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Consumer Reports' Best Used Cars for Teens
2008 Acura TSX
2009 Ford Focus
2008 Hyundai Sonata
2009 Scion xB
When we ran across this report, we were immediately reminded of the story of a highly successful Atlanta-area doctor who purchased a brand new Dodge Viper for his daughter for her 16th birthday. As absolutely thrilled as she was by her dad's demonstration of his largess, unfortunately, she didn't have a 17th birthday. Now, you'd think being able to extrapolate the ultimate consequence of a gift of that nature to a person of that nature would be a case of simple common sense.
Unfortunately, common sense ain't common.
Regular followers of various automotive musings have by now read somewhere teens are more likely to die behind the wheel of a car than anyplace else, or by any other means. In fact, some experts say the odds of an auto accident with a teen driver increases by 25 percent for each additional teen you put in the car. Which basically means if you see a car with four teens going down the freeway, they're pretty much an accident waiting to happen. If you have a teen driver in your household for whom you're shopping for a used car, (if you love them) you'd do well to place them in the safest, most reliable car you can find, regardless of how much they plead for that Nissan GT-R with a nitrous kit.
Surprisingly, and completely counter to what most everyone believes by the way, that vehicle will not be a full-sized SUV. First of all, because they're so capacious, they hold way too many people (remember the 25 percent rule?). Second of all, with their high center of gravity handily complimenting their huge size; maneuverability'”particularly with an inexperienced driver behind the wheel'”is next to nil. Therefore, if your teen is confronted with a life or death avoidance maneuver behind the wheel of a full-size SUV, you'd be better off equipping said full-size SUV with a set of ejector seats'”rather than counting on the vehicle to help your teen steer their way out of trouble.
Ranking most highly on the Consumer Reports list of best used cars for a teen driver are the moderately priced mid-sized family sedans in possession of a suite of the most cutting edge safety equipment available. This includes stability control, ABS, traction control, and side curtain air bags. As we alluded to before, sports cars, with their aura of speed and invincibility (the last two things with which you should endow a teen-aged driver), are absolutely taboo.
To make the Consumer Reports list, the car models chosen had to be readily available with the recommended safety equipment, and have performed well in safety-related tests. All are also Consumer Reports recommended vehicles, meaning they scored well in Consumer Reports' testing and have demonstrated average or better reliability. They also were required to demonstrate sufficient acceleration to merge onto busy highways, good brakes, and score well in emergency handling. While a number of vehicles obviously meet that criteria, to keep the list realistic for a family looking to put a teen in a good, clean used car, Consumer Reports focused on used car choices that are readily available for less than $12,000.
The list is as follows: Acura TSX (2004 or later), Ford Focus sedan (2009 or later), Hyundai Sonata (2006 or later), Hyundai Elantra SE (2008 or later), Mazda MAZDA3 Touring (2007 or later), Scion xB (2008 or later), Volkswagen Jetta (2007 or later), and Volkswagen Rabbit (2007 or later).
The good news is the vast majority of these cars are universally considered to be pretty cool cars. Cars any teen should be relatively proud to be seen getting in and out of. Another plus is that all of these are pretty reliable cars, the Hyundais and the Volkswagens would even still be under factory warranty (depending upon mileage).
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