Popular Car Categories

For young and first-time drivers, buying a car can be an angst-filled process that's as complicated as getting into the right college. What to buy is a personal decision, but here are a few recommendations.

Best-selling models are a wise choice, for several reasons:

  • Selection: Because so many are sold, there are plenty of used models around, which means you'll get a wider selection of mileage, features, colors and prices.
  • Repairs: Their popularity means more mechanics are able to repair them, plus their parts are widely available and are comparatively inexpensive.
  • Reliability: Best-selling vehicles became best-sellers for many reasons — and reliability is key among those.
Cars.com Recommendations

Which cars does Cars.com recommend for beginning drivers? Some thoughts on popular categories:

  • Sedans: We recommend midsize sedans. They are, as a class, reasonably safe and practical, and they don't tempt young drivers to race, go off-roading or engage in dangerous activities. Still, models such as the Honda Accord coupe are sporty enough that the under-25 set won't feel like they're over the hill.
  • Sports cars: Although this will anger every 15-year-old guy out there, we do not recommend sports cars for teen drivers. Sports cars have the worst insurance claims losses among passenger cars, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute. This isn't entirely because the cars are less safe; it reflects who's driving and how. Granted, a young driver can drag race in a sedan or behave moronically behind the wheel of a minivan, but we believe fast cars often inspire people to drive fast.
  • Sport utility vehicles: SUVs remain popular, but they may not be as safe for drivers as previously thought, and they remain a threat for occupants of smaller cars that collide with them. Besides, many parents agree they aren't a great first car. For one, they can be more expensive, as a class, than many other cars. They also have a high center of gravity and are therefore more prone than passenger cars to rollovers.
  • Wagons/hatchbacks: The so-called "grocery getters" of the 1970s and '80s have been replaced by hipper models like the Subaru Impreza and Mazda3. Wagons and hatchbacks offer cargo capability that can rival an SUV's, often have carlike attributes and, in some cases, have all-wheel-drive capability.
  • Older used cars: We propose five years as the older used-car option here because, nowadays, five isn't all that old. A few warranties last this long or longer, and some certified pre-owned cars include warranties — or give you the option to extend them.

    Two things happen as a vehicle ages: Warranties run out, and the need for repairs increases. Because cost is important to both parents and young drivers, we must note that if an inexpensive older car breaks down frequently, it's not really an inexpensive car. If you or your child are mechanically inclined and can handle some of the repairs, though, an older car can be an affordable choice.
© Cars.com 5/1/12