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 eight that have a starting MSRP under $25,000.
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.
It’s also important to note that new cars are quite expensive because of an ongoing semiconductor shortage. 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. 2022 Mazda 3 — $20,800 to $22,750
Both the sedan and hatchback versions of the 2022 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 starts at the lowest MSRP on the list, and there are four trims under $25,000 available. The hatchback, while roomier, only has two trims under the $25,000 mark.
Even if you go with the basic trim, the Mazda 3 comes standard with lane departure warnings, rear view 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. 2022 Chevrolet Trailblazer — $21,600
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. And while it only receives an average rating for headlights, it earns high scores from the IIHS in all other categories.
It earns an average 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 2021 Trailblazer is also a top safety pick, which makes getting a used version an equally valid option.
3. 2022 Mazda CX-30 — $22,200
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 $25,000.
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, it should have enough room to haul your family around while staying under budget.
If you’re shopping for used cars, the 2021 model also makes the list of safest small SUVs.
4. 2022 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid — $22645
The Subaru Crosstrek has been on the top safety list since 2019, so it’s a good option if you want a safe used car, too. Plus it’s a hybrid — making it good for saving on gas costs.
And of course, it’s a wagon, the classic family car shape. Like a hatchback, the added trunk space should be a bonus when you need to transport large items. Subarus are also known to retain their value, which means you may not take as big of a hit from depreciation if you do choose to buy new.
5. 2022 Subaru Legacy — $22,995
Like the Crosstrek, 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 $25,000 new. You may be able to find these features on a used Legacy — it’s just not guaranteed to be included.
6. 2022 Honda Civic — $22,350 to $23,350
The Honda Civic hatchback earns top marks in every category except passenger and driver restraints. Since it’s a hatchback, it has extra room in the trunk to haul what your family needs without taking up as much space as an SUV.
The hatchback has two trims that are under $25,000: the LX and the Sport. Both come with lane departure warnings and other collision avoidance systems along with a wide variety of safety features that come standard on the LX trim.
The sedan version of the Honda Civic has a little less space overall, but it also comes at a slightly lower price point. This also means that three trims — rather than just two — are around the $25,000 price point. And, like the hatchback, the sedan earns top marks in every category except driver restraints and passenger lower leg and foot injuries.
7. 2022 Kia K5— $23,790
The 2022 — and 2021 — 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 average rating. This isn’t the worst thing, but it may make it more difficult to install and switch out seats as needed.
Like many other new cars, it has a number of 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 just 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.
8. 2022 Toyota Camry — $25,395
The Camry is one of the best cars if you are concerned with safety and staying on budget because it’s consistently on the list of safest midsize sedans. So, while the 2022 Camry starts a little higher than $25,000, you’ll be able to find used cars that are equally as safe as the current model.
That being said, ensure earlier models have the safety features you’re looking for. Some may not have options that are considered standard in the current market.
Financing your family car
No matter what vehicle you end up picking, the first step you should take 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 $25,000 price point. And if the dealership can offer you a lower rate or better deal, then 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 generally going to be a better choice for a family on a budget. They’ll often be under $25,000 — and the price tag may be more negotiable with a dealership.