Learning to drive is an exciting, often-nerve racking, experience. Getting your first car can be overwhelming. There are lots of choices to make and, while you can save with a used car, there are many variables when it comes to pricing. Nonetheless, you can often save on a higher trim level and practical options. With so many used cars out there, finding the perfect one can be tough; here are some of, what we think, are the best cars for new drivers.

Top Starter Cars for New Drivers 

Toyota Camry

The mid-sized Camry is often a best-seller. It’s reputation for reliability and resale value is just one perk. Newer models are more fuel-efficient while Toyota has provided a wide range of safety technologies (including adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, and lane-keeping assist). The 2018 model has a 203 hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder or 301 hp, 3.5-liter V6 engine; an eight-speed automatic transmission; and easy handling whether in traffic or slipping into parking spaces. Sportier trims have a mesh lower grille and leather seats if that’s what you’re looking for in a starter car.

Mazda 3

If sporty is your thing, the Mazda 3 is both stylish and practical. Available as a front-wheel drive sedan or hatchback, it includes a 155 hp, 2.0-liter or 184 hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. The 2018 model year has a dark-colored wheel design, while dual-zone automatic climate control, heated exterior mirrors, and a head-up display are standard. If you’re lucky, you might get an upgraded model with a Bose nine-speaker stereo system. Automated emergency braking and the i-Active sense suite of safety features are integrated as part of the car’s safety package.

Volkswagen Golf

It may be unassuming, but the Golf is one of the best starter cars in terms of affordability and navigating sharp corners. Sharp-looking LED taillights and daytime running lights add some spunk to this compact car. The 2018 Golf received a five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. To indulge in leatherette seating (with heated front seats), blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and forward-collision warning with automated emergency braking, try for the Wolfsburg trim.

Kia Soul

Somewhere between a compact car and a small SUV, it can fit several passengers and has lots of standard features. You’ll get satellite radio plus Bluetooth and a USB port. If you can find a higher trim level, a rearview camera, smartphone connectivity, and touch screens may be added perks.

Honda Fit

Despite being in the subcompact category, the Fit’s multi-way folding rear seats and boxy shape provides an impressive amount of cargo space. The interior has a spacious feel thanks to the car’s shape and large windows. Numerous active safety features are included in the 2018 model. This vehicle has also received high crash scores despite its size, making it one of the best starter cars for teens.

Subaru Impreza

All-wheel drive is standard and the Impreza impresses with its infotainment features and top safety ratings. While it’s not the most fuel-efficient car, it is reliable in all types of weather. The interior is ergonomic while blind spots are minimal. The midrange Premium trim comes with heated seats, a windshield wiper de-icer, and steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters. A blind spot monitoring system is included with the EyeSight safety suite.


It’s worth noting some options here if you’re looking for something bigger. The Toyota Highlander’s four-wheel drive handles well in inclement weather, while the Honda CR-V is a mini-SUV that leads the pack in reliability and popularity. If hitting the outdoors is your goal, Nissan’s Xterra SUV provides the ruggedness you need, in part thanks to its 265 hp V6 engine.

Shop for Your First Car at Hawthorne Auto Square

We hope our list of the best cars for new drivers has helped you narrow down the choices. Our inventory includes these and many other makes and models. At Hawthorne Auto Square, we’ve made it easy to get into your first car. We’ll help you get pre-approved for financing and even have convenient in-house programs and payment options (by phone or online). To get started, visit our dealership, browse our online inventory, or call 866-707-7664 today!