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Status Report, Vol. 50, No. 8 | October 1, 2015 Subscribe

Safe and affordableUpdated used vehicle recommendations for teens

Parents looking for a safe, affordable vehicle for their teen driver have many more options than just a year ago. IIHS has updated its recommendations for used vehicles for teens, and the list has grown by more than 50 percent, even though the price and safety criteria haven't changed.

"Time is on the consumer's side," says Anne McCartt, the Institute's senior vice president for research. "It's easier than ever to find a used vehicle with must-have safety features and decent crash test performance without spending a fortune."

IIHS compiled its first list of recommended used vehicles after finding that the vast majority of parents who bought a vehicle for their teen driver bought it used (see Status Report special issue: vehicles for teens, July 16, 2014). The survey also found that the budgets for teens' vehicles were limited. The mean purchase price for a teen's vehicle was $9,800, while the median was just $5,300.

IIHS compiled its first list of recommended used vehicles after finding that the vast majority of parents who bought a vehicle for their teen driver bought it used. The survey also found that the budgets for teens' vehicles were limited. The mean purchase price for a teen's vehicle was $9,800, while the median was just $5,300.

"The prices for most of the vehicles we recommend for young, novice drivers are still higher than what a lot of people are used to spending," McCartt says. "We would encourage parents to consider paying a little more for safety if they can."

Best choices, good choices

Like last year's recommendations, the new list has two tiers: "best choices," priced under $20,000 with good ratings in the Institute's four oldest crashworthiness tests, and "good choices," priced under $10,000 with less-than-perfect ratings in some tests. Although there are now some best choices under $10,000, having two tiers gives consumers a wider variety of lower-priced options.

Still, there are a few things that parents shouldn't compromise on:

  • High horsepower should be avoided. The temptation to test the limits of a powerful engine is too hard for many teens to resist. Vehicles that only come with big engines have been left off the lists, but many recommended models have high-horsepower versions that should be avoided. The base engines of all the listed vehicles have adequate power for teens.
  • Bigger, heavier vehicles are safer. Consumers won't find minicars or small cars among the best choices or the good choices. (Small SUVs, which weigh about the same as midsize cars, are OK.)
  • Electronic stability control is a must. This technology, mandatory since the 2012 model year, helps a driver maintain control on curves and slippery roads. It's a proven lifesaver, cutting single-vehicle fatal crash risk nearly in half. All listed vehicles have the feature standard.

When it comes to crash test ratings, vehicles on the "best choices" list have good ratings in the Institute's longstanding moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. Vehicles on the "good choices" list have good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front test, good or acceptable ratings in the side test and a better-than-poor rating for head restraints.

If rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, vehicles on either list must earn 4 or 5 stars overall or 4 or 5 stars in the front and side tests under the old rating scheme.

The recommendations don't take into account the small overlap front crash, which IIHS added to its testing lineup in 2012. The test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle hits another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole. Until recently, few vehicles were designed for good protection in this type of crash.

Five recommended older models have good small overlap ratings: the Volvo XC90, beginning with 2005 models; the Volvo S80, beginning with 2007; the Acura TL, beginning with 2009; the Suzuki Kizashi, beginning with 2010; and the Volvo S60, beginning with 2011. An additional seven vehicles have acceptable ratings going back to 2011 or earlier: the Infiniti G (2007), Mazda 6 (2009), Ford Flex (2009), Chrysler 200 (2011), Dodge Avenger (2011), Kia Optima (2011) and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport (2011). Parents seeking the safest choices from each list should consider one of these vehicles.

Recommended pickups

Last year's recommendations didn't include any pickups because those that met the Institute's safety criteria exceeded the $20,000 price limit. This year, several made the cut.

"We found in our survey last year that 14 percent of teenagers are driving pickups, so we're happy to be able to recommend a few models," McCartt says. The country's most popular pickup, the Ford F-150 crew cab, will set families back $16,800 for a 2011 model. A 2007 Toyota Tundra crew cab, a best choice like the F-150, costs $12,200, while the 2006 Honda Ridgeline, a good choice, can be had for $7,700.


IIHS Recommendations: Used vehicles for teens

Best choices

Vehicles on this list earn good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front, side, roof strength 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 come with standard ESC.

All listed vehicles start under $20,000. Prices, rounded to the nearest $100, were taken from Kelley Blue Book on Sept. 1, 2015, for the lowest trim level and earliest applicable model year based on the following criteria: vehicle in good condition, typical mileage and private party purchase in Arlington, Va.

Large carsModel yearsPrice
Volvo S802007 and newer$5,800
Ford Taurus2010 and newer$10,900
Buick LaCrosse2010 and newer$11,300
Buick Regal2011 and newer$11,500
Lincoln MKS2009 and newer$12,300
Toyota Avalon2011 and newer$15,700
Hyundai Azera2012 and newer$16,800
Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan and coupe2010 and newer$19,000
Infiniti M37/M56/Q702011 and newer$19,900
Midsize carsModel yearsPrice
Volkswagen Jetta sedan and wagon2009 and newer$5,600
Volvo C302008 and newer$7,000
Volkswagen Passat sedan2009 and newer$7,300
Ford Fusion2010 and newer; built after April 2010; 2010 Fusions built before May meet "good choice" criteria$7,400
Mercury Milan2010-11; built after April 2010; 2010 Milans built before May meet "good choice" criteria$7,400
Chrysler 200 sedan2011 and newer$8,000
Chevrolet Malibu2010 and newer; built after November 2009$8,200
Volkswagen CC2009 and newer$8,300
Audi A32008 and newer$8,400
Dodge Avenger2011 and newer$8,900
Subaru Legacy2010 and newer$9,300
Hyundai Sonata2011 and newer$9,900
Lincoln MKZ2010 and newer; built after April 2010$10,000
Kia Optima2011 and newer$10,200
Audi A4 sedan2009 and newer$10,800
Honda Accord sedan and coupesedan 2012 and newer; coupe 2013 and newer$10,900
Subaru Outback2010 and newer$11,300
Toyota Camry2012 and newer$11,300
Nissan Altima2013 and newer$12,200
Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan2009-14$12,300
Buick Verano2012 and newer$12,400
Volvo S602011 and newer (price is for 2012, which had lower trim level available)$13,400
Toyota Prius v2012 and newer$14,200
Mazda 62014 and newer$15,100
Acura TSX sedan and wagon2012 and newer$16,600
Acura TL2012 and newer; built after April 2012$17,300
Small SUVsModel yearsPrice
Honda Element2007-11$6,700
Volkswagen Tiguan2009 and newer$7,900
Subaru Forester2009 and newer$9,000
Mitsubishi Outlander Sport2011 and newer$9,300
Hyundai Tucson2010 and newer$10,400
Kia Sportage2011 and newer$11,300
Jeep Patriot2014 and newer$13,700
Ford Escape2013 and newer$14,000
Mitsubishi Outlander2014 and newer$14,400
Mazda CX-52013 and newer$14,800
Honda CR-V2012 and newer$15,400
Buick Encore2013 and newer$15,500
Toyota RAV42013 and newer$17,600
Nissan Rogue (except Select)2014 and newer$18,500
Midsize SUVsModel yearsPrice
Volvo XC902005 and newer$4,600
Subaru Tribeca/B9 Tribeca2006 and newer$6,000
Dodge Journey2010 and newer$8,700
Chevrolet Equinox2010 and newer$11,100
Ford Flex2010 and newer; built after January 2010$11,700
GMC Terrain2010 and newer$12,000
Toyota Highlander2008 and newer$12,000
Infiniti EX2008 and newer$12,100
Toyota Venza2009 and newer$12,200
Kia Sorento2011 and newer$12,300
Ford Edge2011 and newer; built after February 2011$13,300
Volvo XC602010 and newer$13,500
Ford Explorer2011 and newer$16,200
Lincoln MKT2010 and newer; built after March 2010$16,200
Dodge Durango2011 and newer$16,300
Cadillac SRX2010 and newer$16,900
Audi Q52009 and newer$17,300
Jeep Cherokee2014 and newer$17,500
Honda Crosstour2013 and newer$17,700
Honda Pilot2012 and newer$18,200
Jeep Grand Cherokee2011 and newer$18,500
Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class2011 and newer$19,100
Large SUVsModel yearsPrice
Chevrolet Traverse2011 and newer$13,500
GMC Acadia2011 and newer$15,400
Buick Enclave2011 and newer$16,100
MinivansModel yearsPrice
Dodge Grand Caravan2012 and newer$11,600
Volkswagen Routan2012 and newer$11,800
Toyota Sienna2011 and newer$13,200
Honda Odyssey2011 and newer$13,600
Chrysler Town & Country2012 and newer$14,600
PickupsModel yearsPrice
Toyota Tundra extended cab (Double Cab)2007 and newer$12,200
Ford F-150 crew cab (SuperCrew)2011 and newer$16,800

Good choices

Vehicles on this list earn good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front test and good or acceptable ratings in the side test. 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. They also have standard ESC and a better-than-poor rating from IIHS for head restraints and seats.

All listed vehicles start under $10,000. Prices, rounded to the nearest $100, were taken from Kelley Blue Book on Sept. 1, 2015, for the lowest trim level and earliest applicable model year based on the following criteria: vehicle in good condition, typical mileage and private party purchase in Arlington, Va.

Large carsModel yearsPrice
Hyundai Azera2006-11$4,100
Audi A6 sedan2005 and newer$6,000
Acura RL2005-12$6,700
Ford Taurus2009$7,100
Cadillac DTS2008-11$7,700
Mercury Sable2009$7,700
Chevrolet Impala2011 and newer$8,700
Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan2007-09 and newer$8,800
Toyota Avalon2009-10$9,000
Lexus GS2006 and newer$9,300
Cadillac CTS2008 and newer$9,700
Midsize carsModel yearsPrice
Saab 9-5 sedan and wagon2005-11$2,700
Saab 9-3 sedan and wagon2005-11$2,800
Hyundai Sonata2006-10$3,300
Volkswagen Passat sedan and wagon2006-08$3,400
Audi A4 sedan and wagon2005-08; built after October 2004$4,200
Volvo S602007-09$4,400
Suzuki Kizashi2010-13$4,500
Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan2005-08$4,600
Acura TL2004-12$4,800
Saturn Aura2009$5,500
Volvo S402007 and newer$5,600
Audi A32006-07$5,800
BMW 3-series sedan2006 and newer$5,900
Mazda 62009-13$6,600
Mitsubishi Galant2010-12$6,700
Chevrolet Malibu2009-10$7,200
Honda Accord sedan2008-11$7,200
Kia Optima2010$7,300
Subaru Legacy2009$7,700
Pontiac G6 sedan2010$7,800
Lincoln MKZ2009-10; built before May 2010$8,000
Nissan Altima2010-12$8,100
Lexus IS 2502006 and newer$8,500
Toyota Camry2010-11$8,900
Infiniti G sedan2007 and newer$9,000
Lexus ES 3502007 and newer$9,600
Small SUVsModel yearsPrice
Suzuki Grand Vitara2006-13$3,500
Mitsubishi Outlander2007-13$4,600
Mazda Tribute2009-11$5,700
Ford Escape2009-12$6,100
Nissan Rogue2008-13$6,900
Toyota RAV42007-12$7,600
Honda CR-V2007-11$8,300
Mercury Mariner2009-11$8,400
Midsize SUVsModel yearsPrice
Suzuki XL72008-09$3,600
Mazda CX-72007-11$5,000
Saturn Vue2008-09$5,000
Ford Taurus X2008-09$5,700
Honda Pilot2006-11$6,000
Hyundai Santa Fe2007 and newer$6,400
Mazda CX-92007 and newer$6,600
Hyundai Veracruz2007-12$7,000
Ford Edge2007-11; built before March 2011$7,600
Mercedes-Benz M-Class2006 and newer$9,000
Mitsubishi Endeavor2010-11$9,500
Ford Explorer2009-10$9,600
Ford Flex2009$9,900
Lincoln MKX2007 and newer$9,900
Large SUVsModel yearsPrice
Saturn Outlook2008-09; built after March 2008$7,800
Mercedes-Benz R-Class2007-12$8,500
MinivansModel yearsPrice
Kia Sedona2006 and newer$3,400
Honda Odyssey2005-10$4,100
Hyundai Entourage2007-08$4,400
Chrysler Town & Country2008-11$5,600
Dodge Grand Caravan2008-11$6,200
Volkswagen Routan2009-11$6,300
PickupModel yearsPrice
Honda Ridgeline2006-2014$7,700

Note: Some listed models include a "built after" date. This applies when a manufacturer makes changes to improve safety in the middle of a model year. Information about when a specific vehicle was manufactured can be found on the certification label typically affixed to the driver door or near it.

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