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Buying a Car for a Young Driver - Vehicles for Students

Safety and Style at College - Buying a Reliable Car for Kids

If your college student's back to school list includes a car, you'll want to know which vehicles are recommended for young drivers, many of whom plan on zipping around far-away campuses.

To help parents find a reliable car for their student (and to help students find a cool ride), used car retailer CarMax and non-profit young driver educator Driver's Edge have teamed up to recommend some top picks that will keep both parties happy.

"It's pretty tough to come up with a list of cars that will satisfy both parents and students," said Steve Tepper, COO of Driver's Edge. "Issues of looks, cost, safety, and performance don’t always line up, but there are some great cars out there that fit the bill safety-wise while still being a cool car to drive."

"Typically, parents' top priorities when looking for a vehicle for their student are price, reliability, and safety, while young people may be more interested in style, features, and performance," said Ron Costa, regional vice president of purchasing for CarMax.  "We recommend conducting online vehicle research first and then finding a car retailer that provides a transparent, customer-friendly, and easy car buying process."

This year's top cars recommended for college students that fulfill both the parents' safety and reliability demands and the young drivers' requirements for looks and performance include:

  • Audi A4

  • Dodge Caliber (models with optional ABS)  

  • Honda Civic

  • Hyundai Sonata

  • Kia Optima (models with optional ABS)  

  • Pontiac G6 (coupe or sedan with optional ABS)  

  • Toyota Corolla (models with optional ABS)

  • Volkswagen Jetta

  • Volkswagen Passat

  • Volvo S40 (four door sedan)

    (In alphabetical order by manufacturer. Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) is standard unless otherwise noted)

"When deciding on a vehicle for a young driver, safety has to be a top consideration," said Jeff Payne, president and founder of Driver's Edge. "Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death for people under 24, outnumbering the combined deaths resulting from drug use, guns, and other violence." Driver’s Edge recommends that parents review crash-test ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) when considering any vehicle, along with the advice and ratings of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.  

The cars on the list are recommended only for drivers who have at least two years of practical driving experience.  (Smaller cars would not be on a list of cars recommended for true novice drivers.)  The following criteria to select the recommended cars:

  • Each of the selected models scored at least a four star rating from NHTSA for both frontal and side impact protection in each of the last four years.  Exceptions are the Dodge Caliber and the Pontiac G6, each of which have only been available since 2007 and 2006, respectively.  

  • Each car offers an array of active safety features as either standard or optional equipment (e.g., anti-lock braking systems, electronic stability control, traction control, etc.).

  • Cost, reliability, and vehicle styling have been considered, but safety considerations weighed more heavily in determining the cars to recommend.

"It's not just about choosing the 'right' car," says Payne. "There is no five-star rating or safety device that can take the place of a well educated driver. A lousy driver can make even the safest of vehicles a bad place to be. That's why we also recommend that all drivers seek out the proper training and learn the skills needed to help them stay safer on the highways."

(Source: CarMax, Driver's Edge)