Buying a car for your kid is a big deal; not only will it have a pronounced and long-lasting effect on your wallet, but your choice directly influences your child’s safety on our wild-ass roads. Picking a good one is imperative, so that’s why guides like the one from US News and World Report are super-helpful because they take some of the guesswork out of the equation.
Now, the US News and World Report list, published on Tuesday, is broken down into two sections: new and used. To qualify for the used list, a vehicle needs to have been built between 2015 and 2017 and have the right blend of affordability, reliability, crash test results and safety features. The new list is similar, but, you know, new.
We’ll get started with the new car list since we at Roadshow are predominantly in the business of covering new cars. The list is broken down into price categories in $5,000 increments ranging from under $20,000 to $40,000 and also breaks it out into cars and SUVs.
The New Cars:
The pick for the under $20,000 category is a good one, but unfortunately, it’s not going to be one that you can buy new for long. It’s the Honda Fit, and the big H has already confirmed its death for the US market. Its inclusion in this list makes sense, though, because when it comes to reliability, resale value and safety, Honda is usually a safe bet. The bonus is that the Fit is plenty nice to drive and gets excellent gas mileage.
The middle of the pack, as far as price goes, is held firmly by Kia in both the car and SUV category. The Kia Optima (also soon to go the way of the Tasmanian tiger) and the Kia Sportage both represent excellent value propositions with killer warranties, excellent build quality and tons of standard safety features.
At the top end of the new car range ($35,000 to $40,000), we have the Toyota Camry Hybrid, which by this point should be pretty self-explanatory. It’s built like a tank, should last way longer than you’d think and will return stellar fuel economy in the meantime. The top SUV is — like our midprice winners — also from Korea, but this time it’s a Hyundai. Specifically, it’s the Santa Fe which shares the killer styling of the more expensive Palisade SUV and still manages to pack a ton of standard equipment in — both safety and infotainment — for its sub-$40,000 asking price.
The Used Cars:
2016 Toyota Camry XLE V6: The best at being average (pictures)
The used car list is quite a bit shorter but is also dominated by Korean brands (and Toyota). Despite vehicles from 2015 through 2018 being eligible for inclusion, only 2016 and 2017 models ended up making the cut. This list is also broken out in a more granular fashion than the new car list, with size being a consideration.
The best large car, according to the US News study, is the 2017 Kia Cadenza. The Cadenza is a handsome full-size sedan with good safety features and relatively modern touches like Apple CarPlay. Plus, considering how popular full-size cars are these days (read: not at all), you’ll probably be able to score a deal on one in good shape. The best midsize SUV and car are the 2017 Kia Sorento and the 2016 Toyota Camry (including, but not limited to, the hybrid model).
The small vehicle champions are the 2016 Toyota Prius and the 2017 Hyundai Tucson. The Prius, like the Camry before, is a pretty clear choice. The Tucson, however, may need a bit of explaining, but once again, it’s the Korean brands’ commitment to robust standard features and excellent build quality that we’ve come to expect which secured the Tucson’s spot.
Again, as with, your kids shouldn’t expect something fun, but they can at least expect something safe and something that won’t leave them stranded in the middle of nowhere.