The thought of a parent spending any significant amount of money on a vehicle for their teen offspring leaves a bad taste in this writer’s mouth, but some families march to the beat of a different, more affluent drum. Yours truly believes a free hand-me-down wreck should be the absolute limit of parental generosity, and that’s only on the condition that they pay for all upkeep.
But loans from the Bank of Mom and Dad are definitely a thing, which gives them considerable say over what vehicle actually enters their kid’s life. With this in mind, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Consumer Reports joined forces to craft a list of decently reliable, safe rides for parents on a budget.
Would your spawn be happy with any of these top choices?
The used rides range in price from roughly $5,000 to $20,000, selected due to their above-average reliability (over a majority of model years) and crashworthiness. Models with unusually high injury claims were tossed.
As the study states, “All listed vehicles earn good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, as well as a good or acceptable rating in the driver-side small overlap front test. If rated by NHTSA, they earn 4 or 5 stars overall or 4 or 5 stars in the front and side tests under the old rating scheme.”
A quick perusal shows not one mention of the ’92-96 Toyota Camry four-cylinder — a car which would serve a young person well, right into adulthood and beyond. Alas, those are getting on in years.
What did show up on the list, and right at the very top of the affordability scale, is the 2014 (or newer) Mazda 3 sedan and hatchback and 2014 (or newer) Subaru Impreza, as well as the current-generation Hyundai Elantra GT and Kia Forte. Sensible choices for anyone, really. The Mazda, at an average of $7,000, serves as the cheapest top pick.
In the midsize field, the 2013-present Subaru Legacy and Outback top the list, joined by Honda Accords of the same age. The large car nod goes to the 2016 Hyundai Genesis.
If cargo capacity is more of a concern, the 2014-present Mazda CX-5 is a good choice, with older examples being the cheapest menu item on this small CUV list. The Buick Encore also ranks high for affordability, though some teens might recoil in horror at their parents’ choice. Well, tough luck, Brayden. Also on the list are the Chevrolet Equinox and Honda CR-V.
The 2014 or 2016-and-newer GMC Terrain is your cheapest bet in the “midsize” category, followed by the current-generation Kia Sorento. Looking to saddle junior with a minivan (which will inevitably turn into either a date-killer or a pregnancymobile)? Don’t waste your time looking at any offering from Fiat Chrysler. The best choices are all overseas jobs, with the current-gen Toyota Sienna topping the affordability list by a few hundred dollars.
Sure, there’s also a cheaper “good” list to add to the “best” ranking we just provided, but do you really want to look at vehicles that are less than ideal when you’re counting on your kids to fund your palliative care later in life? Tread cautiously with that wallet.