Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A blue 2016 Chevy Malibu is driving along the coast.

The Perfect Used Chevy for the First Time Buyer

It’s not uncommon to daydream relentlessly about what your first car will be. After all, there are some fantastic vehicles out there! Maybe you’re the type who would love to take a Corvette or Camaro zipping down wide-open desert roads. Or you’re looking forward to loading up a Suburban with all of your friends and gear and heading out for a weekend of hiking and camping. While there are a few lucky people who score a brand new vehicle the minute their new drivers’ license is issued, the more likely reality is that you’ll immediately head to the dealership to scour the used cars for something that will fit your budget and your needs.

While most states allow future drivers to start the process around age 15 or 16, many drivers are waiting a few years before learning how to drive. Regardless of the driver’s age, the most important thing is to feel safe and secure in your first car. That might mean getting something with lower horsepower, so you feel in control as you grow accustomed to accelerating and braking through different scenarios. Bigger, heavier vehicles are often considered cumbersome “land yachts,” but can that bulk can make a difference in a crash, especially if there are younger family members on board. Additionally, it’s important to look for all of the safety features a vehicle includes. While each year, manufacturers add more and more standard safety technology, Chevy has produced some incredibly safe and reliable vehicles in the past decade that repeatedly make the grade for safe, affordable first cars. Best of all, it’s easy to find these vehicles on the used car lots today!

The Chevrolet Malibu

The Malibu isn’t a Camaro, but new drivers on a budget can find models produced between 2010 and 2016 for a respectable price tag. Furthermore, the Malibu is a handy vehicle with more than enough bells and whistles to keep it relevant and engines that provide adequate power without leading to racetrack temptations.

The 2010 model, for example, received a comprehensive selection of standard safety equipment, including StabiliTrak, six airbags total for both the front and rear seat, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and traction control, and front seatbelt pretensioners.

In 2016, the Chevy Malibu was given a complete makeover. Used models of 2016 to now have even more safety features, including the Teen Driver program. This technology allows parents of young drivers to monitor speed and destinations and even prevents the audio system from playing until every passenger is wearing a seatbelt.

The 2016 model increases the number of airbags to ten total and adds OnStar for support in the event of an accident. Drivers can also enjoy adaptive cruise control, blind spot warnings, forward-collision alert, and a rear cross-traffic alert, depending on which trim level of Safety package was originally purchased for the vehicle.

While it may not be a street rod, the Chevy Malibu is an extremely capable and reliable four-door sedan with a great range of safety features, and the new driver’s budget in mind.

A gray 2014 Chevy Traverse is parked in front of a brick building.

The Chevy Traverse

The Traverse may not seem like an obvious choice for a new driver; after all, it’s pretty big. But not all new drivers are teenagers- some of them need the three rows of seats for up to seven passengers, or at least the cargo room provided when the seats are reconfigured!

The Traverse models produced between 2012 and 2017 tend to hit the value sweet spot, sporting plenty of practical safety features and a budget-friendly price tag.

The 2012 Traverse, for example, comes equipped with StabiliTrak stability control with rollover mitigation technology. Not only is the Traverse equipped with this technology, which keeps it upright during emergency avoidance maneuvers, but it also features six airbags, including full-length side curtain airbags.

In 2014, Chevy added more safety technology to the Traverse. Not only were rear view cameras installed, but the 2014 Traverse models also include forward collision alert, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring with a rear cross traffic alert, and navigation with traffic data. Many of these features were optional on lower trim levels, but standard on the top LTZ trim.

Standard on all Traverse models that year are four-wheel antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control technology, airbags for all passengers––including the full-length side curtain airbag––and OnStar crash notification.

For those looking for a starter vehicle for the whole family, consider investing in an older, yet still very relevant, Traverse.

The Chevy Impala

The Impala has made its name as one of the more luxurious members of the Chevrolet lineup. Even when buying a used model dating back to 2015, drivers will enjoy a plush, cushy ride, and plenty of upgraded technology.

Among those luxury amenities are a full suite of safety features. The 2015 Impala has ten standard airbags, along with traction control systems and stability control. Rear parking sensors also provide warnings when in reverse, and optional equipment included adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, and lane departure alerts.

Though these features may be found on certain trims, it’s not unusual to find these selections on used models. The Driver Confidence packages have been a very popular addition across the Chevy lineup for many years, offering a greater array of safety features for various trims.

The 2018 Impala, for example, includes the most safety technology standard with the top Premier trim, but these features are optional on the LT trim. These features include Side Blind Zone Alert with Lane Change Alert, as well as Rear Park Assist. Other available technologies available with the Premier Driver Confidence Package include Lane Departure Warning, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, and Forward Collision Alert.

Even the base models include standard safety considerations. All 2018 Chevy Impalas include ten airbags, OnStar emergency assistance, and both stability and traction control features.

Chevy Impalas dating back to 2010, not only provide a smooth, quiet ride for five but all the right safety features to feel confident as a new driver.

Two young women are getting into a popular used car, a red 2018 Chevy Equinox, which is parked in a driveway.

The Chevrolet Equinox

Compact crossover SUVs are all the rage right now, and for good reason. They have plenty of room to stow stuff, just enough power to tow small loads, and room for five passengers. This level of capability likely checks a lot of boxes on many new drivers’ lists.

Equinox models from 2014 through today also check off a lot of safety needs, too. The 2014 model includes standard safety features like traction control, electronic stability control, and plenty of airbags for front seat and rear outboard passengers. Higher trims include even more safety technology, such as the rear vision camera on the LT trim, and lane departure warning and forward collision alert on the LTZ models.
While the standard 2014 Equinox is a front-wheel drive model, drivers could choose all-wheel drive as an option, giving new drivers better traction and control on wet or slippery roads.

Like all Chevy models, the 2018 Equinox got a safety upgrade, including ten standard airbags, stability control technology, and a rear-view camera. Teen Driver technology is also standard on 2018 models. Active safety systems, such as collision mitigation and lane-keep assist start to show up in this model year, as well, though as part of optional Confidence packages for the LT and Premier trims.

The overwhelming popularity of compact crossover SUVs may help give it a place on a new driver’s wish list. A used Equinox can help make that dream come true without breaking your budget.

While every driver has a dream car, every driver desires a vehicle that’s safe and reliable. Used Chevys have earned that reputation, both in their forward-thinking safety technology and time-tested tradition of going the distance over many years.