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. You can check it out the lengthy list here. It includes 131 used vehicles organized in 49 best choices under $20,000 and 82 good choices under $10,000.
The models on the ‘best’ list carry a good IIHS rating on the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. The ‘good’ models get the same good rating in all but the roof strength test.
No matter what car they’re in, teens are at the most risk for a deadly crash. This is no surprise given that teens are the newest drivers on the road. So no matter what car you are considering, safety should be top of mind.
“Good crash protection is more affordable than ever, so there’s no need to skimp on safety when it comes to a vehicle for a young driver,” said David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president, and chief research officer.
Here are five things to keep in mind when you start your search.
1. Consider 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. Look for Electronic Stability Control.
If you’re buying used, here is one reason you should buy 2012 model year of 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. Consider Crash Tests
Basically, this sums it all up. It’s what the three first requirements are ultimately about. So if all the boxes above are checked, here’s the final thing to look at. How does the car do in IIHS and NHTSA safety tests? Personally, we prefer the NHTSA rating, especially because they are about to get more comprehensive. But it doesn’t hurt to check both out. What you’re looking for is a car that scores well across the board.
5. Check for Recalls
One last thing to keep in mind before you sign. Make sure you have the vehicle checked for outstanding recalls. Check the NHTSA database for recall information.
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