Home » Ratings » Vehicles for teens

Choosing the best vehicle for your teen

IIHS is known for its ratings of new vehicles, but for many families, a 2016 Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ isn't in the budget for a teen's vehicle. In a national phone survey conducted for IIHS of parents of teen drivers, 83 percent of those who bought a vehicle for their teenagers said they bought it used (see background research).

With that reality in mind, the Institute has compiled a list of affordable used vehicles that meet important safety criteria for teen drivers. There are two tiers of recommended vehicles, best choices and good choices. Prices range from about $3,000 to nearly $20,000, so parents can buy the most safety for their money, whatever their budget.

Defining safety

The recommendations are guided by four main principles:

  • Young drivers should stay away from high horsepower. More powerful engines can tempt them to test the limits.
  • Bigger, heavier vehicles are safer. They protect better in a crash, and HLDI analyses of insurance data show that teen drivers are less likely to crash them in the first place. There are no minicars or small cars on the recommended list. Small SUVs are included because their weight is similar to that of a midsize car.
  • Electronic stability control (ESC) is a must. This feature, which helps a driver maintain control of the vehicle on curves and slippery roads, reduces risk on a level comparable to safety belts.
  • Vehicles should have the best safety ratings possible. At a minimum, that means good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front test, acceptable ratings in the IIHS side crash test and four or five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

For more information, see "Safe and affordable: updated used-vehicle recommendations for teens" (October 2015) and "Safety rides shotgun: the best used vehicles for teen drivers" (July 2014), as well as our teenagers topic section.


Best used vehicle choices for teens

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 cars Model years Price
Volvo S80 2007 and newer $5,800
Ford Taurus 2010 and newer $10,900
Buick LaCrosse 2010 and newer $11,300
Buick Regal 2011 and newer $11,500
Lincoln MKS 2009 and newer $12,300
Toyota Avalon 2011 and newer $15,700
Hyundai Azera 2012 and newer $16,800
Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan and coupe 2010 and newer $19,000
Infiniti M37/M56/Q70 2011 and newer $19,900
Midsize cars Model years Price
Volkswagen Jetta sedan and wagon 2009 and newer $5,600
Volvo C30 2008 and newer $7,000
Volkswagen Passat sedan 2009 and newer $7,300
Ford Fusion 2010 and newer; built after April 2010; 2010 Fusions built before May meet "good choice" criteria $7,400
Mercury Milan 2010-11; built after April 2010; 2010 Milans built before May meet "good choice" criteria $7,400
Chrysler 200 sedan 2011 and newer $8,000
Chevrolet Malibu 2010 and newer; built after November 2009 $8,200
Volkswagen CC 2009 and newer $8,300
Audi A3 2008 and newer $8,400
Dodge Avenger 2011 and newer $8,900
Subaru Legacy 2010 and newer $9,300
Hyundai Sonata 2011 and newer $9,900
Lincoln MKZ 2010 and newer; built after April 2010 $10,000
Kia Optima 2011 and newer $10,200
Audi A4 sedan 2009 and newer $10,800
Honda Accord sedan and coupe sedan 2012 and newer; coupe 2013 and newer $10,900
Subaru Outback 2010 and newer $11,300
Toyota Camry 2012 and newer $11,300
Nissan Altima 2013 and newer $12,200
Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan 2009-14 $12,300
Buick Verano 2012 and newer $12,400
Volvo S60 2011 and newer (price is for 2012, which had lower trim level available) $13,400
Toyota Prius v 2012 and newer $14,200
Mazda 6 2014 and newer $15,100
Acura TSX sedan and wagon 2012 and newer $16,600
Acura TL 2012 and newer; built after April 2012 $17,300
Small SUVs Model years Price
Honda Element 2007-11 $6,700
Volkswagen Tiguan 2009 and newer $7,900
Subaru Forester 2009 and newer $9,000
Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2011 and newer $9,300
Hyundai Tucson 2010 and newer $10,400
Kia Sportage 2011 and newer $11,300
Jeep Patriot 2014 and newer $13,700
Ford Escape 2013 and newer $14,000
Mitsubishi Outlander 2014 and newer $14,400
Mazda CX-5 2013 and newer $14,800
Honda CR-V 2012 and newer $15,400
Buick Encore 2013 and newer $15,500
Toyota RAV4 2013 and newer $17,600
Nissan Rogue (except Select) 2014 and newer $18,500
Midsize SUVs Model years Price
Volvo XC90 2005 and newer $4,600
Subaru Tribeca/B9 Tribeca 2006 and newer $6,000
Dodge Journey 2010 and newer $8,700
Chevrolet Equinox 2010 and newer $11,100
Ford Flex 2010 and newer; built after January 2010 $11,700
GMC Terrain 2010 and newer $12,000
Toyota Highlander 2008 and newer $12,000
Infiniti EX 2008 and newer $12,100
Toyota Venza 2009 and newer $12,200
Kia Sorento 2011 and newer $12,300
Ford Edge 2011 and newer; built after February 2011 $13,300
Volvo XC60 2010 and newer $13,500
Ford Explorer 2011 and newer $16,200
Lincoln MKT 2010 and newer; built after March 2010 $16,200
Dodge Durango 2011 and newer $16,300
Cadillac SRX 2010 and newer $16,900
Audi Q5 2009 and newer $17,300
Jeep Cherokee 2014 and newer $17,500
Honda Crosstour 2013 and newer $17,700
Honda Pilot 2012 and newer $18,200
Jeep Grand Cherokee 2011 and newer $18,500
Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class 2011 and newer $19,100
Large SUVs Model years Price
Chevrolet Traverse 2011 and newer $13,500
GMC Acadia 2011 and newer $15,400
Buick Enclave 2011 and newer $16,100
Minivans Model years Price
Dodge Grand Caravan 2012 and newer $11,600
Volkswagen Routan 2012 and newer $11,800
Toyota Sienna 2011 and newer $13,200
Honda Odyssey 2011 and newer $13,600
Chrysler Town & Country 2012 and newer $14,600
Pickups Model years Price
Toyota Tundra extended cab (Double Cab) 2007 and newer $12,200
Ford F-150 crew cab (SuperCrew) 2011 and newer $16,800

Good used vehicle choices for teens

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 cars Model years Price
Hyundai Azera 2006-11 $4,100
Audi A6 sedan 2005 and newer $6,000
Acura RL 2005-12 $6,700
Ford Taurus 2009 $7,100
Cadillac DTS 2008-11 $7,700
Mercury Sable 2009 $7,700
Chevrolet Impala 2011 and newer $8,700
Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan 2007-09 and newer $8,800
Toyota Avalon 2009-10 $9,000
Lexus GS 2006 and newer $9,300
Cadillac CTS 2008 and newer $9,700
Midsize cars Model years Price
Saab 9-5 sedan and wagon 2005-11 $2,700
Saab 9-3 sedan and wagon 2005-11 $2,800
Hyundai Sonata 2006-10 $3,300
Volkswagen Passat sedan and wagon 2006-08 $3,400
Audi A4 sedan and wagon 2005-08; built after October 2004 $4,200
Volvo S60 2007-09 $4,400
Suzuki Kizashi 2010-13 $4,500
Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan 2005-08 $4,600
Acura TL 2004-12 $4,800
Saturn Aura 2009 $5,500
Volvo S40 2007 and newer $5,600
Audi A3 2006-07 $5,800
BMW 3-series sedan 2006 and newer $5,900
Mazda 6 2009-13 $6,600
Mitsubishi Galant 2010-12 $6,700
Chevrolet Malibu 2009-10 $7,200
Honda Accord sedan 2008-11 $7,200
Kia Optima 2010 $7,300
Subaru Legacy 2009 $7,700
Pontiac G6 sedan 2010 $7,800
Lincoln MKZ 2009-10; built before May 2010 $8,000
Nissan Altima 2010-12 $8,100
Lexus IS 250 2006 and newer $8,500
Toyota Camry 2010-11 $8,900
Infiniti G sedan 2007 and newer $9,000
Lexus ES 350 2007 and newer $9,600
Small SUVs Model years Price
Suzuki Grand Vitara 2006-13 $3,500
Mitsubishi Outlander 2007-13 $4,600
Mazda Tribute 2009-11 $5,700
Ford Escape 2009-12 $6,100
Nissan Rogue 2008-13 $6,900
Toyota RAV4 2007-12 $7,600
Honda CR-V 2007-11 $8,300
Mercury Mariner 2009-11 $8,400
Midsize SUVs Model years Price
Suzuki XL7 2008-09 $3,600
Mazda CX-7 2007-11 $5,000
Saturn Vue 2008-09 $5,000
Ford Taurus X 2008-09 $5,700
Honda Pilot 2006-11 $6,000
Hyundai Santa Fe 2007 and newer $6,400
Mazda CX-9 2007 and newer $6,600
Hyundai Veracruz 2007-12 $7,000
Ford Edge 2007-11; built before March 2011 $7,600
Mercedes-Benz M-Class 2006 and newer $9,000
Mitsubishi Endeavor 2010-11 $9,500
Ford Explorer 2009-10 $9,600
Ford Flex 2009 $9,900
Lincoln MKX 2007 and newer $9,900
Large SUVs Model years Price
Saturn Outlook 2008-09; built after March 2008 $7,800
Mercedes-Benz R-Class 2007-12 $8,500
Minivans Model years Price
Kia Sedona 2006 and newer $3,400
Honda Odyssey 2005-10 $4,100
Hyundai Entourage 2007-08 $4,400
Chrysler Town & Country 2008-11 $5,600
Dodge Grand Caravan 2008-11 $6,200
Volkswagen Routan 2009-11 $6,300
Pickup Model years Price
Honda Ridgeline 2006-2014 $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.


Background research

©1996-2016, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute | www.iihs.org