Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A black 2019 Ford Escape is shown driving in a city after visiting a dealer with a used Ford Escape for sale.

What Makes the Ford Escape a Good Pick for Teen Drivers?

Whether you’re already looking for a used Ford Escape for sale or just started searching for a vehicle for your teen driver, there are some important considerations. You want a vehicle that drives well, is reliable, and can help keep your new driver safe. The Ford Escape comes through in all of these areas. Its small size, impressive handling, and great standard and available safety features make a used Ford Escape a good first car for a teen driver.

One important thing to remember when looking at used Escapes is that the model year, trim, and features that the original owner chose all impact what you get. Ford offers many options for their vehicles. This is great, but it also means you need to take a little extra time when looking at any used Ford to ensure you know how specific one you’re checking out is equipped. This is even more important with a vehicle for your teen since you don’t want to overlook anything vital. Let’s look at these factors for the Ford Escape to see why it works so well for new drivers.

Small Size and Crossover Design

Back in the day, the conventional wisdom seemed to be to get a big old sedan and surround your young driver with as much car as possible to protect them from other vehicles. That makes a kind of sense, but starting off with a land yacht of a car wasn’t always the most convenient plan. Getting around a crowded high school parking lot in a huge beast of a car could make for a nerve-wracking morning. Considering how well-designed vehicles are these days for reducing the force of an impact, we’d suggest a smaller vehicle like the Ford Escape for a new driver.

This small size is perfect for getting to and from school, navigating parking lots, and getting through potentially crowded city streets. It’s far easier to maintain good visibility in a smaller vehicle like the Escape while enjoying an SUV’s higher seating position. Anything you can do to give your kid an advantage while on the road is a win, which is why we like the overall shape and design of the Escape for a new driver. There aren’t any strange angles or curves, and no extraneous details to get in the way. It’s simply an SUV that works well and gets your teen where they need to go.

While sedans were once a great choice, a crossover SUV like the Ford Escape is a better choice for its design, size, and functionality. If your teen is involved in any after-school programs, the extra cargo space inside the Escape is perfect for getting sports equipment, musical instruments, class projects, and anything else to school. The fact that this is a compact model also means your teen (hopefully) won’t be able to fit six or seven friends inside to come along for a ride. It’s a good idea to not allow other teens as passengers for new drivers for a while, and a smaller vehicle can help reinforce that.

A grey 2020 Ford Escape is shown driving.

Impressive Handling and Good Engine Options

One of my favorite things about the Ford Escape, and a good reason to choose it for a new driver, is how well it drives. With a new driver, the last thing you want is for them to fight against the vehicle in any way. They should be focused on driving safely, being aware of others around them on the road, sticking to the speed limit, and building good life-long driving habits. It’s much harder to stay focused on these if you’re dealing with a bad alignment, rough suspension, or sticky transmission.

The Ford Escape is well known for offering a great driving experience, and it has been for quite a long time, so it’s a great pick for a used model. Even if you get a 2015 model from its third generation, for example, it’s still noted for offering a responsive driving experience that’s quite rewarding. If you look at a newer used model from the current fourth generation (this one kicked off with the 2020 model year and recently received a mid-generation facelift for 2023), you get even better performance. You’ll also find several different engines on these used models, which you want to pay special attention to.

Looking at a third-generation model from 2018, for example, you’ll find a 2.5L engine that offers 168 hp on the standard S trim. SE and SEL models have a 1.5L turbocharged engine that puts out 179 hp, which is probably a better option, even for younger drivers. There is also an available 2.0L turbocharged engine that delivers 245 hp. this is the one I’d suggest for an experienced driver, but if your teen driver is still learning the ropes behind the wheel, then the 179-hp engine is the one to look for. This will help them keep things under control before moving on to something with more muscle.

Terrific Safety Tech and Features

Safety equipment has come a long way since I was a teenager, getting my first taste of freedom behind the wheel. I can’t imagine being a parent and watching a teenager drive away in something with little more than seatbelts and a few crumple zones to protect them. Things are a lot better these days, and the Ford Escape is a great example of that. For many years now, the Escape has received a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as well as high ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). That means any used model you get will have impressive safety features, but newer models will also have great safety tech.

Looking at late-year third-generation models from 2018 to 2019, you can find features like automatic emergency braking. They weren’t standard equipment during these years, though, so you have to look carefully to make sure these vehicles have it. Starting with the Escape’s fourth generation in 2020, the Ford Co-Pilot360 suite of advanced safety tech became standard on every model. If you go with any used Ford Escape from 2020 or later, you’ll find things like a forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, a lane departure warning, and blind-spot monitoring. Any used Escape can be a good choice, but I’d look for a fourth-generation model to ensure it has excellent safety tech. Plus, there’s a good chance it has fewer miles for better long-term reliability for your teen.

A red 2020 Ford Escape is shown driving by a building.

Final Things to Consider

With the launch of the fourth generation in 2020, the Ford Escape got some new engines. You’ll still find multiple powertrains, including a 250-hp turbocharged I-4 that I’d probably avoid for a young driver, so keep that in mind when considering different options. There are plenty of other niceties to be found in a used Escape from the last few years, like a big digital gauge display and a ten-speaker sound system, but that’s probably not at the top of your list for features you care about (though your teen certainly might). The one thing I wish Ford had is a teen driver system like GM models offer, but not having that isn’t the end of the world. If you’ve taught your new driver safe habits while on the road and trust them to be smart and careful when behind the wheel, a used Ford Escape is a great pick for their first vehicle.