Buying Advice

AutomotiveMap Picks: Best New Vehicles for New Drivers

The Toyota Corolla is a valiant pick for new drivers because of its standard safety equipment and low price tag.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

When many of us were young, it was common to have our first cars be whatever Grandma didn't need anymore or whichever the most beat up model in the driveway was. Those days are quickly coming to an end as parents are eager to give their teenagers access to the latest safety technology, which means buying a new vehicle.

However, new cars are expensive. The best cars for new drivers offer a value proposition for the buyer as well as a long list of standard and available safety technology. The ones on the list are the favorites of AutomotiveMap's writers.

​2020 Kia Rio

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Jesus Garcia: A starting price well under 20k, the Kia Rio is a little car with big character. Parents should know that this car was recently named an IIHS Top Safety Pick, with high praises for its front crash avoidance technology.

​2020 Hyundai Kona

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Sue Mead: The 2020 Hyundai Kona has a high-tech image both outside and in. Its user-friendly features and available premium audio make it equally as attractive as its tidy dimensions for easy maneuvering. The Kona can hold up to five. It comes in four front-wheel drive trim levels in addition to all-wheel drive with a locking differential. Remote keyless entry with alarm, a rearview camera, and parking guidelines are also highlights.

Nicole Wakelin: This subcompact SUV has versatility for cargo for those moves back and forth to college. It's also affordable and has earned top marks for safety.

2020 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

Harvey Briggs: It's not the fastest or most fun hatch on the road, but it does come with a manual transmission (which I believe everyone should know how to drive) and Toyota's Safety Sense. Compact so its easy to maneuver and park. And it's a Toyota so you know your new driver won't be left stranded somewhere.

2020 Nissan Versa

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Perry Stern, AutoNXT: The new 2020 Nissan Versa delivers fuel-efficient powertrain, roomy interior, the latest in safety technology and a low starting price – a great option for the new driver.

2020 Hyundai Venue

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Eileen Falkenberg-Hull - The Hyundai Venue is a bit smaller than the Kona but has similar features at a lower price. It's a pleasure to drive, easy to park, and has enough space for four adults for short trips. Hyundai wins points for making Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard on even the base model, as well as an 8-inch infotainment touch screen.

2020 Toyota Corolla

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

Chad Kirchner: The 2020 Toyota Corolla is available in either a sedan or hatchback, making it versatile, but also because Toyota includes their excellent safety suite standard on every trim.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The Nissan Titan, like other full-size trucks, is capable of towing most things families are looking to move from Point A to Point B.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

How much does the average trailered dirtbike weigh? A jet ski? A car? Thankfully, someone crunched the numbers. That someone is Nissan.

The weight your vehicle can tow is determined by a number of factors, including the strength of the chassis. A manufacturer will tell you the capability of your vehicle. You can find it in the owner's manual, usually accompanied by a laundry list of how-to's and notes. Even if you think you're an expert, take the time to read over the instructions in the manual if it's the first time you're towing with a vehicle.

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Remember, when you're trying to determine if your vehicle is capable of towing what you want to, you'll need to take into consideration the weight of the trailer. Also keep in mind that weighing your vehicle down with a full trunk/cargo area/bed and passengers can impact its ability to tow with ease.

Here are the average weights of the items you might tow.

Dirtbike with a trailer

The average dirt bike with a trailer weighs 800 pounds. Some trailers are capable of carrying multiple dirt bikes. You'll want to add together the individual weight of each dirtbike to the trailer weight to ensure your vehicle is still capable.

2020 GMC Sierra 1500

Photo courtesy of GMC

Some full-size trucks are able to fit dirtbikes in their bed. The 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 with a Carbon Pro bed has specialized indentations in its bed just for such a task.

Jet ski with a trailer

A jet ski with a trailer weights about 1,100 pounds, on average. Like with dirt bikes, you'll want to check the weight of the jet skis individually if you intent to pull two on one trailer. Also, consider that at trailer that you can haul two jet skis with may be wider than your vehicle. If it is, be sure to practice basic maneuvering with it before you hit the open road.

Four-wheeler with trailer

2020 Honda Ridgeline

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co. Inc.

A four-wheeler is slightly heavier than a jet ski. Towing one on a trailer is a 1,200-pound task. Some trailers allow you to pull two four-wheelers at a time. You'll want to consider the weight of the larger trailer plus the weight of each four-wheeler on it, combined, before determining if your vehicle is capable enough to tow the load.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 High Country

Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

18-foot bass boat with trailer

An 18-foot bass boat is good for a day in the sun with family or an early morning on the open water. A bass boat-trailer combination weights 3,300 pounds, on average.

Pop-up camper

2020 Nissan Rogue

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

If social distancing is right up your alley but pitching a tent is not, consider towing a pop-up camper to the woods. Nissan has calculated that a typical pop-up camper weighs 3,500 pounds.

In the market for a new pop-up camper? See our list of the best ones here.

Pontoon boat with trailer

If you're ready to hook up your pontoon boat to a trailer and head to the water to live your best life in Little Big Town style, you'll want to take into consideration that the average pontoon boat and trailer weigh 3,700 pounds combined.

Car with trailer

The typical car weighs upwards of 2,500 pounds. If you're looking to tow a vintage model on a trailer, or just pull your daily driver behind your motorhome, plan to be towing at least 5,500 pounds.

24-foot travel trailer

2020 Nissan Armada

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

A 24-foot travel trailer may be able to fit your whole family for a night near a lake, but the average two-row SUV isn't strong enough to pull it. Plan on the travel trailer weighing around 6,000 pounds. Of note, some three-row SUVs that aren't full-size can handle this weight.


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Ford has redesigned the Ford F-150 for the 2021 model year.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Sure, Ford has redesigned the F-150 for 2021, but what does that all mean? The team in Dearborn came up with a handy guide to show the innovations and while we could just post those two images here, that doesn't tell the whole story. Scroll down to get a more in-depth look at the 21 changes to the exterior and interior of the 2021 Ford F-150 for the new model year.

New steel frame

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford has given the truck a new high-strength steel frame. That doesn't mean that they've shied away from aluminum. The body is made from a high-strength version of the material.

Appearance packages & wheel options

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford is promising that the F-150 will come with a wide variety of appearance packages and wheel options. Though the exact packages to be offered aren't known, we do know the wheel options, which vary by trim level:

  • Standard
    • 17-inch silver-painted wheels
    • 17-inch silver-painted aluminum alloy wheels
    • 18-inch machined-aluminum alloy wheels with magnetic pockets
    • 18-inch machined-aluminum alloy wheels with ebony black pockets
    • 18-inch silver-painted aluminum alloy wheels
    • 18-inch aluminum alloy chrome-like PVD wheels
  • Optional:
    • 20-inch aluminum alloy chrome-like PVD wheels
    • 20-inch aluminum alloy premium painted tarnished dark wheels
    • 20-inch machined-aluminum alloy wheels with magnetic pockets
    • 20-inch machined-aluminum alloy wheels with light caribou-painted pockets
    • 20-inch polished-aluminum alloy wheels
    • 22-inch polished-aluminum alloy wheels

PowerBoost

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

When it's a hybrid a hybrid? When it's a PowerBoost. The 2021 Ford F-150 will be available as the only full-hybrid model in its segment. This is compared to the mild-hybrid 48-volt system that some of its competition has.

The system consists of Ford's 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine paired with a 35-kilowatt battery. Ford estimates that drivers can go 700 miles between fill ups.

The hybrid models will also have at least 12,000 pounds of maximum towing capacity.

Buyers can get the PowerBoost powertrain on any trim level F-150.

PowerBoost models have a "PowerBoost" badge on the outside bottom of the F-150's driver's side door. When the truck is powered by a the available diesel engine, the badging is changed out to "PowerStroke". When one of the traditional gasoline-powered engines is chosen, it appears that there is no badge in that area.

Pro Trailer Backup Assist

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford is continuing to give its F-150 Pro Trailer Backup Assist. Not much is new with the technology, but it does play out on the F-150's new, larger screen which provides higher resolution imagery. The knob sits in a similar position as it did in the last generation but the trailer brake controls are lower down, having been divided by a horizontal structural element in the center stack that runs the width of the interior.

Trailer Reverse Guidance

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The F-150 doesn't have as many camera angles as the Chevrolet Silverado but it does have reverse guidance, which utilizes five cameras to give drivers an idea of their obstacles and provide line guidance while backing up. The system can even tell you which way to turn the wheel.

Pro Power Onboard

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

You don't need to bring a generator with you when you opt for Pro Power Onboard, which turns the F-150 into a mobile generator. Buyers can purchase the tech at every trim level. It has a 2.0 kilowatt output on optional gasoline engines. PowerBoost models get a 2.4-kilowatt or 7.2-kilowatt system.

Zone lighting

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

When you don't need the full power of the F-150's headlights while camping, parking, or maneuvering in your driveway, zone lighting is the solution you need. The technology allows you to control the individual exterior lights on the truck.

Trailer Theft Alert

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Ford F-150 doesn't just let thieves sneak off in the middle of they night with your trailer unnoticed. The automaker's new trailer theft alert pushes an alert to your mobile device via the FordPass app if the tech senses that the trailer is being unhooked while the truck is locked.

Over-the-air (OTA) updates

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford technology has enabled the F-150 to receive over-the-air technology updates. This means that you won't have to visit the dealership or use a small disc to get the navigation system updated. Also, owners can add features to their model as the technology develops and is made available.

Clamp pockets

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

In the tailgate the F-150 are clamp pockets designed to hold down materials so clean cuts can be made and precision work can be executed.

Built-in bottle opener

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The F-150 is ready to tailgate. The design team added new cleats on the inside of the tailgate that don't just act as tie-down locations - they're also capable of acting as bottle openers.

Tailgate Work Surface

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Buyers can opt for the Tailgate Work Surface, which provides an area with built-in rulers, a mobile device holder, cupholder, and pencil holder. This isn't just good for pros. DIYers and weekend warriors will like the feature too.

All-new interior

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford has put comfort, technology, and functionality in focus in the redesigned cabin. From seats to displays to ergonomics, the company took into account interviews with current and previous-generation F-150 owners when designing the new interior.

Max Recline Seats

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The truck's Max Recline Seats fold flat to nearly 180 degrees, providing plenty of space to lay down, recline to a comfortable position while you wait for your takeout to finish cooking, and provides a fresh configuration for hauling items in the cabin.

Larger digital gauge cluster

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The F-150 is available with a customizable 12.0-inch digital instrument panel. It responds to the truck's selective drive modes and displays data that is helpful for off-roading and towing, as well as turn-by-turn navigation instructions. The easy-to-read screens feature crisp graphics. A 4.0-inch productivity screen is standard in the instrument cluster.

12-inch infotainment display

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford is giving the F-150 an available 12-inch infotainment touch screen located at the center of the dashboard. An 8-inch infotainment touch screen is standard. The Ram 1500 has a similarly sized screen, but that one is vertically oriented as opposed to the horizontally oriented screen in the new F-150.

More standard Ford Co-Pilot360 technologies

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The 2021 Ford F-150 has more driver-assist technologies than what you'll find in other full-size trucks. This includes Active Drive Assist, a new hands-free driving technology. You can see all the technologies in action here.

SYNC 4

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The new SYNC 4 infotainment system is standard. It features hands-free voice control, phone capability, navigation, and other features. The system can connect your smartphone to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto wirelessly. It has twice the computing power as SYNC 3.

Lockable rear under-seat storage

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

This one is pretty straightforward. The available bin below the back seat can be locked for storage security.

Interior work surface

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

This may be one of the niftiest inventions of the F-150. The center console is able to be opened up and used to create a flat surface to work on - a portable desk or table. The truck's shifter folds into a storage area so that it doesn't get in the way.

Trailer light check

2021 Ford F-150

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Using the FordPass app, owners can cycle through the trailer light functions to check to see if any of their lights are out and to ensure that the system is functioning properly. This means that there is no partner required to help with hookup.

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