Automobile Safety Archive

2016 Update: Safest Affordable Used Cars for Families and Teens

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Safest Used Cars for Teen Drivers under $10K

Many families put a high priority on safety for their kids.  Unfortunately, for various valid reasons, most are not able to go out and buy a brand new car with the latest safety features.  Perhaps others are buying a car for a teen or college student and want something safe, but don’t want them wrecking a new car!  Last year, the IIHS evaluated hundreds of cars to produce a list of models recommended for teens.

I have somewhat different criteria for my teen drivers.  For example, while I also exclude the smallest sub-compact and “micro” vehicles, I have no issue with my teen driving a compact sedan if it is above 2,750 lbs., as long is it has great crash test results.  While compact cars do give up a little in terms of weight in a frontal crash, they are generally more maneuverable and easier to handle and park.  That’s a big deal for new drivers.  And of course, compact cars are less expensive to buy and maintain.  I am also more concerned about having top results in all the actual crash tests, including the new IIHS small overlap test, and less concerned about certain other results.

Unfortunately, the IIHS excludes compact sedans from their list, even top performing models with many safety features and decent all-around crash test scores, including their own small overlap test.  In fact, some models they recommend do very poorly in this newer crash test.  Also, many of their recommendations are well over $10,000.

My Requirements?

  1. 4-star or better NHTSA overall rating
  2. No “2-star” or “1-star” ratings in any individual NHTSA crash test or rollover rating.
  3. No “Marginal” or “Poor” IIHS crash test results in ANY test, including the newer small overlap test
  4. Around $10,000 or less to buy.
  5. Good visibility and handling.
  6. Stability control and side-curtain airbags.
  7. No minicars, sub-compacts or any model below 2,750lbs.  Weight is a bad thing on roads, I know.  More mass means more kinetic energy and more wasted fuel.  But when the other guy is driving a 5,000 lb. truck, the smallest cars become splatter.

Preferences:

Safest Family Sedans for 2016

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Safest 2016 Cars for Families:

In Part I, we awarded the safest 3-row vehicles.  In Part II, we awarded 5-passenger SUVs.  In this part, we will look at sedans that have great safety and are also typically less expensive to buy and operate than sport utility vehicles.

As with the SUVs and minivans, we have similar basic requirements to trim the increasingly long list of very safe vehicles to a select few vehicles that stand out from the pack.  This year, we increase the curb weight requirement slightly, an advantage in head-on frontal crashes.  We also limit qualifiers to midsize or larger vehicles that tend to be wider and offer better compatibility for three children or carseats in the back.

  • 200CrashMust be an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ for 2016
  • Must have an NHTSA 5-star overall rating
  • Must not have any individual NHTSA crash test results of 3-stars or less
  • Must be over 3,200 lbs. curb weight, midsize class or larger vehicles only

The qualifiers below are all among the safest sedans on the road.  Many other very safe models just barely missed the list for one reason or another, or simply lacked a complete set of testing results.  For example, at the time of this writing, models like the Volvo V60, VW Passat, Nissan Altima, Toyota Avalon and Toyota Prius V did not have complete NHTSA crash test results.  The IIHS made some changes for 2016, requiring a “Good” rating in the small offset crash test and a frontal crash prevention system rated “Superior” or “Advanced” to earn the Top Safety Pick+ award.  The 2016 finalists for safest family sedan:

  1. 2016 Honda Accord
  2. 2016 Hyundai Sonata (built after Oct. 2015)
  3. 2016 Mazda 6
  4. 2016_leg_photos_ext_102016 Subaru Legacy
  5. 2015-2016 Chrysler 200
  6. 2016 Nissan Maxima
  7. 2016 Toyota Camry
  8. 2016 Lexus ES350
  9. 2013-2016 Volvo S60
  10. 2016 Audi A3
  11. 2016 Acura RDX
  12. 2016 Hyundai Genesis
  13. 2016 Infiniti Q70
  14. 2016 Audi A6

Selecting the winner wasn’t too difficult.  Perfection was the key.  The very safest sedans earn the top “Good” rating in every IIHS crash test, every single sub-category IIHS crash test rating and earned the best “Superior” frontal crash prevention rating by avoiding crashes in both high and low speed testing got 6 points total.  They also earned a 5-star overall rating from the NHTSA and 5-stars in all five individual crash test ratings plus a 5-star rollover rating.  This threshold is admittedly very high, so any of our Runners-Up could claim to be just as safe on the road as our winner:

Safest family sedan for 2016:

Safest Family SUVs for 2016

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Safest 2016 5-passenger SUVs for Families

In Part I, we awarded the safest 3-row vehicles for 6 or more passengers.  In this part, we will look at 5-passenger SUVs for families who don’t need a 3rd row of seating for one reason or another.

As with the larger vehicles, we have the same basic requirements to trim the long list of very safe vehicles to those qualifiers that stand out from the pack:

  • Must be an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ for 2015 or 2016
  • Must have an NHTSA 5-star overall rating
  • Must not have any individual NHTSA crash test result or rollover rating of 3-stars or less

There are some new entrants this year, with improved designs qualifying for top crash test results.  One new model, the 2016 Nissan Murano, has not yet qualified due to incomplete NHTSA testing.   It may be added in a future update, once these tests are completed.   The 2015 Mercedes ML-Class is discontinued, replaced by the 2016 GLE-Class that also has incomplete crash test results.  The 2016 Mazda CX-5 received a 4-star overall rating from the NHTSA and did not qualify this year.

  1. XC602014-2016 Volvo XC60
  2. 2015-2016 Subaru Outback
  3. 2014-2016 Subaru Forester
  4. 2016 Honda CR-V
  5. 2016 Hyundai Tucson
  6. 2016 Toyota Rav-4
  7. 2015-2016 Lexus NX
  8. 2016 Acura RDX

Safest SUV for 2016:

Safest Family Minivans and SUVs for 2016 with 3rd Row Seats

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Safest 2016 Family Vehicles with Three Rows of Seating

Are safety and seating more than a couple kids your top considerations in selecting a new vehicle?  You aren’t alone!  Last year’s winner, the 2014-2015 Acura MDX, is still a contender to retain its title for 2016.

For 2016, the IIHS now requires a “Good” result in the newer small overlap crash test to qualify for a Top Safety Pick rating.  An “Acceptable” rating no longer qualifies.  The IIHS also requires a front crash prevention system.  These systems are not all created equal, some are only basic warnings that qualify for the basic TSP award, while advanced ones can actually brake in emergency situations and possibly avoid a crash better than lesser systems.  To earn the “TSP+” award, an auto-brake system with an “Advanced” or “Superior” rating is now required.

There are plenty of very safe vehicles.  Most midsize crossover SUVs and minivans provide excellent protection for occupants, likely better than anything on the road 15 years ago.  Side curtain airbags and stability control are now standard features.  In addition to frontal crash protection systems, advanced safety features like emergency crash notification, lane departure warning, cross traffic warning and blind spot warning systems are becoming more common on non-luxury models.

tspplus-bar-2016

So how do we filter the list of so many family vehicles that have earned safety awards?  It’s pretty easy:

  • Must be an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ for 2015 or 2016
  • Must have an NHTSA 5-star overall rating
  • No individual NHTSA crash test results of 3-stars or less
  • Must have at least 6 passenger seats

What vehicles make the cut?  At the time of this writing, it’s a pretty exclusive list.   Two minivans from last year, the Honda Odyssey and Kia Sedona, no longer qualify as they did not achieve a Top Safety Pick+ rating for 2015 or 2016.  Shame on these manufacturers for choosing not to provide even an optional advanced front crash prevention system on these popular family vehicles.  A promising new contender, the 2016 Volvo XC90, remains untested by the NHTSA and does not yet make the cut.  The 2016 qualifiers:

  1. 2014-2016 Acura MDX
  2. 2014-2016 Mitsubishi Outlander
  3. 2016 Honda Pilot
  4. 2014-2015 Toyota Highlander*
  5. 2015 Toyota Sienna*

*Not a Top Safety Pick+ for 2016 model

And the Safest 2016 3-row Family Vehicle is: