Safe Cars For Teens

By Andrew Goodman

When a student gets his or her license, one of the many thoughts rushing through his or her head is what kind of car his or her child will drive. Parents are often asking the same thing. “What car is safe and reliable?…What car can I buy on a budget?”

Safety is a huge factor when it comes to buying a car for new drivers. One key reminder is that newest does not always mean safest. It is often felt that used cars are unsafe and new cars are the safest. While this is true in some manner, there are a few safe used cars available but it is always best to check crash test ratings before considering. The best place to check a cars crash test ratings is on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) website at www.iihs.org or on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website at www.nhtsa.gov. Here, ratings for different tests such as frontal impact and side impact can be found. Bigger vehicles typically provide better protection and are recommended for teens by IIHS. A full list of cars that IIHS has recommended for teens can be found at www.iihs.org/ratings/safe-vehicles-for-teens. In an email from Joe Young, Director of Media Relations for IIHS, he stated “…we regularly issue a list of recommended used vehicles for teens. Our latest version, which went out last summer, incorporates safety ratings as well as reliability and handling ratings from Consumer Reports…Last year we also issued our first ever list of recommended new cars for teens, for those that would be shopping for a brand new 2020 model…The reason we assemble these lists is because we know teens tend to drive smaller or older cars that don’t provide the best protection in a crash. Since teens crash at a rate about 4 times that of older drivers, vehicle choice is especially important for this group.”

The Mazda 3 Sedan, one of IIHS top picks for teens. (Photo courtesy of Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
The Mazda 3 Sedan, one of IIHS top picks for teens. (Photo courtesy of Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)

Reliability is another major factor. Even though a car may be new, it does not mean it is reliable. Vehicles that are listed as safe for teens have been made in partnership with Consumer Reports. Car ratings from Consumer Reports can be found at https://www.consumerreports.org/cars. The National High Traffic Safety Administration website will also give detailed lists of complaints and recalls on a car just by simply entering the year, make, and model. A car does not have to be expensive to be reliable. While some used cars may require some mechanical work from normal wear and tear, it can be a great deal altogether, as long as it is safe and reliable. When it comes to buying a used car, it is recommended one has a trusted mechanic look over the vehicle to ensure there are no major issues. Minor issues such as a headlight needing a new bulb, a dirty air filter, or worn out speaker are acceptable, as long as the price matches, the car is safe, and one is able to have it fixed properly. Major damage such as a damaged frame or compromised safety systems should be avoided.

The Toyota Highlander, one of IIHS picks for teens. (Photo courtesy of Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
The Toyota Highlander, one of IIHS picks for teens. (Photo courtesy of Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)

Altogether, used or new, it’s a good idea to check the safety and reliability of the car one is buying to ensure teen’s are safe.


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