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Choosing the best vehicle for your teen

IIHS is known for its ratings of new vehicles, but for many families, a brand new 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 on our full site).

With that reality in mind, the Institute regularly publishes 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 $2,000 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:

Check for recalls

Use the Vehicle Identification Number to check for outstanding recalls before buying a used vehicle. To receive future recall notices, notify the manufacturer of your purchase. NHTSA also advises vehicle owners to check its database for new recalls every six months or so.


Best choices: recommended used vehicles for teens starting under $20,000

Vehicles on this list 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. 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, provided by Kelley Blue Book and rounded to the nearest $100, are from March 1, 2017, for the lowest trim level and earliest applicable model year. The estimates are based on the following criteria: vehicle in good condition, typical mileage and private party purchase in Arlington, Va.

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.

Large cars Model years Price
Volvo S80 2007 and newer $4,000
Toyota Avalon 2015 and newer $18,800
Infiniti M37/M56/Q70 2013 and newer $19,800
Midsize cars Model years Price
Dodge Avenger 2011-14
$5,300
Chrysler 200 sedan 2011 and newer $5,900
Kia Optima 2011 and newer $7,600
Volkswagen Passat 2013 and newer; built after October 2012 $8,700
Volkswagen Jetta 2015 and newer $9,200
Nissan Altima sedan 2013 and newer; built after November 2012 $9,500
Ford Fusion 2013 and newer; built after December 2012 $9,600
Volvo S60 2011 and newer; price is for 2012, which had lower trim level available $9,800
Subaru Legacy 2013 and newer; built after August 2012 $10,700
Chevrolet Malibu 2014 and newer $10,900
Honda Accord sedan and coupe 2013 and newer $11,100
Toyota Camry 2014 and newer; built after December 2013 $11,200
Mazda 6 2014 and newer $11,400
Hyundai Sonata 2015 and newer $11,900
Acura TL 2012-14; built after April 2012 $12,400
Lincoln MKZ 2013 and newer $13,300
Subaru Outback 2013 and newer; built after August 2012 $13,600
Chevrolet Malibu Limited 2016 $13,700
Toyota Prius v 2015 and newer $16,300
Volvo V60 2015 and newer $18,400
Audi A3 2015 and newer $18,500
Infiniti Q50 2014-15 $19,100
Small SUVs Model years Price
Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2011 and newer $6,900
Mitsubishi Outlander 2014 and newer $10,700
Chevrolet Trax 2015 and newer $11,800
Fiat 500X 2016 and newer; built after July 2015 $12,600
Nissan Rogue 2014 and newer $12,900
Buick Encore 2015 and newer $13,800
Subaru Forester 2014 and newer $14,900
Honda CR-V 2015 and newer $15,600
Hyundai Tucson 2016 and newer $16,000
Toyota RAV4 2015 and newer $16,000
Mazda CX-3 2016 and newer $16,600
Midsize SUVs Model years Price
Volvo XC90 2005 and newer $2,500
Ford Flex 2010 and newer; built after January 2010 $7,200
Chevrolet Equinox 2014 and newer $12,100
GMC Terrain 2014 and newer $13,300
Nissan Pathfinder 2015 and newer $15,800
Kia Sorento 2016 and newer $16,500
Volvo XC60 2013 and newer $16,500
Ford Edge 2015 and newer; built after May 2015 $17,400
Nissan Murano 2015 and newer $19,100
Minivans Model years Price
Kia Sedona 2015 and newer $14,700
Honda Odyssey 2014 and newer $16,100
Toyota Sienna 2015 and newer $18,100
Pickup Model years Price
Toyota Tundra extended cab (Double Cab) 2014 and newer $15,600

Good choices: recommended used vehicles for teens starting under $10,000

Vehicles on this list 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 come with standard ESC.

All listed vehicles start under $10,000. Prices, provided by Kelley Blue Book and rounded to the nearest $100, are from March 1, 2017, for the lowest trim level and earliest applicable model year. The estimates are based on the following criteria: vehicle in good condition, typical mileage and private party purchase in Arlington, Va.

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.

Large cars Model years Price
Ford Taurus 2009 and newer $4,300
Mercury Sable 2009 $4,600
Audi A6 2007 and newer $5,600
Toyota Avalon 2009-14 $6,500
Buick LaCrosse 2010 and newer $7,500
Lincoln MKS 2009 and newer $7,800
Buick Regal 2011 and newer $8,000
Saab 9-5 2010-11 $9,700
Acura RL 2009 and newer $9,900
Midsize cars Model years Price
Saab 9-3 2005-11 $2,000
Suzuki Kizashi 2010-13 $3,600
Volkswagen Jetta sedan and wagon 2009-14 $3,900
Audi A4 sedan and wagon 2007 and newer; built after July 2006 $4,100
Volkswagen Passat sedan and wagon 2009-12 $4,500
Mercury Milan 2010-11 $5,200
Volkswagen CC 2009 and newer $5,200
Ford Fusion 2010-12 $5,300
Subaru Legacy 2009-12 $5,400
Volvo C30 2008-13 $5,400
Audi A3 2008-13 $5,700
Chevrolet Malibu 2010-13 $5,800
Honda Accord sedan 2008-12 $5,900
BMW 3-series sedan 2009 and newer $6,700
Lincoln MKZ 2010-12 $6,900
Hyundai Sonata 2011-14 $7,200
Subaru Outback 2010-12 $7,700
Acura TSX 2009-14 $8,300
Acura TL 2009-11 $8,400
Buick Verano 2012-15 $8,600
Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2009 and newer $8,600
Toyota Camry 2012-13 $9,100
Small SUVs Model years Price
Mitsubishi Outlander 2007-13 $3,900
Nissan Rogue 2008-13 $4,400
Subaru Forester 2007-13 $4,400
Ford Escape 2009 and newer $4,900
Mazda Tribute 2009-11 $4,900
Mercury Mariner 2009-11 $5,100
Honda Element 2007-11 $5,300
Honda CR-V 2007-14 $5,400
Volkswagen Tiguan 2009 and newer $5,800
Toyota RAV4 2009-14 $7,000
Hyundai Tucson 2010-15 $7,500
Kia Sportage 2011 and newer $7,700
Midsize SUVs Model years Price
Ford Taurus X 2008-09 $3,700
Saturn Vue 2008-09; built after December 2007 $4,000
Honda Pilot 2006 and newer $4,000
Hyundai Santa Fe 2007 and newer $4,300
Subaru Tribeca/B9 Tribeca 2006-14 $4,700
Ford Edge 2007-14 $5,200
Dodge Journey 2010 and newer $5,400
Hyundai Veracruz 2008-12 $5,700
Nissan Murano 2009-14 $5,900
Ford Flex 2009 $6,100
Acura RDX 2007 and newer $6,900
Chevrolet Equinox 2010-13 $6,900
GMC Terrain 2010-13 $7,100
Lincoln MKX 2007 and newer $7,100
BMW X3 2008 and newer $7,300
Mercedes-Benz M-Class 2007-15 $7,700
Toyota Highlander 2008 and newer $8,100
Honda Crosstour 2010-15 $8,200
Infiniti EX 2008-13 $8,200
Volvo XC60 2010-12 $8,200
Acura MDX 2007 and newer $8,300
Kia Sorento 2011-15 $8,400
Toyota Venza 2009-15 $8,400
BMW X5 2008-13 $8,600
Large SUVs Model years Price
Saturn Outlook 2008-09; built after March 2008 $5,000
Chevrolet Traverse 2009 and newer $6,300
GMC Acadia 2008 and newer; built after March 2008 $6,900
Buick Enclave 2008 and newer; built after March 2008 $7,300
Audi Q7 2008 and newer; built after December 2007 $9,100
Mercedes-Benz R-Class 2009-12; built after September 2008 $9,100
Minivans Model years Price
Kia Sedona 2006-14 $2,500
Hyundai Entourage 2007-08 $3,300
Honda Odyssey 2008-13 $4,800
Volkswagen Routan 2010-12 $5,600
Chrysler Town & Country 2010 and newer; built after March 2010 $6,100
Dodge Grand Caravan 2010 and newer; built after March 2010 $6,100
Nissan Quest 2011 and newer $8,500
Pickups Model years Price
Toyota Tundra extended cab (Double Cab) 2007-13 $8,400
Ford F-150 crew cab (SuperCrew) 2009 and newer $9,800