What safe American car should i get?

Hi, im 15 years old and my parents are thinking of getting me a used car for my birthday in oct. The conditions are that the car has got to be from and American company and a fantastic crash rating. Also my parent think that having a smaller (as in shorter) car would be easier for teens to use. Please help me :slight_smile:

Pick up a copy of the Consumer Reports car issue. It rates all of the US and imports.


A 2007 or 2008 Chevy Cobalt 2-door has all 4 and 5 stars. You can look up government crash tests here:

You can look up IIHS/HLDI tests here:


Poke around and create a short list of cars that you and your parents find acceptable

Get the latest Consumer Reports car guide, it’ll have lots of safety and reliability info.

Here’s a web site that combines the various crash test performance and equipment (air bags, etc) into ratings. Worth a look:

The only small car that was a 2009 top safety pick and American is the Focus.

You may also want to consider the Greensburg, Indiana built Honda Civic, the Lafayette, Indiana built Subaru Impreza, and the Fremont, California built Toyota Corolla

The April edition of Consumer Reports which has the VW GTI on the cover and says Annual Auto Issue printed on a yellow stripe at the top of the cover is still on sale. You have a while to study it. If it helps to buy a better car every six years, it could save many thousands of dollars over those years.

Some of the leftover money may come in handy when you want to start playing golf. That’s just two of the things I should have done when I was young; saved money and played golf.

Frankly all cars today are safe IMO. Compared to the cars available when I was a kid, the worse ones are great.

Drive carefully, don’t take chances and please please don’t drink and drive. We want you to live long enough to enjoy that car. My first car cost me $500 for a demo Sunbeam Imp. Everyone though it was unsafe. I was hit by a Greyhound bus on the freeway one night and after I finally sold it to a co-worker he came into work the next week to thank me for that car. Had fallen asleep and ran into the back of a parked full size Chevy on a free way exit ramp, he had just a bruised shoulder (where the seat belt held him) and a scratch.

It is difficult to make judgments.

You may also want to consider the Greensburg, Indiana built Honda Civic, the Lafayette, Indiana built Subaru Impreza, and the Fremont, California built Toyota Corolla
I think OP wants a car within the parameters of parents demands…sounds American.
Pontiac Vibe, Chevy Prism, Ford Focus, Chevy Cobalt…some of which are re-badges and where made is not a consideration. It’s like wearing high heels…it’s more important how you look than your (economic) health considerations. Which is fine…
So my recommendation would be the Ford Focus.

I would suggest reading the following article before choosing an “American” company…

“You may also want to consider the Greensburg, Indiana built Honda Civic, the Lafayette, Indiana built Subaru Impreza, and the Fremont, California built Toyota Corolla.”

The Impreza is a very good small car, but it is not built in Lafayette, Indiana or anywhere else in the US.
All Imprezas and Foresters sold in the US are built at the Fuji Heavy Industries factory in Gunma, Japan.
The Lafayette, Indiana factory builds the Subaru Outback, Legacy, and Tribeca, as well as the Toyota Camry.

Many years ago when the Plymouth Acclaim was introduced (as the Accord killer). It was shown that there were MORE American workers and MORE American made parts used to build the Honda Accord then the Plymouth Acclaim.

I would suggest that article too, but this criterion doesn’t come from the OP. It comes from the OP’s parents.

I think the Ford Focus might be the best of the available options.

If the OP wants a real American car (one made in the USA with the most American-made parts), he/she could try saying, “Mom and Dad, I looked at Ford, GM, and Chrysler, and I am concerned that they all seem to be made with Chinese parts and they all seem to be made outside the USA. How about this Honda Civic that is made here in the USA with more American-made parts than those so-called ‘American car companies.’” I would be interested to know how they respond.

I would suggest a Chevy Prizm if the crash ratings are acceptable to your parents. They are well-built and affordable cars, although some of the newer models (98-2002) can have issues with burning oil. If you buy one made in those years, just check your oil level frequently.

What is your parent’s budget?

and lets not forget about the complexity of the AWD system that Subaru has. While good maintenance habits can be taught, not everyone can know about the intricacies of having all 4 matching tires that are properly inflated.

Also, my suggestion for vehicles would be to talk to your parent’s insurance agent about what to look at. They will have the most comprehensive list of cars for teen drivers. A 4 door will be cheaper to insure than a 2 door.
Your parents seem to have some sense to them wanting to put you in a somewhat smaller, yet still safe vehicle. We’ve had parents asking what kind of large truck/SUV they should buy their 16 year old kid.
One other thing to consider is taking those extended courses in road safety that are available from local driving schools, this should help lower your insurance as well.

under 13000, if even that much.

Oh, if it’s that much, look at a 2007 Chevrolet Malibu LT with the 6-cylinder engine. IIHS gives it their highest scores for offset crash, side impact, and roof strength. NHTSA gives it all 4 or 5 stars for all of their crash tests. The design is unsinspired, but that translates into thousands less than a comparable Toyota Camry or Honda Accord - and you can’t have them anyway. Your parents might like it so much, they’ll drive it. Find one on a new car dealer’s used car lot. You and your parents can take it for a spin and see if all of you like it. You don’t have to buy that particular one, but there won’t be any obvious problems with it if the dealer kept it to sell himself.

One thing I have against jtsanders’ Malibu recommendation is that it doesn’t have the short wheel base your parents seem to want. In addition, when gas prices go up, I would not want to own a car that large with a V6 engine. For these reasons, I continue to recommend the Ford Focus. You should be able to find a 2008 Focus with less than 30,000 miles on the odometer for about $13,000.

Pontiac Vibe would be more useful for the move into a college dorm

And let’s not forget that the Corolla is no longer made in the US. If you’re buying used, you can find one that was, but the majority of Corollas sold prior to NUMMI’s shutdown were actually still built in Canada or Japan.