Top 6 Safest Used Cars for Teenagers

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Although cars are getting safer young drivers are still vulnerable and pron to accidents. They not only lack the experience behind the wheel, but they are also subject to stronger emotions that may affect their driving. After all, their first car is a sign of independence or even a social status among their crowd. This may push safety further down the list of things to think about while driving.

Color and brand may be important to teenagers, but you as a parent have to think of other things as well. And here, we don’t mean the price of the vehicle, which is what usually comes first to mind. There is much more to think of than just the financial aspect of buying your child’s first car. Such as safety which should be a parent’s top concern in any situation. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that nearly half of the teens involved in a car crash die. It is exactly motor vehicle crashes that statistics show to be the primary cause of death for teenagers (14-18 years old).

So, how do you as a parent prevent such tragic events happen to your children?

We suggest starting from the purchase of the car itself. It is well-known that new is always better and we can truly say that this is valid for the purchase of motor vehicles as well. There are many benefits of buying a new car for your children, of course, the most important one being modern safety features. New vehicles, especially those produced in the last 5-8 years, have better security controls and that is why insurance companies and traffic safety organizations always recommend investing a little more and choosing a new vehicle. However, it is often quite unrealistic for parents to buy their teenage child a brand new car. If your budget planner is filled up with college bills, summer courses or trips, then the money for a new car may be completely out of the picture.

How do you provide your teenager with the best possible vehicle when your budget is limited?

Naturally, some parents would give up one of their own cars in order for their child to move around freely. Passing down a family car may also not be the best option. Family cars are more likely to be older and thus less advanced in terms of safety technology and protection features, such as side airbags for example. If you have the budget to afford a new vehicle for the teenager at home, we suggest taking a look at this list of new cars suitable for teenagers. On top of the list is Mazda, Subaru and Toyota models primarily because secure handling features, good responsiveness and certainly appeal. The average price on these models is a little over $20,000.

Luckily, there are already several organizations that classify vehicles in a ranking list based on a safety rating that considers vehicles’ safety features and performance.  Last year, for example, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit financed by the insurance industry, came out with a list of used vehicles that they recommend for young drivers. The list considers two safety aspects – the crash avoidance and crash worthiness of a vehicle. The suggestions come as a result of research conducted among 500 parents, and aim to guide families to safer vehicle choices that match their budget. The list consists of various make and models, starting from prices as low as $5,000 and up to $20,000, so that parents could find the best and most affordable solution for their capabilities. You can see the full list of recommendations here, and below you can find the top used 6 vehicles according to the IIHS.


Used vehicles for teens < $20,000Used vehicles for teens < $10,000
Saab 9-5 sedan (large cars)Acura RL (large cars)
Toyota Prius V (midsize cars)Subaru Legacy (midsize cars)
Honda CR-V (small SUVs)Nissan Rogue (small SUVs)
Volvo XC60 (midsize SUVs)Mazda CX-9 (midsize SUVs)
Buick Enclave (large SUVs)Volkswagen Routan (large SUVs)
Chrysler Town & Country (minivans)




If you want to choose your teenager’s car more carefully yourself, here are a couple of valuable principles to consider to narrow down your search and bring you to a decision faster. The IIHC organizes their classification of suggested vehicles based on these aspects as well.

  • Safety features.
    Electronic stability control is a must-have feature for all vehicles driven by inexperienced drivers, and not only. It is considered to be the most effective safety feature since the invention of the seat belt. Having an ESC is crucial because it allows the driver to maintain control on curves and slippery roads. The ESC was made standard on all passenger cars in 2012, so most new cars will have it. It is also good to consider side airbags – they are a critical buffer in any size collision due to the smaller space between the passenger and the edge of the car.
  • Weight and size.
    It is proven that bigger and heavier vehicle perform better in crash tests. However, keep in mind that a teenager who just received permission to be alone on the road may not feel comfortable in a massive car. When not equipped with an ESC, larger vehicles like SUVs or pick-ups are more likely to experience rollover accidents. And on top of that we don’t want to buy any more fuel inefficient cars, right? Try to be green!
  • Power.
    Inexperienced drivers don’t need a vehicle with high horsepower just yet. It will be too tempting for them to push their limits. And we know how dangerous this could be with teenagers who try to show off and impress a crush. If you go for a more powerful vehicle, you might see your insurance premium go up faster than the car itself so keep that in mind too. As disappointing this might sound to your teenage boy, sports cars are not a good choice either. They have one of the highest accident rates among all other vehicle types.

To be honest, it is quite unlikely that the top vehicle choices by teenagers comply with these principles. However, you should always remember that it is your duty as a parent to stand your ground and enforce the safer choice. After all, if their first car is among the safest ones, teenagers will have a whole lifetime to get a more powerful vehicle that matches their tastes in the future.


About the Author:

Dilyana Dobrinova is a nature & travel enthusiast. With a heart for books, scarves and vintage. She runs a brand consulting agency, while also running 10Ks between meetings. Dilyana holds an M.A. in International Marketing Management from the Berlin School of Economics and Law in Germany, and two B.As. in Journalism & Mass Communication and in Business Administration from AUBG.

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