IIHS Recommends Best Used Cars for Teens

The time has come. More terrifying than perhaps even the first date. For parents, that is. It’s the moment of getting your teen their first car.

If you’re deciding on whether to go new or used, used cars are ok, but as we’ve said before, the newer the better. The reason being is that safety gets better every model year with new technology and innovation. Plus there are new safety systems around now like Teen Driver, which is offered by General Motors on newer model cars.

So while it is true, newer vehicles are generally going to be the safest, used doesn’t have to mean unsafe. This brings us to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety’s list of used car recommendations for teen drivers. It includes vehicles under two categories:

‘Best Choices'

Vehicles on the Best Choices list earn ‘good’ ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests and good or acceptable ratings in the driver-side small overlap front test. If rated by NHTSA, they earn 4 or 5 stars overall or 4 or 5 stars in the front and side tests under the old rating scheme. All come with standard Electronic Stability Control.

‘Good Choices’

Vehicles on this list earn good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. If rated by NHTSA, they earn 4 or 5 stars overall or 4 or 5 stars in the front and side tests under the old rating scheme. All listed vehicles start under $10,000. All come with standard Electronic Stability Control.

You can check it out the current IIHS list here.

When deciding on a vehicle for a teen driver, here are five things to keep in mind.

  1. Horsepower. Sadly, for the teenage dream, you really shouldn’t get yours a car packing a ton of ponies. The reason shouldn’t come as a surprise. The more powerful the car, the higher the temptation to push the gas pedal down further than is safe. Check out our post on this topic here.
  2. Bigger is Better. This one primarily has to do with logic and the laws of physics. The bigger and heavier the car, usually, the safer it will be in the case of surviving a crash. None of the smaller and mini size vehicles make the IIHS list. However, as we’ve noted in a previous post, you should also keep in mind that the bigger vehicles, like some SUVs with a high center of gravity, are often more challenging to handle and present a higher risk of flipping.
  3. Electronic Stability Control. If you’re buying used, here is one reason you should buy a 2012 model year or newer. ESC is a standard feature actually required by law since 2012 in all standard vehicles. (Know that it excludes some of the heavier vehicles.) It makes vehicles easier and safer to control on slippery road conditions. Speed sensors on each wheel track individual wheel rotations. Next, it takes note of the direction of the wheels making a comparison of them to the direction you are turning the steering wheel. ESC automatically applies the brakes on the out of line wheel when the two directions don’t match. Even though the government didn’t start requiring ESC until 2012, you can still find it in older models, but it’s definitely a question to ask before you make a buying decision.
  4. Crash Tests. How does the car do in IIHS and NHTSA safety tests? You can access both the NHTSA and the IIHS archives of their previous test results. So check out the scores of cars on your list, whether it be new or used.
  5. Check for Recalls: Make sure you check the vehicle VIN checked for outstanding recalls. Check the NHTSA database for recall information.

Photo Credit: pixelheadphoto digitalskillet/Shutterstock
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