IIHS List of Safest Vehicles for Teen Drivers

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December 23, 2015

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety issues a list every year of its top recommended used vehicles for teen drivers. When parents buy cars for their teens, they typically either buy cars that their kids like or used cars that parents think are practical. However, many of the cars chosen by well-meaning parents are not the safest options for teens. It is especially important to provide these new drivers who are still developing their road skills the best cars for their own safety and for the safety of other motorists on the road.

As more manufacturers continue adding standard safety features as well as newer safety features, the list of top used cars for teens continues growing. Research conducted by the IIHS showed that most parents who bought vehicles for their teens were shopping on a budget. For this reason, the IIHS created different sub-categories in the list based on prices. According to their research, the average amount spent by parents on cars for their teens was close to $10,000. However, the median price was slightly less than $5,500.

While most parents are shopping on a budget for their teens, the IIHS points out that it is better to spend a little bit more than the budget amount over sacrificing safety to spend less. When parents are faced with the choice of buying a vehicle that is not on the list or spending a little more, it is better to pick the safer option. The addition of something as simple as a lane departure warning feature could save a teen from an accident and parents from spending more over the years on a higher insurance premium stemming from a teen’s at-fault crash. However, a teen losing his or her life in a crash is far worse than paying higher premiums or paying for medical bills.

The IIHS kept the same format for its list this year. It has a category for the best choices that are priced less than $20,000, and it has a category for good choices that are priced under $10,000. The best choices passed the Institute’s most important crash tests with good ratings, and the good choices passed some tests with decent ratings. Experts emphasized the importance of avoiding three common mistakes when buying cars for teens:
  • Never make horsepower a priority. Although many teens beg and plead for vehicles with more horsepower, it is important to avoid these. It is too tempting for teens to test the power of these cars. In addition to this, many of these cars are more expensive to insure.
  • Avoid buying lighter cars. The IIHS emphasizes that larger and heavier vehicles are safer overall. Smart cars, Minis and other small and light vehicles are not on the list.
  • Never skip out on electronic stability control. This is a safety feature included in all of the recommended cars. It has been a mandatory inclusion on all vehicles made since 2012. Electronic stability control helps drivers stay on slick roads and stay on the road when it curves. It has been proven to save lives and has cut fatal crashes of single vehicles in half.
Parents who were hoping to spend a little bit less than $10,000 can take comfort in the good news that many safety features can help lower insurance premiums. Here are the top three cars in select categories. To view the full list of safe cars recommended by the IIHS, visit its website. For more information about these cars and how they affect insurance rates for teens, discuss concerns with an agent.

Large cars
  • Volvo S80, 2007 and newer, $5,800
  • Ford Taurus, 2010 and newer, $10,900
  • Buick LaCrosse, 2010 and newer, $11,300
Midsize cars  
  • Volkswagen Jetta sedan and wagon, 2009 and newer, $5,600
  • Volvo C30, 2008 and newer, $7,000
  • Volkswagen Passat sedan, 2009 and newer, $7,300
Small SUVs   
  • Honda Element, 2007-11, $6,700
  • Volkswagen Tiguan, 2009 and newer , $7,900
  • Subaru Forester, 2009 and newer, $9,000
  • Toyota Tundra crew cab (Double Cab), 2007 and newer, $12,200
  • Ford F-150 crew cab (SuperCrew), 2011 and newer, $16,800
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