Safest Used Cars for Teenagers to Drive

As if teaching your teen to drive — and white-knuckling it next to them as a passenger — isn’t stressful enough, you’ve decided it’s time to purchase a vehicle for your teenage driver. This could cause some mixed feelings. On the one hand, you’re happy that your time as their personal chauffeur is coming to an end. On the other hand, you’re really concerned about your teen’s safety. Then, there’s the expense.

Buying a brand new car is out of the question for most families – it’s simply not affordable. In a national telephone survey of parents of teenage drivers in 2015, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says 83 percent of parents of teenage drivers reported that they bought a used car for their teenager.

Anne McCartt, the Institute’s senior vice president for research says, “It’s easier than ever to find a used vehicle with must-have safety features and decent crash test performance without spending a fortune.” The IIHS further reports that the average price parents spent for a used car in 2014 was $9,800.

It’s important to note, however, that all used cars are not equally safe, and therefore, all used cars should not be considered for your teenage driver.

The IIHS defines safety by four main principles. Keep this list with you when car shopping:

  1. Bigger + Heavier = Safer. These cars are more protective in a crash. Also, the Highway Loss Data Institute analyses of insurance data show that teen drivers are less likely to crash bigger and heavier cars. You’ll notice there are no small or mini cars on the recommended list of used cars (see IIHS link below). Small SUV’s are included because their overall weight is similar to a midsize vehicle.
  2. Electronic Stability Control (ESC) & Side Airbags. ESC is an absolute must feature. ESC helps the driver maintain control of the car due to skidding or over-steering. This feature has been a standard in all but the heaviest vehicles as of 2012. Side airbags protect both the head and torso. (Front airbags became mandatory as of 1999.) Cars with ESC also have Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) and Traction Control. Yet vehicles with ABS and traction control don’t necessarily have ESC, so do your homework. Click here to verify ESC and airbag features on a particular vehicle.
  3. Keep Power Manageable. Young drivers should avoid vehicles that have high horsepower (powerful engines), which can be tempting for them to test.
  4. Ratings Matter. The vehicle you choose should at least have good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front test, acceptable ratings in the IIHS side crash test and four or five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 

The IIHS has compiled a list of Safe and Affordable used vehicles for teens, all under $20,000, categorized by “Best Choices” and “Good Choices” and further subcategorized by vehicle size with approved model years and approximate cost. For the first time, some pickup trucks have been included on this list.

Consumer Reports also recommends buying “the newest, most reliable model with the most safety equipment you can afford.” More specifically, it notes, “Do not even consider a car without antilock brakes. If you can reach a little deeper and get a car equipped with side and head-protection curtain airbags, antilock brakes, and electronic stability control, so much the better. The lifesaving assistance those systems can provide is worth every penny in an emergency situation, and they can be especially beneficial to an inexperienced driver.” Consumer Reports has compiled their list of the Best Used Cars for Teens.

“The prices for most of the vehicles we recommend for young, novice drivers are still higher than what a lot of people are used to spending,” notes McCartt. “We would encourage parents to consider paying a little more for safety if they can.”

The bottom line from the experts is that safety is key and you don’t have to spend a fortune to get the most important features that are recommended for teen drivers. It may not be that flashy car that your teenager was hoping for, but safety trumps looks any — and every  — day.

Parents, click here for more information on safe teen driving.

Infiniti of Cool Springs offers a variety of New and Pre-owned vehicles at its Cool Springs location, that will help keep your family (and your teenager) comfortable and safe. Visit their showroom in person or see their vehicles online. Call today to make an appointment, 888-356-6427.