Choosing the Right Vehicle for Your Young Driver
Seeing your children grow and reach developmental milestones can be a rewarding experience for parents. But, some of those milestones, like helping your child get a driver’s license or buying a car for your teen, can come with some concerns and uncertainty.
To help limit the feelings of uneasiness that can be associated with putting your young driver behind the wheel of a car, find the right car for your teen’s situation – and your wallet. But where do you start?
Safer Vehicle Guidelines
While large, heavier cars may be more difficult to handle, offer poor fuel economy, and allow for more passengers (a potential driving distraction), in general, bigger vehicles perform better in crash tests than their smaller counterparts, according to Consumer Reports. Sports cars should be avoided for teens, says the site, because of the speeds and higher accident rates.
Newer models are preferred, as they generally offer more safety features like forward-collision warning (FCW) and automatic emergency braking (AEB), says Consumer Reports.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) goes one step further, recommending vehicles for teen drivers based on both safety performance and affordability. The list incorporates four main criteria:
- Young drivers should avoid fast cars. Powerful engines and speedier vehicles can be tempting for young drivers.
- Choose big, heavy cars. They provide more protection in the event of an accident, and Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) found that teen drivers are less likely to crash larger vehicles. There are no minicars or small cars on the IIHS’ list of recommended vehicles.
- Prioritize electronic stability control (ESC). This feature helps a driver maintain control of the vehicle on curves and slippery roads.
- Pick a vehicle with the best safety rating possible. Vehicles should receive 4 out of 5 stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and a good rating in the IIHS moderate overlap test. In the moderate overlap test, a vehicle travels at 40 miles per hour and 40 percent of the total width of the vehicle strikes a barrier on the driver side.
Cars to Consider
The IIHS list of recommended (and affordable) vehicles for teen drivers includes a price range from $2,000 to $20,000 and is broken down into two tiers:
Best Choices: Vehicles on this list are under $20,000 and earn good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, and good or acceptable ratings in the small overlap front test (where just 25 percent of the total width of the vehicle hits the barrier on the driver side). If rated by NHTSA, they earn 4 or 5 stars overall or 4 or 5 stars in the front and side tests under the old rating scheme. The old system (for vehicle through the 2010 model year) assigned ratings based on a calculation of likelihood of serious injury. The new system (model years 2011 and newer) compares cars with each other. All Best Choice vehicles come with standard ESC.
Good Choices: Vehicles on this list are under $10,000 and earn good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front, side and head restraint tests. If rated by NHTSA, they earn 4 or 5 stars overall or 4 or 5 stars in the front and side tests under the old rating scheme. All Good Choice vehicles come with standard ESC.
According to the IIHS, these are the least expensive vehicles in each of its “Best Choice” and “Good Choice” categories:
- Best Choice: Volvo S80, 2007 and newer
- Good Choice: Ford Taurus, 2009 and newer
- Best Choice: Dodge Avenger, 2011-14
- Good Choice: Saab 9-3, 2005-11
- Best Choice: Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, 2011 and newer
- Good Choice: Mitsubishi Outlander, 2007-13
- Best Choice: Volvo XC90, 2005 and newer
- Good Choice: Ford Taurus X, 2008-09
- Best Choice: Kia Sedona, 2015 and newer
- Good Choice: Kia Sedona, 2006-14
- Best Choice: Toyota Tundra extended cab (Double Cab), 2014 and newer
- Good Choice: Toyota Tundra extended cab (Double Cab), 2007-13
* For the full list, visit the IIHS website.
No matter which vehicle you choose, combining a reliable car with a responsible driver can help maximize the safety of all passengers and drivers. Save your money, do your research, and choose the right car for your situation.