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If you are looking for a good first car for your teen driver – or anyone – the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has updated its recommendations for used vehicles for teens, and the list has grown by more than 50 percent, even though the price and safety criteria haven’t changed.
IIHS compiled its first list of recommended used vehicles after finding that the vast majority of parents who bought a vehicle for their teen driver bought it used. The survey also found that the budgets for teens’ vehicles were limited. The mean purchase price for a teen’s vehicle was $9,800, while the median was just $5,300.
Still, there are a few things that parents shouldn’t compromise on:
- High horsepower should be avoided. The temptation to test the limits of a powerful engine is too hard for many teens to resist. Vehicles that only come with big engines have been left off the lists, but many recommended models have high-horsepower versions that should be avoided. The base engines of all the listed vehicles have adequate power for teens.
- Bigger, heavier vehicles are safer. Consumers won’t find minicars or small cars among the best choices or the good choices. (Small SUVs, which weigh about the same as midsize cars, are OK.)
- Electronic stability control is a must. This technology, mandatory since the 2012 model year, helps a driver maintain control on curves and slippery roads. It’s a proven lifesaver, cutting single-vehicle fatal crash risk nearly in half. All listed vehicles have the feature standard.
- When it comes to crash test ratings, vehicles on the “best choices” list have good ratings in the Institute’s longstanding moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. Vehicles on the “good choices” list have good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front test, good or acceptable ratings in the side test and a better-than-poor rating for head restraints.
If rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, vehicles on either list must earn 4 or 5 stars overall or 4 or 5 stars in the front and side tests under the old rating scheme. The recommendations don’t take into account the small overlap front crash, which IIHS added to its testing lineup in 2012. The test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle hits another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole. Until recently, few vehicles were designed for good protection in this type of crash.
If there is a new driver in your household, you need to add them to your auto insurance policy. Talk with your insurance professional to see what options are the best for you.
To check the IIHS recommendations, visit www.iihs.org.