Today’s teenagers are part of a generation with a heightened awareness of their environmental impact compared to those before them. And living in an age with more information about excess carbon emissions negatively affecting our planet may make them more inclined to purchase an electric vehicle as their first car.
Here are key considerations when shopping for EVs for young drivers and some top contenders across multiple automakers.
How to choose the best starter electric car
Cost and affordability often top the list of factors for most people. Whether you’re buying the car for your teen or they’re saving up to purchase something on their own, the car-shopping budget likely has limits.
How far you can travel between charges is a significant part of how the car serves your needs. For teens still learning about car maintenance and driver responsibilities, paying attention to the battery’s charge is especially important.
The Tesla Model 3 is a good option if you prioritize range and sleek styling. On the other hand, the Chevrolet Bolt EUV may be a better choice if you’re seeking more space and the versatility of a hatchback with fold-down rear seats. Like shopping for any vehicle, choosing an electric car for teenagers ultimately comes down to the driver’s needs, priorities, and commuting habits.
Benefits of electric cars for teen drivers
- Lower fuel costs: Charging an electric vehicle is more affordable than filling up the tank in a gas-powered car, especially when charging at home. The price per gallon of gas fluctuates more often and more widely than electricity rates.
- Less maintenance: EV motors have fewer moving parts than gas-powered cars, so there are fewer maintenance tasks. Drivers don’t need to worry about oil changes or servicing a transmission or exhaust system.
- Affordable used options: The prices of used electric cars continue to trend downward as the alternative fuel vehicle market expands. Choosing a pre-owned model from a dealership or buying from a private seller makes it easier to find budget-friendly options.
- Newer technology: Features like touchscreen infotainment centers, advanced safety features such as emergency braking, and driver aids that include lane-keeping assistance are standard in lower trim levels of many EVs.
- Long-range options: Several entry-level EVs boast impressive electric range. While most teens don’t drive too far from home, larger battery packs can permit several days of driving to school, work, and extracurricular activities between charging sessions.
Best electric cars for teenagers
You can define a starter EV by its affordability, driving range, and overall ease of use. These qualities should be in the ideal electric car for teens. The EV should be practical and have safety and convenience features for young drivers preparing to hit the road on their own. Here’s our list of the best options to consider as you start your search.
Note: Prices listed below do not include applicable taxes, destination fees, or delivery charges.
Chevrolet Bolt EV
The Chevrolet Bolt EV, starting at $26,500, offers up to 259 miles of range on a single charge. If you’re looking to buy new instead of used, this is currently one of the least expensive electric cars on the market. Its compact size would make it a great commuter car for those living in areas with easily accessible charging infrastructure.
Chevrolet Bolt EUV
Larger than its Bolt EV sibling, the Chevrolet Bolt EUV offers an impressive range at a lower price point. It’s our top-rated electric vehicle under $35,000, starting at $27,800. The Bolt EUV gets up to 247 miles of range. It also features a more spacious backseat, perfect for teens transporting equipment for their various activities.
Leaf is another compact EV available for a lower cost. The base model starts at $28,140 and can travel up to 149 miles on a full battery. Ideal for short commutes instead of longer drives, the Leaf is comfortable, competent, and stable. Its luggage area is adequate and the rear seats have ample legroom.
Tesla Model 3
The increasingly popular Tesla Model 3 earns a spot on this list because of its engaging driving experience and about 270 miles of range in the base model. Knobs and buttons are nearly nonexistent in favor of a huge touchscreen for operating most functions, including air vent directions. The lowest-priced Tesla is one of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Top Safety Picks. It also earned five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA). The base model currently starts at $38,990. The Model 3 Long Range has a 333-mile range and costs $45,990.
Affordable electric car leases for teenagers
The cars in this list have a higher price point than those outlined above, but there may still be great lease offers available that make them worth considering for younger drivers. Leased vehicles will have mileage restrictions, which may work well for teens driving only to nearby schools, activities, or work. Remember that charges apply for damage and dents beyond normal wear and tear when the lease ends, so teens must be responsible and take good care of the vehicle. Still, a lease can be a great way for teens to experience driving a new electric car with the latest safety features and not have a long-term commitment.
With a base price of $42,600, the Kia
EV6 is one of the most popular electric vehicles available, and some leases may be available with monthly payments of less than $500. The car is enjoyable to drive, with precise steering and brakes that help inspire confidence in a young driver. It has a visually exciting exterior, a tech-forward interior, and a long list of standard features.
Our editors consider the Volkswagen ID.4 a practical and roomy all-electric SUV. It offers between 209 and 275 miles of range, depending on the trim level, and it also comes with modern features like adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking. The base model starts at $38,995, and Volkswagen
currently offers no-money-down lease specials to highly qualified customers.
Hyundai Ioniq 6
Like the Ioniq 5, the Hyundai Ioniq 6 pairs an impressive range with innovative technologies. Currently starting at $42,450, you can drive up to 361 miles in the RWD SE trim level. Dual panoramic interior displays, ambient lighting, and a steering wheel illuminated by LEDs give the vehicle a futuristic feel. Hyundai offers leases with monthly payments as low as $349.
Used EVs for teens
Many electric vehicles have high MSRPs, but they may also be available in the used market at much lower prices. Consider buying a used electric car for teen drivers and open up a wider variety of options for a smaller budget.
Kia Niro EV
New 2024 models start at nearly $40K, but used Kia Niro EV models are available for under $30K. This small, practical electric crossover is a great candidate for a young driver’s first electric car. Standard safety tech like forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, driver attention warning, and blind-spot monitoring make it hard to ignore. The range estimate for 2022 models is 239 miles on a full charge.
Hyundai Ioniq 5
The 2024 Hyundai Ioniq 5 holds the top spot on KBB’s Best Electric SUV list, and it earned our Electric Vehicle Best Buy Award winner in 2023. Finding a used Ioniq 5 is even better for your wallet. This EV is a beautiful blend of performance and function with plenty of tech, lots of standard equipment, and battery capacity that make it an excellent electric car option for young drivers.
Electric car considerations for teen drivers
While electric cars can be great for teen drivers, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind. Research your options thoroughly to have a clear understanding of the EV market.
Even modest electric cars can have impressive acceleration capabilities that can rival sports cars. While quickness is desirable, new drivers must respect the instant torque from EV motors. Responsible driving should always be the priority, even with a vehicle’s abundant safety features. Utilize parental controls to monitor or restrict certain driving behaviors. Set clear expectations and guidelines for the appropriate use of the EV. Education and instruction will develop a safe driving environment for young individuals and also help safeguard others on the road.
The term “range” refers to how many miles you can drive an electric vehicle on a single charge. This distance can vary significantly from one model to the next, depending on the battery capacity, body size, and other factors. For example, the base model Nissan Leaf has an estimated range of 149 miles. In comparison, the Chevrolet Bolt EV has an estimated range of 259 miles.
Alternatively, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) use a gas engine as well as an electric motor for their power source. Their smaller battery packs provide around 30 miles of electric range before the gas-powered engine takes over.
Prices for the Nissan Leaf currently start at $28,140, while the base model Kia EV6 starts at $42,600. The price scale is wide, but federal tax credits, local utility rebates, and lower maintenance expenses help balance it.
Charging infrastructure for electric vehicles is still expanding. Many big cities and heavily populated suburban areas have charging stations for drivers to charge their cars. If you’re considering an EV for a teenager, think about if they’ll have easy access to a charger. Living in an apartment or other multi-unit community can make it difficult to charge up at home. Review the charging options in your neighborhood.
For those in a townhouse or single-family home, you’ll need a licensed electrician to install a dedicated Level 2 charger in your garage or driveway. Otherwise, you’re limited to Level 1 trickle charging via your standard 120-volt outlet. Still, using that option might replenish the battery for daily commutes to school.
Cargo space may not be much of a consideration for the teen going to and from school, work, and minimal activities in between. However, for the student with lots of extracurricular equipment — sports gear, musical instruments, camping supplies, etc. — you’ll want to make sure there’s enough room for everything.
Are EVs good for teenagers?
An electric car can be an excellent transportation option for young drivers. However, the right choice depends on the individual’s circumstances. For the environmentally conscious teen who only drives short distances, an EV is a strong contender for a starter vehicle. However, for teenagers living in remote areas with longer commutes — or frequent road trips, college travel, etc. — charging considerations take priority. In these instances, another vehicle might be a better choice.
Alternatives to electric cars
A hybrid or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle is a good alternative for the teen not ready to commit to a fully electric vehicle. Hybrids work by combining an internal combustion engine with an electric motor to reduce emissions and boost fuel economy. These vehicles are often considered a bridge between conventional cars and EVs.
Traditional full hybrids and mild hybrids can be refueled at regular gas stations. The same is true for PHEVs, but their batteries must also be connected to a charging station or household power outlet when they run low. PHEV drivers can choose which power source to use depending on the commute. See a breakdown of hybrids vs. plug-in hybrids for a detailed explanation.
This story originally ran on KBB.com.