Ask the Car Chick: Which are the Best Cars for a Teen, and Which Mid-Sized SUV Is the Best Family Car?

Car Shopping
? The Car Chick

You asked; LeeAnn answers.

LeeAnn Shattuck is skilled at finding the perfect car for her clients based on their needs, financial situation and priorities. Lucky for you, she’s here to answer your questions, too.

Car Shopping

A MINI Cooper with pink side mirrors? yes please! ? The Car Chick

We Need Reliable and Inexpensive Car for a Teenage Driver!

“We need to buy a new car and want one that we can pass on to our teen daughter in 3 years when she gets her license. We want something reliable that will last, but that won’t be expensive—less than $400 a month. What do you recommend?” – Nicole

Buying a car with a teenager in mind comes with its own set of challenges. Teens usually want a car that is fun and cool, whereas parents want their child is something safe and reliable. I clearly remember having this exact argument with my parents when I was 16. I wanted a sports car, like my father had (and that I learned to drive in), but my mother was dead set on a nice, safe station wagon that would guarantee me “uncool” status for the remainder of my high school career.

Nicole’s situation has the added twist that the vehicle needs to work as a family car for a few years before being handed down to their daughter. I’m going to make the assumption that the car will need to last her not only through high school but probably through college as well, so it needs to be reliable and easy to maintain.

Safety is likely a priority as well for this family. Distracted driving is the leading culprit in accidents involving teens, so I recommend considering vehicles with driver safety aids and lots of airbags. A budget of $400 a month translates to about a $25,000 car.  Here are some models to consider that fit all of these parameters.

Related: Car Shopping: Meet The Car Chick and Her Three Golden Rules

Interior Of Toyota Corolla

The Corolla’s cell phone connectivity is a great feature to keep your teenage driver from letting go of the wheel. ? Toyota

Toyota Corolla

Toyota has long been known for making safe, reliable vehicles that are easy and inexpensive to maintain, making them a great choice for young drivers.  The 2021 Corolla also comes standard with Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 suite of driver aids that includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist. You’ll also get blind spot monitoring if you opt for the LE trim with the Premium package.  The Corolla has no less than eight airbags, including seat-mounted side airbags for the front seats, a passenger seat cushion airbag, a driver knee airbag, and front and rear side curtain airbags. It’s the perfect car to keep your teenage driver safe.

With a starting price just under $20,000 and a combined fuel economy of 35 mpg, the Corolla won’t break the bank.  The sleek new styling and addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto technology should keep your teen from rolling her eyes at your super safe choice. Toyota is currently offering zero percent financing up to 48 months on most 2021 Corollas.

Related: Why The Toyota Corolla Makes A Great First Car

Toyota Corolla

The Toyota Corolla is perfect for your teenage driver. ? Toyota

Hyundai Elantra

You get a lot of bang for your buck with Hyundai, and the 2021 Elantra does not disappoint. Hyundai’s newly redesigned compact sedan oozes style and sophistication.  In addition to standard driver safety aids and wireless Apple CarPlay / Android Auto, the new Elantra will also feature dynamic voice recognition technology that allow you to roll down your windows, pop the trunk, open the panoramic sunroof or activate the heated seats by just talking to the car. That’s cool by anyone’s standards.

The new Elantra will start around $20,000 and comes with a 10 year/100,000 mile warranty.  You can save even more money on an outgoing 2020 model with up to $2500 in rebates and zero percent financing up to 60 months.

Hyundai Elantra

If you’re looking for the perfect car for your teenage driver, look no further than the Hyundai Elantra. ? Hyundai

Moving Up in the Mid-Sized SUV World

“The lease on our GMC Acadia is about to expire; we love the car for the WiFi and 2nd row captains seats, but we hate the radio/dash. We are not opposed to another GMC, but wonder what our options are in the same price range?” – Mary

The GMC Acadia has long been a popular choice for families, along with its swankier cousin, the Buick Enclave, due to the smooth, comfortable ride and generous third row.  While the new Acadias still features a refined ride and the latest technology, some new entries in the mid-sized SUV segment offer some stiff competition.

2020 Gmc Acadia

The 2020 GMC Acadia definitely sees some upgrades over its previous iterations, but it’s not the only mid-sized SUV to check out.

Hyundai Palisade or Kia Telluride

The Hyundai Palisade and its cousin, the Kia Telluride, took the industry by storm when they debuted for the 2020 model year, earning top awards from MotorTrend, Kelly Blue Book, US News and the Kia Telluride took the top honor as the World Car of the Year. The Palisade and the Telluride share the same underpinnings and drivetrain, but their designs are radically different. The Telluride looks rugged and ready to take on the toughest terrain, while the Palisade does a more than passible imitation of a luxury ride. Both vehicles offer excellent passenger and cargo space, intuitive technology and an industry leading warranty.

Hyundai and Kia have strong lease programs and low APR offers through the month of October on remaining 2020 inventory.

Related: Kia Telluride vs. Hyundai Palisade: These Brand NEW 3-row SUVs Are on ?

The Hyundai Palisade Is A Comfortable Mid-Sized Suv.

The Hyundai Palisade is a comfortable mid-sized SUV. ? Hyundai

Subaru Ascent

Another good choice in the mid-sized, 3-row SUV segment is the Subaru Ascent. While not quite as roomy as its Korean rivals, the Ascent still holds seven or eight passengers and up to 86.5 cubic feet of cargo with the second and third row seats folded down. With standard all-wheel drive, generous ground clearance and a plethora of Thule accessories from bike carriers to kayak racks, the Ascent will easily support your outdoor family adventures. The Ascent’s 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine gives you both pep and towing capacity while still getting a combined 23 miles per gallon.

Subaru currently has aggressive lease terms for the Ascent and has extended their zero percent APR for up to 63 months through November 2 on leftover 2020 models.

With so many exciting makes and models on the market today, finding the right car can seem like a daunting task. But with a little research on sites like, and, you can find the perfect ride for you and your family.

The Subaru Ascen

The Subaru Ascent is a great mid-sized SUV for an outdoorsy family. ? Subaru

LeeAnn Shattuck is an automotive expert, speaker, writer, radio & television host, and race car driver. LeeAnn also owns... More about LeeAnn Shattuck