Best 1st Vehicles for Teens
(Article originally posted on www.IIHS.org)
ARLINGTON, Va. — Many teenagers are driving vehicles that don't offer good crash protection and lack important safety technology, new research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows. To help guide parents toward safer choices, IIHS has compiled its first-ever list of recommended used vehicles for teens.
IIHS is known for its ratings of new vehicles, but for many families, a 2014 TOP SAFETY PICK orTOP SAFETY PICK+ isn't in the budget. 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.
With that reality in mind, the Institute has compiled a list of affordable used vehicles that meet important safety criteria for teen drivers (see below). There are two tiers of recommended vehicles with options at various price points, ranging from less than $5,000 to nearly $20,000, so parents can buy the most safety for their money, whatever their budget.
"A teenager's first car is more than just a financial decision," says IIHS President Adrian Lund. "These lists of recommended used vehicles can help consumers factor in safety, in addition to affordability."
Among the 500 parents surveyed, 43 percent said the vehicle their child drives was purchased around the time he or she began driving. Minicars or small cars were the most commonly purchased type of vehicle, with 28 percent buying from this category. A little more than half of newly purchased vehicles were from the 2006 model year or earlier. That's a problem because older vehicles are much less likely to have safety features such as electronic stability control (ESC) and side airbags.
Teenagers who drove a vehicle that the family already owned were even more likely to drive an older vehicle: Two-thirds of those parents said the vehicle was from 2006 or earlier.
A separate IIHS study shows that teenagers killed in crashes are more likely than adults to have been behind the wheel of small vehicles and older vehicles. Among fatally injured drivers ages 15-17 in 2008-12, 29 percent were in minicars or small cars, while 20 percent of fatally injured drivers ages 35-50 were. Eighty-two percent of the young teen drivers were in vehicles that were at least 6 years old, compared with 77 percent of those in the adult group.
The recommendations on teen vehicle choice are guided by four main principles:
Young drivers should stay away from high horsepower. Vehicles with more powerful engines can tempt them to test the limits.
Bigger, heavier vehicles protect better in a crash. 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.
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).