PhotoBecause teenagers are among the riskiest drivers, but often end up with inexpensive vehicles that don’t offer adequate protection in a crash, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is applying more stringent criteria to its list of recommended used vehicles for teens.

The latest update includes 49 “best choices,” starting under $20,000, and 82 “good choices,” starting under $10,000.

Small overlap front crash protection has been factored in for the first time this year for the best choices section of the list. And the bar has been raised for the less expensive good choices as well, with better side and head restraint ratings required.

“Just as we are always updating the criteria for our awards for new vehicles, TOP SAFETY PICK and TOP SAFETY PICK+, we can now point used vehicle buyers toward even safer models than before,” said David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer. “Good crash protection is more affordable than ever, so there’s no need to skimp on safety when it comes to a vehicle for a young driver.”

Prices for listed vehicles are provided by Kelley Blue Book, based on estimates for a private-party purchase near the IIHS Arlington, Va., headquarters.

“Choosing a safe vehicle for your teen is of paramount importance, and settling on a vehicle your family can afford is also very important,” said Jack Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “Kelley Blue Book provides you with updated vehicle prices and values that are unique to your area, so KBB.com is a great site to visit as you finalize your buying decision.”

What to do

Both lists follow a few basic principles, which should always be taken into account when shopping for a vehicle for a teenager:

  • High horsepower and young drivers don’t mix. Teens may be tempted to test the limits of a powerful engine. Vehicles that come only with powerful engines have been left off the lists, but some recommended models have high-horsepower versions. Stick with the base engine.
  • Bigger, heavier vehicles are safer. There are no minicars or small cars on the lists. Small SUVs are OK; they weigh about the same as a midsize car.
  • Electronic stability control is an essential feature. This technology, which cuts single-vehicle fatal crash risk nearly in half, has been required on new vehicles since the 2012 model year. It helps a driver maintain control on curves and slippery roads. All listed vehicles have it as a standard feature.

Beyond those basics, parents should seek out a vehicle with the highest crash test ratings they can afford.

Models on this year’s good choices list earn good ratings in the Institute’s moderate overlap front, side, and head restraint tests. Vehicles on the best choices list must also have a good rating for roof strength to protect in rollover crashes and a good or acceptable rating in the small overlap test, which replicates what happens when the front, driver-side corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole.

Before purchasing a used vehicle, it’s critical to check for outstanding recalls. You can enter the Vehicle Identification Number at nhtsa.gov/recalls. It’s also a good idea to notify the manufacturer once you purchase the vehicle, so the company can make sure you receive future recall notices.

Consumers should keep in mind that the continuing recall of Takata airbags affects a large number of vehicles. Since the risk of airbag malfunction increases over time and also depends on the climate where the vehicle is kept for most of the year, not all affected vehicles have been recalled yet. NHTSA recommends checking its recall page every six months or so.

Parents of children who are still years away from driving should plan ahead if they want their future driver to benefit from front crash prevention and good-rated headlights. If possible, when buying the next family vehicle, choose an IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK or TOP SAFETY PICK+ with at least 4 or 5 stars from NHTSA, and consider handing it down to your teenager when the time comes.

The recommendations

Best Choices

 

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

 

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


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