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IIHS Issues New List of Safest Used Cars For Teens

IIHS Issues New List of Safest Used Cars For Teens

By Joseph Dobrian, April 14, 2017

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has updated its list of safest used vehicles for teenaged drivers. The new list includes 49 "best choices," starting under $20,000, and 82 "good choices," starting under $10,000. The IIHS bases this new list on more stringent criteria than previous lists, as recent safety improvements are now available on lower-cost used cars, SUVs, minivans, and pickup trucks.

The best choice among large cars, based on safety and price, according to the IIHS, is the Volvo S80, model year 2007 or newer, for which the Kelley Blue Book value is approximately $4,000. The best midsize car is the Dodge Avenger (model years 2011-2014, book value $5,300). Best small SUV is the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport (2011 and newer, book value $6,900). Best midsize SUV is the Volvo XC90 (2005 and newer, book value $2,500).

Teen driver photo“Just as we are always updating the criteria for our awards for new vehicles—Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+—we can now point used-vehicle buyers toward even safer models than before,” said David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer. “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.”

Both of the “best choices” and “good choices” lists follow four basic principles, which should always be taken into account when shopping for a vehicle for a teenager:

  • High horsepower and young drivers don't mix. Teens may be tempted to test the limits of a powerful engine. Vehicles that come only with powerful engines have been left off the lists, but some recommended models have high-horsepower versions. The IIHS recommends sticking with the base engine.
  • Bigger, heavier vehicles are safer. There are no minicars or small cars on the lists. Small SUVs are acceptable, since they weigh about the same as a midsize car.
  • Electronic stability control is an essential feature. This technology, which cuts single-vehicle fatal crash risk nearly in half, has been required on new vehicles since the 2012 model year. It helps a driver maintain control on curves and slippery roads.
  • Vehicles should have the best safety ratings possible. At a minimum, that means “Good” ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front, side and head restraint tests and 4 or 5 stars (out of 5) from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).


Beyond those basics, parents should seek out a vehicle with the highest crash-test ratings they can afford. Also, check for outstanding recalls before buying a used vehicle.

Models on this year's “good choices” list earn “Good” ratings in the Institute's moderate overlap front, side and head restraint tests. Vehicles on the “best choices” list must also have a “Good” rating for roof strength to protect in rollover crashes and a “Good” or “Acceptable” rating in the small overlap test, which replicates what happens when the front, driver-side corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole.

For a complete list of IIHS “best” and “good” choices for teen drivers, click here: http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/vehicles-for-teens

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