keep in mind when choosing a car as a new driver or parent to a new driver—safety questions, of course, are on the forefront of guardians’ minds, and with good reason: The crash rate for 16-year-olds is 3.7 times higher than drivers of all ages, and for both men and women, drivers aged 16 to 19 have the highest average annual crash and traffic violation rates of any other single age group.

But there are other considerations for a teenage driver, too: For those teens with a need for speed, is it safe to fork over the keys to a Corvette with a 500 horsepower? SUVs and pick-up trucks offer the benefit in size, but are also more prone to roll over. And what about price? Beyond the normal family budget considerations, there’s also the price-to-crash matrix. Given the statistics we offered above, how much sense does it really make to invest in, say, a $100,000 Fisker Karma? (Ahem, Justin Bieber, ahem.) Because we know you hate making mistakes, we rounded up four truly terrible car picks for teenage driver, based on four criteria: Speed, Price, Safety, and Cool Factor*.

*Cool Factor actually goes two ways: These cars get docked for making teens look like dweebs, sure, but they also get docked if they make them feel too cool. Don’t worry, we’ll clarify.

(Older, circa 2000) Ford Explorer

ford explorer

  • Speed: The critics say Explorers boast decent acceleration and quick steering, but you’re not going to be winning any drag races in these babies.
  • Price: The Kelly Blue Book Value for a 2003 Ford Explorer in excellent condition is just $3,274. But remember you’re also paying for SUV gas.
  • Safety: This is the huge negative against the Explorer: There was such a rollover problem for years that there’s an entire site dedicated to explaining lawsuit and safety information. At one point in time, the Explorer was 53 percent more likely than other compact SUVs to roll over “when an equipment failure such as faulty brakes, bald tires or blowouts caused an accident.”
  • Cool Factor: The Ford Explorer actually is pretty cool. It’s got that tough-but-not-too-rugged thing going for it, and then there’s Ford’s classic appeal. But just trust us on this one: You don’t want to go there—there being, of course, in a ditch.

Jeep Wrangler

jeep-wrangler-12

  • Speed: The Wrangler isn’t exactly built with speed in mind, but the 2015 model does boast a 285-horse power engine. It’s not so much the speed you have to worry about with the Wrangler, though—it’s the impossible-to-resist urge to off-road that comes with stepping behind the wheel!
  • Price: A newer model will set you back around $23,000—again, unless you’re a super high-roller, likely a bit much considering teenage crash stats.
  • Safety: A Wrangler is relatively safe—thanks in part, of course, to its remarkable off-road capability. That’s with one giant caveat, though: Keep in mind, the lack of, you know, doors for the back-seat.
  • Cool Factor: Teens might feel a smidge just too tough in this cool car, and add to their already astonshing sense of invincibility.

Hummer

2007_Hummer_H3_--_NHTSA

  • Speed: Well, it is modeled after an Army vehicle. It is apparently fast for its size and weight, but still no race car—according to one Yahoo! answer, it’s “dog slow.”
  • Price: A 2010 H3 will set you back $33,390; an H2 from the same year $61,585.
  • Safety: Again—it’s modeled after an Army vehicle. But the Insurance Institute gave it just average ratings for front and side crash capabilities, and a poor on head restraints and seats.
  • Cool Factor: This one toes such a delicate line, but the bottom line is, there’s no way to own a car this fancy if you haven’t earned it yourself without looking like a bit of a jerk.

Mustang

Ford-Mustang-10

  • Speed: Duh. The 2015 5.0-liter V8 Mustang tops out at speeds of at least 155 mph. Aka pretty darn tempting for a lead-foot.
  • Price: The 2010 Ford Mustang is ranked #2 in affordable sports cars by U.S. News Best Cars, costing on average between $13,000 and $20,000.
  • Safety:The 2010 Mustang 2-door coupe actually does pretty well on safety factors, earning a good rating on its front crash test, an acceptable on its side, and a good on its head restraints and seats from IIIHS.
  • Cool Factor: Basically, there’s not a lot wrong with a Mustang. However, there’s a point where you are too young for a mustang, and a point when you are too old. There is a sweet spot—but sixteen isn’t quite it. That puts this baby squarely in the too-cool-for-school category.
  • Phineas Crumpy

    Really. I think I should rethink big cars for my teen children. They want one, but now I’ll tell them, go for something safe and practical.