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Best Vehicles for Teen Drivers

Just because you're buying a used car for your teenager doesn't mean you have to compromise on safety. There are plenty of quality used cars equipped with IIHS recommended safety features.

Best Vehicles for Teen Drivers

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety did a survey with parents back in 2014 to find out what vehicles newly licensed teenagers are driving. Although significant safety technology has been added to newer model year vehicles, the survey showed that many teens are currently driving older model year vehicles with inferior crash protection.

The study found the following:

Vehicle Model Year by Teen Drivers
  • 41% of teenagers were driving 2000-06 model year vehicles
  • 30% were driving model year 2007 and newer
  • 19% of teenagers were driving a model year 1999 and older
Vehicle Category by Teen Drivers
  • 27% of teens drive midsize or large cars
  • 22% of teens drive SUVs
  • 20% of teenagers drive mini or small cars
  • 14% of teenagers drive pickups
  • 6% of teenagers drive minivans
  • 1% of teenagers drive sports cars
Type Purchased for Teen Drivers
  • 43% of vehicles driven by teenagers were purchased when the teenager started driving or later
  • 83% of the vehicle’s teens drive are used
  • The median cost of the vehicle purchased was $5,300 and the mean purchase price was $9,751

Many of the vehicle’s that teens are driving today do not have key safety features such as electronic stability control - but since teens are driving older model year vehicles or vehicle types or sizes that are not ideal for novice drivers.

The IIHS defines safety by recommending vehicles along these four main principles:

Avoid High Horsepower Vehicles

The IIHS recommends that parents stay away from high horsepower vehicles - which is tempting for young drivers to drive faster than they need to.

The Bigger and Heavier the Better

Larger vehicles protect occupants better in a crash and analysis done by HLDI shows that teen drivers are less likely to get in accidents with them in the first place. IIHS doesn’t include minicars or small cars on the recommended list, but allows small SUVs as they have a similar weight to midsize cars.

Vehicles with Electronic Stability Control (ESC)

This safety feature helps drivers maintain control around curves and slippery roads and reduces risk on a level comparable to seat belts.

Best Safety Ratings Vehicles

The vehicle chosen should have good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front test, acceptable ratings in the IIHS side crash test and four or five stars from NHTSA.

Just because you're buying a used car for your teenager at home doesn't mean you have to compromise on safety. There are plenty of reasonably priced, quality used vehicles with the recommended features above. For example: 2010 Ford Fusion, 2009 Volkswagen Wagon, or a 2005 Volvo XC90 would be great options for both your wallet and keeping your new driver safe.

See the complete list of recommended vehicles from IIHS here.

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