Bruce Springsteen is absolutely right about what cars represent to young drivers. The key to the universe really is in the engine of an old parked car. Which “old parked car” is best for teen drivers, though, is another mattter altogether and often left up to the parents and guardians of those teens. And deciding between those options is now a little more complicated (or easier, depending on who you ask) with all the used EVs and hybrids around.
My colleague, Mercedes Streeter, got a Kia Rio as a teenager, and I got a Plymouth Acclaim. We both said those cars were junk, but dammit, that Acclaim was my first car. It’s now junk that I look back on fondly, and I really do miss it.
So, even if your teen doesn’t get what they think is a certified-cool car, don’t sweat it. They will probably appreciate it all the same. We asked our readers to tell us what the best first cars for teenagers are, and these were their answers: