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6 best cars for your teenager

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Teen driver

(MoneyWatch) CBS MoneyWatch readers have plenty of opinions about the best car for a teenager. Unfortunately, a lot of the received wisdom about the ideal ride for teenagers is misguided or even dangerous. To set the record straight -- and to get a short list of safe, efficient and inexpensive cars, ideal for teens -- we consulted Consumer Reports automotive editor Mike Quincy. He provided us with six cars, three from last year and three older ones, that he'd recommend for a new driver in anyone's household.

6 best cars for your teenager

The Honda Fit EV Daniel Terdiman/CNET/File

2011 Honda Fit

Suggested retail price: $14,951
Engine: 1.5 L 4-cyl

Honda's budget-mobile is a favorite among automotive writers and its $15,000 price tag makes it reasonably affordable for a parent adding to the family fleet. Electronic stability control is now standard, which makes it eligible to be a Consumer Reports Top Pick. Quincy's team aren't the only reviewers who like it. The Wall Street Journal's Jeff Sabatini says, "The Honda Fit is unquestionably my favorite car, a vehicle that's the best all-around transportation available from any auto maker at any price."

6 best cars for your teenager

IFCAR

2011 Hyundai Elantra GLS

2011 Hyundai Elantra GLS

Suggested retail price: $15,630
Engine: 1.8 L 4-cyl

The Elantra is a step up from the Fit in size and price (by about 250 pounds and $600). While Hyundai may not be a name to turn heads in high school parking lots, it's still well under $20k new, it has all the modern safety features and it sips gas. The 2011 redesign did wonders for its looks, which matter to teens.

6 best cars for your teenager

Josh Miller/CNET

2011 Kia Forte EX

Kia Forte

Suggested retail price: $14,541
Engine: 2.0 L 4-cyl

Consumer Reports praises the Forte for its value, and ranks it as one of the best cars under $20,000. Andrew Ganz of LeftLane News says that the Forte is a "...fun-to-drive, high quality car worth coveting. That's high praise for any car, let alone one costing less than $20,000." One of the biggest knocks on the car is that it is a bit slow on acceleration, but that's no problem at all to a parent buying the car for a teen.

6 best cars for your teenager

Wayne Cunningham/CNET

2008 Honda Accord

2013 Honda Accord

Suggested retail price: $13,955
Engine: 2.4 L 4-cyl

A used car is the most reliable way to lower the cost of owning a car since the steepest if least visible expense -- depreciation in a car's early years -- has already been wrung out of it. Quincy likes Honda's Accord. The '05s and '06s are available for $10,000 to $12,000, and have top reliability records, according to Consumer Reports. The car was redesigned in 2008, but the '09s and '10s have bounced back to above average reliability.

6 best cars for your teenager

Chevrolet/AP

2008 Chevrolet Malibu

2008 Chevrolet Malibu

Suggested retail price: $12,865
Engine: 2.4 L 4-cyl

The '09s have above average reliability, and in excellent condition go for less than $14k, according to KBB.com. The car has made reviewers get over their anti-Detroit bias. Zach Bowman of Auto Fieds.com writes, "Comfortable, spacious, attractive and fuel efficient, the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ is proof GM finally has a product that could dot the Camry's eye."

6 best cars for your teenager

AP

2007 Toyota Camry

2007 Toyota Camry

Suggested retail price: $13,365
Engine: 2.4 L 4-cyl

It may not be the car that your teen wants to show off in, but that's not your problem. For a parent, the Camry's beauty is that the cars have been so good for so long that any model under six years old is likely to have at least above-average reliability and value (especially the four-cylinder models). For safety's sake, though, you probably will prefer a Camry built since '07, the year that electronic stability control was introduced as an option. They're out there for well under $14,000.

6 best cars for your teenager

How to spend less on gas

Gas prices can make a big difference in your choice of vehicle. Mike Quincy from Consumer Reports recommends a few vehicles that get both great gas mileage and high scores in Consumer Reports tests.

This post by Eric Schurenberg originally appeared on March 28, 2011.

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