The Safest Affordable Used Cars For Teen Drivers – Forbes
Though statistics suggest today’s teenagers aren’t as eager to get behind the wheel as were their car-crazy predecessors, obtaining a driver’s license and driving one’s first car remains an important rite of passage for young adults. Unfortunately, a recent study found that many teens are driving vehicles that are woefully insufficient in terms of crash protection and safety technology.
This is particularly crucial, as car crashes remain the leading cause of death among Americans ages 15 to 19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Among 500 parents queried by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), just over half reported buying cars for use by teen drivers that were from the 2006 model year or earlier; if it was a model that was passed down from parents or an older sibling, two thirds were eight years old or more. That’s significant because vehicles of that vintage are far less likely to include safety features such as electronic stability control and side-impact airbags than are cars from more recent model years.
What’s more, 28 percent of parents/teens picked subcompact and compact-sized cars that inherently fare worse in a collision than do larger and heavier models. A separate IIHS study shows that teenagers killed in crashes are more likely to have been driving small cars and older vehicles than adults.
Many parents tend to purchase an older “beater” car for a couple thousand dollars or less as a teen driver’s first ride, but the experts suggest families dig deeper into their pocketbooks to properly safeguard their offspring. “Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to get a safe vehicle for a teenager at the prices most people are paying,” says Anne McCartt, IIHS senior vice president for research. “Our advice to parents would be to remember the risks teens take and consider paying a little more.”
As the accompanying slide show illustrates, it’s possible for parents to choose a safer car for young drivers and still stay within a reasonable budget. We’ve compiled an assortment of 21 vehicles that are less than 10 years old and can be purchased from used-car dealers starting at an average of around $7,000 to $12,000 (higher for later-model versions; prices tend to be lower if purchased from a private party, and either way are almost always negotiable). They may not be the most alluring rides on the road, populated by an amenable assortment of sedans and crossover SUVs that include the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, and Dodge Journey, though a few more expressive models are represented like the Audi A3, Volkswagen CC and Volvo C30.
Most importantly, the all of the cars in our list are equipped with electronic stability control for added protection against sudden spinouts and rollovers, and received “good” marks from the IIHS when they were new in each of its crash-test criteria. These include moderate overlap front crash protection, side crash protection, head restraints and seats for rear crash protection and roof strength to protect occupants in rollover crashes.
Otherwise, the IIHS advises that parents who are shopping for a teen driver’s first car keep the following criteria in mind:
- Stay away from high horsepower models that can tempt teens to test their limits. Most cars’ base engines should be sufficiently powerful for young drivers.
- Bigger and heavier vehicles protect their occupants better in a crash than do smaller and lighter models.
- Choose a car that’s fitted with electronic stability control, which helps a driver maintain control of the vehicle in sudden steering maneuvers and over slippery roads. SUVs and pickups are at particular risk when not equipped with this feature because their higher centers of gravity make them the most prone of all vehicle types to rollover crashes.
- Choose a vehicle that comes with front-side and/or side curtain airbags that help protect occupants in side-impact crashes.
- Consider a model that has the best safety ratings possible; crash-test ratings from past model years can be found on both the IIHS’ website and the crash-test database compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The Fine Print: All cars featured received top marks for crash protection when they were new by the IIHS, and include standard electronic stability control. Cars are listed in order of listed retail price, high to low. Prices quoted are the lowest average retail prices from Kelley Blue Book listings, and are for base models with standard features and powertrains from the oldest model years mentioned, located in the Chicago area, in good mechanical/cosmetic condition or better and with average miles (around 12,000/year) on the odometer.