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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) publishes a list of vehicles that earn top safety ratings each year. Not all of them are affordable for a family on a budget, however — so here are seven that have a starting MSRP under $25,500.

If you aren’t searching for a new car, there are picks from previous years available so you can make an informed selection when buying a used car. This will help you stay well under the cost of a new car and prevent you from losing much to depreciation. Certified pre-owned cars are often a good option for shoppers looking to avoid some of the risks that can come along with used cars. These vehicles have usually cleared major equipment checks and have verified routine maintenance.

It’s also important to note that new cars are expensive due to ongoing supply chain issues and persistently high interest rates. While these vehicles have a lower starting MSRP than others on the market, any additional features or a more luxurious trim will drive up the price quickly.

1. 2023 Mazda 3 — $22,550 to $23,550

Both the sedan and hatchback versions of the 2023 Mazda 3 are rated top picks for safety. They each earn top scores in every category except injuries to the driver’s torso and headlights — though this depends on the trim you select.

The sedan offers two trim options under $25,000. The roomier hatchback also has two trims under the $25,500 mark.

Even if you go with the basic trim, the Mazda 3 comes standard with lane departure warnings, rearview monitors and a suite of other safety features. Like the Honda Civic listed later, this is a small car and is best for smaller families.

2. 2023 Chevrolet Trailblazer — $21,800

The Chevrolet Trailblazer is one of the more affordable new SUVs on the market. It’s a small SUV — bigger ones tend to come with much higher price tags — but it still has plenty of space for a family of five. And while it only receives an “acceptable” rating for headlights, it earns high scores from the IIHS in all other categories.

It earns an acceptable score for its LATCH system, so it may be better for a family with older kids who don’t need car seats. But overall, it’s a solid option. The 2022 Trailblazer is also a top safety pick, which makes getting a used version an equally valid option.

3. 2023 Mazda CX-30 — $22,950

The Mazda CX-30 receives “good” scores — the highest rating — across the board. It’s one of the least expensive SUVs on the market and has two trims under $25,500.

Like the Mazda 3, it comes standard with lane departure warnings, rear-view monitoring and other safety features. And while it’s a small SUV, its five seats should have enough room to haul your family around while staying under budget. If you’re shopping for used cars, the 2022 model also makes the list of the safest small SUVs.

4. 2023 Subaru Legacy — $24,395

The Subaru Legacy has been on the top safety list for years. It’s a sedan, so it’s better for smaller families that don’t need much trunk space. But it is known to be reliable.

However, it is missing a few safety features that come standard on other vehicles. Blind spot detection and lane change warnings aren’t available on the basic trim, which is the only option that costs under $25,500 new. You may be able to find these features on a used Legacy — it’s just not guaranteed to be included.

5. 2023 Honda Civic 4-Door Sedan— $24,650

The 2023 Honda Civic Sedan ranks as the Kelly Blue Book’s best-buy compact car of the year, in addition to maintaining a Top Safety Pick+ rating with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The Civic, redesigned for the 2022 model year, has long been reliable and continues to deliver. The new model received “good” scores in all categories except the side crash test, where it scored “acceptable.”

6. 2023 Kia K5 LXS— $25,090

The 2023 — and 2022 — Kia K5 is a top-rated sedan, but it may be better for families with older kids. The LATCH system to hook up car seats only has an acceptable rating. This isn’t the worst thing, but it may make it more difficult to install and switch out seats as needed.

Like many new cars, it has several driver assistance and collision avoidance systems to keep you and your family safe. These are standard in the basic trim, so you won’t have to spend extra to have access. Kia is also one of the top-rated manufacturers as far as reliability and has a lengthy warranty period on its new cars.

7. 2023 Hyundai Sonata – $24,950

The Hyundai Sonata has consistently earned an IIHS top safety pick rating for several years, and the 2023 model continues this strong track record. With a reputation for safety, strong fuel efficiency (up to 38 mpg highway) and great warranties, the Sonata is likely to retain value.

Like several other vehicles on this list, the Sonata scored only “acceptable” for its LATCH system, meaning it may be best for families with older children. The same goes for its seat belt reminder system.

Financing your family car

No matter what vehicle you pick, the first step before visiting the dealership is to prequalify for financing. You can do this through a bank, credit union or online lender — or submit multiple applications to all three. It only counts as one query on your credit report if you apply within a 14-day period, so you can compare rates without hurting your credit.

Prequalifying will give you an extra edge during negotiations. You can be firm on a $25,500 price point. And if the dealership can offer you a lower rate or better deal, you can opt for that financing instead.

And since most lenders offer 30 days to shop, you can take your time researching and finding a good deal on a family car. This way, you can ensure you get the best of both worlds: A decent interest rate and a reliable, safe vehicle for your family.

The bottom line

If you’re shopping for a new family car, these are your most affordable and safe options. Used cars are a solid choice for a family on a budget. They’ll often be under $25,500 — and the price tag may be more negotiable with a dealership.