The 9 Worst Cars to Buy Your Teen, Even If You Can Afford Them

For those who can afford it, giving a teenager their first car is a particularly nice gesture. Even if a child wants to assert their independence and establish their own identity, your main criteria for choosing a vehicle should be safety, reliability, fuel consumption, and purchase and maintenance costs.

Aside from cost, buying a car that’s too powerful or has too much technology can lead to speeding and distractions. High-powered vehicles and larger, unwieldy Jeeps and trucks aren’t necessarily the best choices for an inexperienced driver. Similarly, roadsters or convertibles are for people going through a midlife crisis, not new drivers.

Fuel economy and potential repair costs are important considerations for anyone buying a new vehicle. However, new vehicles are very expensive and young drivers are more likely to have accidents. So there is no point in spending a lot of money on your young driver's first car, even if you can afford it. Choosing a model that is known for its breakdowns is also a bad idea.

New or used, you can't go wrong with models that have been at the top of reliability charts for years, like a Mazda 3 sedan or hatchback, an Acura Integra, a Honda Civic or Accord, a Hyundai Sonata, a Subaru Impreza or Outback, or a Toyota Corolla or Camry. There are plenty of affordable full-size SUVs and trucks on the market, but you'll have to pay more for them, and they might be too much for a new driver to drive.

Here are nine of the worst cars you can buy your teenager:

1. Mitsubishi Mirage

You wouldn't buy one for yourself, so don't buy one for someone you love. While the Mitsubishi Mirage is one of the least expensive and most fuel-efficient cars you can buy, this subcompact should be avoided, according to Consumer Reports' road test ratings. The G4 and the sedan are the two deadliest cars on the road, according to statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

2. Chrysler Pacifica

Tracking “20 potential problem areas, ranging from annoyances — such as squeaky brakes and broken interior trim — to major disappointments, such as potentially costly engine, transmission, electric battery and out-of-warranty electric vehicle charging issues,” Consumer Reports gives the Pacifica Hybrid the lowest reliability score of any model, a dismal 14 out of 100.

3. Dodge Challenger

The Challenger is a powerful and stylish car, but with speed comes responsibility, and many young, novice drivers struggle to accept the independence that comes with having car keys. According to the IIHS, the Dodge Challenger 2WD had a fatality rate of 154 per million registered vehicles between 2018 and 2021.

4. Ram 3500

According to CarEdge, four Ram models — the 3500, 2500, 5500 and 4500 — are the most expensive cars to maintain, with an average 10-year repair cost of $25,411. The worst offender is the 3500, which will cost about $25,844 in maintenance and repairs over its first decade. Pickups offer performance, comfort and utility, but there’s a 38.5 percent chance that a 3500 will need a major repair in the first five years of ownership and a 79.19 percent chance of a major repair in the first 10 years, making it an expensive choice for a teenager.

5. Volkswagen Jetta

While still popular, the Volkswagen Jetta has lost some of its luster over the years and isn't worth the price you'll have to pay to buy one for your teenager. Reliability is an issue, as frequent mechanical problems and costly repairs are major downsides for owners. RepairPal ranks the Jetta 21st out of 36 compact cars in reliability and reports above-average maintenance costs. Consumer Reports places it last—16th out of 16—for compact cars, with a reliability score of 24 out of 100.

6. Chevrolet Bolt

Although a new Bolt is expected in 2025, GM has stopped production of the Chevy Bolt and Bolt EUV in late 2023. Despite a low base price of about $27,000 and an attractive range of 259 miles, the cars have suffered from a long list of recalls, including fires from faulty batteries, according to TopSpeed.

7. Land Rover Range Rover

Known for their rugged four-wheel-drive vehicles, Land Rovers are driven hard. On average, it will cost you $735 in annual repair costs for a Range Rover in the first year and about $18,228 in maintenance and repairs over its first 10 years of operation, according to CarEdge. Reliability has been questioned by RepairPal, which ranks Land Rover 31st out of 32 for all car brands, and Consumer Reports, which ranks Land Rover as the second-worst car brand, ahead of Jeep.

8. Rivian R1T

Although Consumer Reports gave the R1T a reliability score of 22/100 for 2024, reviews on the site are positive and this Rivian has enough battery capacity for an estimated 400 miles of range on a single charge. The model has only been available for a few years, so there are no long-term reliability reports. However, based on price alone, there is no reason to buy your newly licensed teenager an $80,000 electric vehicle.

9. Hyundai Accent

MotorTrend called the Accent “unforgettable,” with inexplicably slow acceleration. While that may be fine for your young driver, the Accent is also one of the most dangerous and deadly vehicles on the road. Despite being ranked as a 2019 IIHS Top Safety Pick, the Accent has a driver fatality rate nearly identical to that of the rear-wheel-drive Challenger variants, at 152 deaths per million registered vehicles.

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