Consumer Reports: Best cars for teen drivers

A first car purchase can be exciting for a teenager but cause major anxiety for the parent. The good news is the experts at Consumer Reports were once teenagers themselves. And they have some advice as well as recommendations on which cars to buy.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for 16 to 19-year-olds so if you're looking for your teen's first car, whether new or used, safety features should be the number one consideration.

"You don't want a car that's really fast, that's just going to entice young drivers to get in trouble," said Jen Stockburger, Consumer Reports auto expert.

Say no to sports cars and instead go for mid-size sedans or smaller SUVs. Avoid minivans, large SUVs and trucks which are harder to handle and hold more passengers leading to distractions.

"Most parents are going to buy used so buy as much safety as your budget will allow you to afford," Stockburger said.

"When I was buying cars for my kids, I was definitely looking for airbags and stability control to keep them on snowy roads," said Patrick Olsen, another Consumer Reports auto expert.

And keep them in their intended path. Also opt for forward-collision warning that alerts drivers of obstacles or vehicles in front and automatic emergency braking that senses a collision and applies the brakes if you don't.

So here's CR's key criteria when choosing cars for teen drivers:

- Available for under $20,000 dollars
- Forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking
- Strong obstacle avoidance performance
- Limited acceleration

Based on that criteria, CR's recommendations for teen drivers are: the Mazda3, Toyota Corolla, and Honda Civic.

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