Automotive Research

What to consider if getting an EV for your teen driver

Whether learning to drive in their parents' EVs or getting one as their very own first car, teen drivers will increasingly be behind the wheels of battery electric vehicles.

EVs are similar to their gasoline counterparts in many ways, but differ in some key respects that are especially crucial for younger, less experienced drivers. We look at the things you should consider.

The benefits & drawbacks of EVs for teen drivers


  • More recent safety tech: Newer EV models focus heavily on technology with aids like blind spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alerts, and other advanced driver assistance systems.

    Even the oldest and most affordable EVs on the road only date to the early 2010s, with most offering safety features like back-up cameras and electronic stability control. Tech isn’t a substitute for safe driving, but it can be a difference-maker for drivers still gaining experience.
  • Lower costs: AAA’s 2023 Your Driving Costs study found that, on average, charging an EV costs less than half of putting gas in a small sedan ($47 compared with $111 per 1,000 miles). Most teens will charge at home, where electricity is cheapest—especially if their parents are paying the utility bill.

    EVs also need less maintenance since they have fewer moving parts and fluids. Teens won’t need to pay for regular oil changes or replacements of things like timing belts and spark plugs. 
  • Just enough range: Many older EVs have small batteries and ranges under 200 miles, with the oldest ones frequently having less than 100 miles of range. These shorter-ranged EVs can be perfect for teens who just need to get from home to school or a friend’s house, and their short range keeps the price low.

    Parents may also appreciate how limited range encourages kids not to get too far from home or drive too aggressively, lest they drain their battery that much faster.
  • A head start on EV education: EVs are expected to make up an ever-larger share of the car market each year. Getting your teen familiar with how they drive and function, especially things like how EV charging works, could give them a leg up in the future.  
  • Eco-friendly: Many teens are concerned about climate change and would prefer a vehicle with a lower carbon impact.


  • Instant torque: Unlike gas cars, EVs can deliver nearly maximum torque from a standstill. Inexperienced teen drivers may struggle to control that power, and some may find it tempting to show off.
  • Charging: Home charging requires patience, especially if using a slower Level 1 charger. Charging in public requires planning ahead in addition to patience. Less patient teens may get frustrated; less responsible ones may get stranded.  

    If your kid is planning to take the car with them to college or when moving out, they may need to rely on public chargers if they can't charge their vehicle at dorms or apartments. 
  • Battery degradation: As with any used car, a used EV needs to be inspected carefully before buying, with an eye on how worn the battery is. A moderately worn battery can be a good deal for a teen's first car, but a dying one could quickly need an expensive replacement.

    Nearly all new EV batteries are warrantied for at least 8 years or 100,000 miles. Buyers of used EVs should look for a transferrable battery warranty and find out how much time and mileage are left if there is one. 
  • Size: Some older EVs, like the Fiat 500e and the BMW i3, are small and may not be as safe in a crash with a larger car or truck. 
  • Limited selection: Depending on where you are, used EV inventory may be limited to the few models that were on the road until recently. Newer EVs may also be hard to get if your region hasn't yet received much inventory. 

Unsure about an EV? Consider a plug-in hybrid.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, also referred to as PHEVs, combine a short all-electric range (typically 20-50 miles) with a gas engine. These cars run solely on electricity until the battery is depleted, at which point they operate as gas hybrids. They can be driven as an EV around town, and as a hybrid for longer trips or whenever else it's necessary. Learn more about plug-in hybrids.

What to look at when comparing EV models

These are key questions you'll want to answer about the models you're considering before deciding.

Is one-pedal driving optional?

One-pedal driving is a drive mode in which the driver can accelerate and brake with the accelerator pedal alone. Releasing the accelerator in this mode engages regenerative braking strong enough to bring the vehicle to a stop, eliminating the need to use the actual brake pedal. Drivers can still use the brake pedal in one-pedal driving, but in routine driving there’s usually no need. 

Most EVs have the option to easily switch between one-pedal driving or a more traditional setup that applies little or no regenerative breaking when the accelerator is released, allowing the car to coast instead, and uses the brake pedal for routine braking.

A few—including all recent Tesla models—exclusively use one-pedal driving, always applying forceful regenerative braking when the accelerator is released. 

Teens can learn to drive safely with one-pedal driving, and they increasingly will as EV adoption picks up. But if your teen is a new enough driver that they aren't sure they'll like one-pedal driving, you may want to look at models that offer them a choice. 

Does it have a way to limit acceleration & speeds?

EVs usually have a few driving modes to pick from, including ones that dial back acceleration and top speed. Some models include parental controls that can lock these more sedate driving modes in place.

The Chevy Bolt, for example, comes with what Chevy calls Teen Driver Technology. It allows parents to set a top speed, limit radio volume (muting it entirely if seatbelts are unbuckled), and it even provides a “report card” of a teen’s driving habits and any recorded high-risk events.

Some models have similar tools that aren't explicitly labeled as “parental controls.” Tesla, for example, allows drivers to lock in a speed limit and “chill” acceleration mode with a 4-digit PIN. 

Is the range & charging speed a good fit for your teen?

How much range you want to give your teen depends on a couple factors, but ultimately, you know them best. Shorter range may help keep less responsible teens on a shorter leash—it's harder to take an unapproved road trip when you've only got 50 miles of charge—but might also increase the odds they'll get stranded. On the flip side, needing to plan around driving range and charging sessions ahead of time could give your teen a chance to build and demonstrate responsibility. 

If your teen is driving longer distances, in addition to a larger battery, look for a model with DC fast charging capability. Even if they don't plan to use it, the option to add dozens of miles of range in minutes can be handy if your teen accidentally finds themselves low on charge and far from home.


AAA resources for teen drivers

Help prepare your teen for the road with online driver training, as well as teen driver workshops and AAA driving schools available in select areas.


How auto insurance works for teen drivers

Car insurance for teens can be a little confusing, but we've got answers to your most pressing questions.


AAA Car Guide

The annual AAA Car Guide can help you find the perfect car, with rankings based on fuel efficiency, handling, and more. 

Looking for a dealer you can trust?

AAA members can enjoy a great car buying experience with AAA Car Buying Service. Find the car you want from a certified dealer and feel confident in the price you’re paying.

AAA Car Buying Service is only available to AAA members. Outside of Southern California, AAA Car Buying Service is managed by TrueCar, Inc. Only car buying research tools are available in Hawai‘i.

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