Many families put a high priority on vehicle safety for their kids. Unfortunately, for various valid reasons, many 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 even a newer car! Last year, the IIHS recently evaluated hundreds of cars to produce a list of models recommended for teens and recently updated the Safe and Affordable Used Vehicle Recommendations for Teens list for 2015.
I have somewhat different criteria for my teen driver. 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 close to 3,000 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. Not to mention the lower cost up front and for gasoline! 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, even top 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 poorly in this newer test. Most of their recommendations are well over $10,000.
- 2011 or newer. That means a much greater chance of finding critical safety features like stability control and side curtain airbags. Plus this is the year the NHTSA began crash testing with its newer crash test system that doesn’t compare to models before 2011.
- Good visibility and handling.
- Stability control and side-curtain airbags.
- 4-star or better NHTSA overall rating
- No “Marginal” or “Poor” IIHS crash test results in ANY test, including the newer small overlap test
- No “2-star” or “1-star” ratings in any individual NHTSA crash test or rollover rating.
- Around $10,000 or less to buy (or lease over 3 years).
- 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. On the flip side, smaller cars are easier to drive and generally offer better handling as well.