10 Affordable Cars for New Drivers

A Jolly young female driver hugging her new car.
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Navigating the road as a new driver can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. Among the many decisions that come with this journey, choosing the right car is an important, if daunting, choice. Lucky for you, GOBankingRates has spoken to experts to curate a selection of vehicles that not only cater to the budget-conscious nature of new drivers but also prioritize safety and ease of maintenance.

From the bustling city streets to the open highways, finding an affordable yet dependable companion is a major concern, and we’re here to spotlight 10 cars that’ll have you driving like a pro in no time.

2023 Honda Civic

  • MSRP: Starting at $23,750
  • MPG: 32 city / 43 highway
  • Safety Rating: 5-star overall safety rating (NHTSA)

Michael Dominguez of Car Fixer Guide said the Honda Civic has been a popular choice for new drivers for a while, and there are good reasons for that. First, it’s great on gas, which is ideal if you’re trying to save money. Plus, it’s got a bunch of safety features, including a system that keeps you on the road and smart cruise control.

Even better, Dominguez said taking care of a Honda Civic is not only simple for most mechanics, it’s generally affordable. If something needs to be replaced, the parts aren’t expensive, and you can find them easily.

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2023 Toyota Corolla

  • MSRP: Starting at $20,075
  • MPG: 29 City / 39 highway
  • Safety Rating: 5-star overall safety rating (NHTSA)

According to Nick Robinson of Pick-n-Pull, the Toyota Corolla is a fantastic option if you’re a new driver and want a car that’s safe, won’t cost too much and is dependable. As someone who owns a car service, Robinson appreciates that it’s easy to take care of and you won’t have to spend a ton of money on complicated repairs.

2023 Nissan Versa

  • MSRP: Starting at $15,980
  • MPG: 32 city / 39 highway 
  • Safety Rating: 5-star overall safety rating (NHTSA)

Tariro Goronga of DriveSafe Driving Schools shared that the Nissan Versa has recently been given an attractive update and is a very smooth ride. It also has advanced safety features, such as emergency braking. He added that the look and comfort of the vehicle make it feel much more high-end than the affordable price indicates.

“When you add in the efficient engine and good driving dynamics, the Versa is a really great choice for beginners,” Goronga said.

2023 Hyundai Elantra

  • MSRP: Starting at $20,950
  • MPG: 33 city / 23 highway 
  • Safety Rating: 4-star overall safety rating (NHTSA)

Hank Treadwell of Tire Care 101 shared that the Elantra is a sharp-looking sedan with excellent fuel economy. The warranty is also generous at 5 years and 60,000 miles. “That gives peace of mind for new drivers,” he added.

He also shared that crash tests revealed the Elantra provides good occupant protection. That, combined with the general affordability and ease of repairs, make it one of Treadwell’s top picks for new drivers.

2023 Subaru Impreza

  • MSRP: Starting at $19,795
  • MPG: 25 city / 34 highway 
  • Safety Rating: 5-star overall safety rating (NHTSA)
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Treadwell also likes the Impreza for new drivers, sharing that while it might have lower fuel economy, it makes up for that with standard all-wheel drive. He shared that it’s an especially good car for new drivers who live where there’s inclement weather. “This is a safer option for areas with rain or snow,” he said.

He added that Subaru has excellent safety scores across its lineup and that the Impreza gets high marks for reliability, as well.

2023 Kia Forte

  • MSRP: Starting at $20,815
  • MPG: 31 city / 41 highway 
  • Safety Rating: 4-star overall safety rating (NHTSA)

Treadwell recommends the Forte for its stylish looks and impressive MPG, at a very good price. “It’s a lot of car for the money, perfect for new drivers on a budget,” he said.

The Forte also includes great warranty coverage, ideal for helping with those early repairs and replacements.

2023 Kia Soul

  • MSRP: Starting at $21,213
  • MPG: 29 city / 35 highway 
  • Safety Rating: 4-star overall safety rating (NHTSA)

Lauren Fix, aka The Car Coach, shared that the Kia Soul boasts a sharp looking new design for 2023 that includes new headlights, updates to the bumpers and even some new safety technology throughout the range. To keep things extra safe, every Soul now has a lane-keep assist feature with lane tracing, driver-attention warning and high-beam assist.

Fix added that it’s also fun to drive, with above-average handling abilities, making it perfect for new drivers.

2023 Mazda3

  • MSRP: Starting at $22,250
  • MPG: 28 city / 37 highway 
  • Safety Rating: 5-star overall safety rating (NHTSA)

Fix shared that for the price and the ease of handling, the Mazda3 is a great car for new drivers. It has accident avoidance tech, making it extremely safe, and Mazdas are also easy for most mechanics to service. If you need a little more room in your first car, the spacious Mazda3 sedan is a great pick.

2023 Ford Maverick

  • MSRP: Starting at $24,110
  • MPG: 40 city / 33 highway 
  • Safety Rating: 4-star overall safety rating (NHTSA)

If you’re a new driver looking for a truck, the Ford Maverick is your best bet, said Fix. She shared that it’s the most affordable truck available currently in the U.S. Plus, it’s incredibly reliable and maintenance is a breeze, with parts easily available.

2024 Chevy Trax

  • MSRP: Starting at $21,495
  • MPG: 28 city / 32 highway 
  • Safety Rating: 5-star overall safety rating (NHTSA)

Fix shared that the all-new Chevy Trax “delivers even better value than before.” She loves the compact SUV’s “dazzling redesign” and said its enhanced safety features sweeten a “once dreary” subcompact. For a good price, it has luxuries that new drivers will love, including remote start, heated front seats and steering wheel, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. That, paired with the 5-star safety rating, make it a great pick for new drivers.

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