Whether your teenager is just starting to drive or you’re sending a college student off in a new ride, you may be overwhelmed by worries that could be eased somewhat by simply choosing the right car.

Here’s a checklist of some of the most important things to consider when you’re looking for a new or used car for junior drivers and some of the best car models out there for your kid.

Playing it Safe

Car crashes may be the leading cause of death among teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but there are plenty of ways to help ensure that your child isn’t among those most at risk.

Before getting to details and specifications, it may seem obvious that sports cars aren’t a great idea for a teen’s starter car, but the biggest SUV on the used car lot might not be the safest either, since they’re more prone to roll over because of their high centers of gravity, according to Consumer Reports.

Beyond that, there are a number of factors to consider, and we don’t mean just checking for seatbelts and airbags. Thankfully, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety regularly offers its top safety picks based on crash-test ratings, rollover ratings and the effectiveness of seatbelts and other protective restraints.

The Institute conducts tests and rates cars based on rollovers, safety restraints and front, side and rear impacts. A number of affordable and teen-friendly cars have made it to their list, as well as MainStreet’s.

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Maintenance and Insurance – A Popularity Contest

A car model’s popularity doesn’t just provide an aesthetic benefit. It can make maintenance cheaper since parts are easier to come by, and some of the most popular cars on the road are also some of the safest.

The safest cars can also be some of the cheapest vehicles to insure. Unfortunately for teen drivers, the cheapest cars to insure tend to be minivans and wagons, according to Insure.com’s cost rundown.

But since expensive luxury vehicles are on the other end of the spectrum, affordable and modest sedans shouldn’t cost nearly as much to insure, especially if you have a fairly experienced teen driver with good grades who has also taken a driver’s education course, according to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.

10 Great Cars for Teen Drivers

Here are some of the best cars for teen drivers based on safety and affordability information from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Consumer Reportsand MainStreet. And even new models of these cars cost less than $20,000.

Honda Civic

Base price: $19,455 for a 2010 model.

According to Edmunds.com, all Civic models have a “broad range of safety features, such as antilock brakes, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags.”

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Hyundai Sonata

Base Price: $19,195 for a 2010 model.

AOL Autos notes that, “Safety features on all Sonatas include the mandatory dual-stage front-seat airbags; front-seat side-impact airbags for torso protection; and full-coverage side curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake assist, and electronic stability control with traction control.”

Kia Forte

Base Price: $13,695 for a 2010 model.

According to the Post-Gazette.com, “the Forte is a tremendous improvement in safety over the Kia Spectra it replaces. The Spectra was rated just 'acceptable' for frontal impact and only 'marginal' for side crash protection. Front-seat side airbags and curtain airbags were standard on the Spectra, but anti-lock brakes were an option—not at all offered on base models—and ex wasn't available anywhere in the lineup.”

Ford Focus

Base Price: $16,290 for a 2010 model.

According to HowStuffWorks.com, “Previously optional, the ABS, traction control, and antiskid system are now standard on all 2010 Focus models. Also available is Ford's Sync. Sync provides voice control of certain cell phone and MP3 player functions.”

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Ford Fusion

Base Price: $19,695 for a 2010 model.

According to TheCarConnection.com, “The 2010 Ford Fusion achieved top scores in most categories of testing from the federal government. They earned the highest possible rating, five stars, for front impact protection, along with a five-star rating for front side impact but four out of five stars for rear side-impact protection.”

Volkswagen Jetta

Base price: $17,735 for a 2010 model.

Hyundai Elantra
Base price: $14,145 for a 2010 model.

Kia Optima
Base price: $17,995 for a 2010 model.

Mazda 3
Base price: $16,095 for a 2010 model.

Chrysler Sebring
Base Price: $20,860 for a 2010 model.

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