Are you considering buying a new car for your teen before they head off to college? Kelley Blue Book's list of the best cars for students this coming school year can help make your decision a little easier. It narrowed down options based on practicality and affordability, but also considered style and features to compile this list of new models best suited for young drivers. Its selections vary in terms of size, price and manufacturer, so parents can more easily choose a vehicle to fit their child's needs.
Top 10 student-friendly vehicles
The No. 1 option for parents looking to invest in a new car for their student is the 2015 Honda Fit, priced at $15,994. The second-best option - the 2014 Kia Soul - is a little less expensive at $14,623. Coming in at No. 3 is the 2014 Nissan Versa Note, followed by the 2014 Mazda3, 2014 Toyota Prius c, 2014 Honda Civic, 2014 Chevrolet Sonic, 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, 2015 Volkswagen Golf and 2014 Subaru Impreza.
"Regardless of a student's interests or style, there is a stellar new-car option for them on our diverse 10 Best Back-to-School Cars list for 2014," said Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book's KBB.com. "The redesigned 2015 Honda Fit came to the head of the class as our No. 1 Back-to-School Car this year with the most flexible interior you'll find in a subcompact car, boasting an affordable price while simultaneously offering the same sporty fun and refinement for which the Honda brand is well known."
Tips for parents
Teenage drivers can be unreliable at times and difficult to buy cars for. Parents may be wary about how much they should spend, or what type of vehicle - whether it be new or used - is right for their child. If you choose to pursue some of the options KBB recommended or go looking on your own, there are certain aspects to keep in mind that are important in vehicles that will be used by young drivers.
Family Circle stressed the importance of finding a good deal, but not skimping on safety. Teens are more likely to be involved in an accident than any other demographic of drivers, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Midsize sedans are typically safer than smaller models since they have a lower center of gravity and are less likely to roll over in the event of a crash. Choosing a car with at least six air bags is a must, along with anti-lock brakes and stability control if you're in the market for an SUV. A good resource for safety ratings of vehicles is the IIHS website, which rates cars based on their performance in a crash test. A vehicle that received four or five stars from this resource is generally a good option for a new driver.
KBB also offered a few pointers for prospective car buyers. Some of their preemptive tips are doing research and being prepared for what the car will cost. Knowing your budget and having an idea of what type of vehicle you're looking for will help narrow your options down later on, especially if your teen is involved in the decision process. If you want to buy used, make sure that the car is checked out by a third-party service shop before committing. As a parent, you should also do a few test drives on several different models to compare and also identify any problems with the steering or handling right away.
As always, making sure the vehicle has the right safety features is the first step, but scheduling a car tune up regularly ensures that the vehicle continues to be safe for your student driver after you buy.