What are the safest cars for teens?

Parents worry about their teenagers when it comes to getting behind the wheel, and for good reason. We have written extensively on how teens are at a higher risk for crashes and injury than drivers of any other age group. The reasons are numerous: teen drivers are inexperienced, prone to take more risks, and are easily distracted, particularly when they have passengers in the vehicle.

Teen drivers often drive older, unsafe vehicles

That is why parents, when possible, try to have their teens drive the safest possible vehicles. Of course, for most, the newest model vehicle with the highest possible safety rating is simply not in the budget. Often, what teens can afford to drive, they do, regardless of the safety of the vehicle.

To help, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety publishes a list of the safest used vehicles for teens, by class and price point. These prices range from $2,000 to $20,000. The list for 2017 was published this April. A summary of what to look for can be found below.

Generally, parents who can afford to buy a used car for a teen should look for:

  • Low horsepower: For obvious reasons, most teenagers do not need a high-octane thrill ride for their first car. Avoid a high-powered engine, which will also save you money.
  • A heavy frame: Midsize cars, small SUVs and larger vehicles are the safest. There are often good reasons for going small, including saving on gas, but if possible, a larger car is safer for your teen.
  • Newer safety technology: While price can be a factor, cars that have automatic braking systems, rear-view cameras and electronic stability control can drastically increase safety. For example, electronic stability control, which is a standard feature in all 2012 models and later, cuts fatality risk in half.
  • Good safety ratings: Look for neutral third-party safety ratings, for example from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That is also a good place to check for recalls on vehicles.

Be safe

Of course, old-fashioned education and role modeling should not be overlooked. While teens are prone to unsafe driving, having rules in place about passengers, drive time and other boundaries can decrease crash risk. In addition, teens still take cues from parents and loved ones, and good role modeling has been shown to help decrease risk for injury caused in motor vehicle accidents.

If you are looking for specific ratings, the IIHS has published them online.

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Steven H. Dorne

Attorney Steven H. Dorne

Attorney Steven H. Dorne is an accomplished lawyer who practices in state and federal courts in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. He brings more than 30 years of experience and a long record of success to each case. His law practice is distinguished by careful preparation and thorough analysis of each case...

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