The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has updated its criteria for its list of recommended used vehicles for teens, as recent safety improvements have percolated down to lower-cost used cars, SUVs, minivans and pickups.
Teenagers are among the riskiest drivers, but they often end up with inexpensive vehicles that don’t offer adequate protection in a crash. To help families find safer vehicles that fit within their budgets, IIHS began publishing a list of recommended used vehicles for teens in 2014.
The latest update includes 49 ‘best choices’, starting under $20,000, and 82 ‘good choices’, starting under $10,000.
For the first time this year, small overlap front crash protection has been factored in for the best choices section of the list. And the bar has been raised for the less expensive good choices as well, with better side and head restraint ratings required.
“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 lists follow a few 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. Stick with the base engine.
- Bigger, heavier vehicles are safer. There are no minicars or small cars on the lists. Small SUVs are OK; 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. All listed vehicles have the feature standard.
Beyond those basics, parents should seek out a vehicle with the highest crash test ratings they can afford.