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Consumer Reports approved: Best cars under $25,000 for first-time buyers

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6. Kia Optima

Price: $22,500 – $36,090

The Kia Optima “packs a lot of substance and value,” according to Consumer Reports. It handles securely, while its 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is “pleasant” and gets 28 mpg overall. Safety features like blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic warning come standard, although the forward collision warning system and automatic emergency braking are optional upgrades.

With all these models, the experts at Consumers Reports recommend looking at a lease or purchasing a used car with minimal financing.

“If you’re in your early 20s, you not only have your life before you, but you’ve got a lifetime of expenses ahead of you as well. There are other things to be saving your money and spending it on,” Jeff Bartlett, deputy editor of autos for Consumer Reports, tells CNBC Make It. Ultimately, new, used or leased cars are “all going to get you from point A to point B, so manage your costs and manage your risk.”

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