Given teen drivers’ lack of experience behind the wheel, safety should be your primary criteria when determining the best used cars for teens. Car crashes are the leading cause of teen mortality, and the type of car the teen is driving can be the difference between surviving an accident, or the alternative.
Of course, money’s a consideration too. A survey conducted by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety found the average purchase price for a teen's vehicle was about $9,800, with the median price being $5,300. In some cases, people are paying even less and that can be a problem.
“It's very difficult to get a safe vehicle for a teenager at the prices most people are paying," says Anne McCartt, IIHS senior vice president for research. "Our advice to parents would be to remember the risks teens take and consider paying a little more."
What To Look For
When shopping for teen drivers avoid excessively powerful cars. Instead, gravitate toward larger, heavier, slower, and more agile vehicles. You should also look for features like ABS and electronic stability control. These will help inexperienced drivers avoid accidents. Side airbags are important too.
The best used cars for teens all also have the highest crash test ratings possible. To make finding these easier, the IIHS assembled a list of used vehicles with “good” ratings in its moderate overlap frontal crash test (the organization’s highest rating), “acceptable” (or better) ratings in the IIHS side crash test, and at least four – ideally five – stars (the highest rating) from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
To help you find the safest vehicle you can for the money, we then culled the IIHS list for the highest rated models priced just under $10,000 according to Kelley Blue Book.