Best used cars for teens

Cherise Threewitt, US News & World Report

These used cars are safe and affordable choices for a teenager

Teens don't need a fancy car, they just need a safe car. We browsed through our used car rankings to find the best overall midsize and large sedans, which, according to experts, are the safest vehicles for teen drivers, focusing on models with high safety and reliability scores. Though we chose the highest-rated year for each model (according to our rankings), in most cases, you'll still get good results if you expand your search within the surrounding model years. This list highlights vehicles that fit a variety of budgets, perfect for your teen driver (and the rest of the family).

2010 Ford Fusion

A customer looks over a Ford Fusion parked on the lot at a dealership in Colma, Calif.
Getty Images

U.S. News Safety Score: 9.6 out of 10

The 2010 Ford Fusion is one of the highest-rated affordable sedans in our used car rankings. Thanks to its spacious trunk and roomy cabin, the Fusion is a good car for students who need to carry sports equipment or other bulky extracurricular gear, and its high reliability and safety scores mean that it can even see your teen clear through college.

Average Price Paid: $8,850 - $12,606

Critics say the Fusion is comfortable to drive, too. The available Fusion Hybrid is another smart choice for buyers who are interested in saving fuel.

2011 Toyota Avalon

2011-2012 Toyota Avalon
Source: Toyota Motors

U.S. News Safety Score: 9.7 out of 10

When the 2011 Toyota Avalon was new, critics praised the smoothness and acceleration of its standard V6 engine. Granted, a powerful engine might not be the best thing for a teen's car, but Toyota's V6s are also reliable and reasonably fuel efficient.

Average Price Paid: $16,559 - $18,335

This large sedan offers plenty of space inside, and has good safety scores, too. The 2011 Avalon got a few minor updates, such as a styling refresh and standard Bluetooth and USB integration.

2012 Chevrolet Malibu

2010 Chevrolet Malibu

U.S. News Safety Score: 9.3 out of 10

Critics liked the 2012 Chevy Malibu thanks to its driver-centric interior and balanced handling, two factors that help make it easy to focus on the road (which is particularly important for new or inexperienced drivers). If a used Malibu from this era has a noteworthy downside, it's the mediocre fuel economy in V6 models.

Average Price Paid: $11,635 - $14,403

The Malibu was fully redesigned in 2013 (and suffered a slight decline in reliability), but it might be worth comparing the two generations to see which you prefer, although the 2012 is No. 1 in our 2012 affordable midsize car rankings.

2010 Toyota Prius

Toyota Prius
Source: Consumer Reports

U.S. News Safety Score: 8.9 out of 10

When the 2010 Toyota Prius was new, its looks were a point of contention among reviewers. Regardless of how your teen feels about its styling, it's simply one of the best used cars out there for a high school student.

Average Price Paid: $10,348 - $12,495

The Prius has a functional shape with lots of cargo room, it's safe and reliable, and it's great on gas. The 2010 Prius also packs less than 100 horsepower, so there's little temptation for your teen to test its limits.

2011 Ford Taurus

Elaine Thompson | AP

U.S. News Safety Score: 9.3 out of 10

The Taurus, a large sedan, is one of the most basic options in Ford's lineup, which is a good thing when you're looking for an affordable used car for your teen. The 2011 Taurus places high in our used car rankings thanks to its good safety and reliability scores, and its low cost of ownership.

Average Price Paid: $12,044 - $16,202

The Taurus' V6 engine checks in with 263 horsepower, but this is a heavy car to haul around, so don't worry — it'll keep your teen in check.

2011 Buick LaCrosse

2011 Buick LaCrosse

U.S. News Safety Score: 9.7 out of 10

The 2011 Buick LaCrosse has some of the best safety scores in our used car rankings, and it's a big and comfortable car that will do just fine for your teen.

Average Price Paid: $12,935 - $16,871

The base LaCrosse comes with a four-cylinder engine, and reviewers at the time said that the optional V6 upgrade was nice, but not necessary. In other words, an entry-level LaCrosse will get the job done.

2010 Hyundai Sonata

2009 Hyundai Sonata.
Getty Images

U.S. News Safety Score: 9.1 out of 10

The 2010 Hyundai Sonata is one of the more affordable options on our list of the best used cars for teenagers. If it takes some effort to convince your teen that this mundane-looking midsize sedan is the one, just mention that it comes with more (and more advanced) tech features than many of its competitors.

Average Price Paid: $8,304 - $11,201

The Sonata has a comfortable ride and plenty of space inside. The 2011 model, which marked a new generation of the Sonata, is worth consideration, too.

2009 Saturn Aura

The 2007 Saturn Aura at the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Hall in Detroit.
Getty Images

U.S. News Safety Score: 9.2 out of 10

Don't be deterred by the fact that the Saturn brand disappeared shortly after the 2009 Aura midsize sedan went on sale — it's still a GM, and there are plenty of 8-year-old GM vehicles around.

Average Price Paid: $7,242 - $8,589

The Aura, when new, received relatively poor marks in regards to its cheaply-finished cabin, but it fares pretty well in other areas like safety and reliability. Even better, it's one of the most affordable cars on this list. It also has some of the best fuel economy ratings for the class.

2012 Honda Accord

2012 Honda Accord

U.S. News Safety Score: 10 out of 10

It should be clear by now that our list of the best used cars for teens doesn't exactly prioritize an enjoyable driving experience, but the 2012 Honda Accord is a notable exception. Surprisingly, it is one of the most fun-to-drive used cars in its class (due mostly to its swift and accurate handling), yet it still delivers on all the key characteristics of a good vehicle for a new driver.

Average Price Paid: $12,707 - $17,670

If you want your teen to learn the importance and value of a car that responds to the driver's commands, the Accord is a safe, responsible and affordable choice.