Teenagers have places to go, so unless you’re content to drive them here, there, and everywhere (while listening to them beg for their own set of wheels), it’s time to consider buying them a car. You may be tempted to get them the cheapest one you find on Clark County Craigslist, or hand down the van you’ve been driving since they were born, but in the long run you’ll feel better if you do the research and put them in something safe.
Budget is always a huge concern for families, especially with college costs looming, so it’s important not only to find a safe car, but one that won’t cost too much to maintain and will hold up for years to come.
Safety Features to Look For
Teenagers, thanks to their lack of driving experience and poor judgement of risk, are far more likely to be involved in a car accident than adults. Therefore, they need all the safety bells and whistles. We strongly suggest you look for a car with electronic stability control (ESC), which helps the driver maintain control and greatly decreases the risk of a crash. ESC is a good feature for any driver, but key for those with little experience. This limits your choices to newer vehicles, but we think you’ll agree the technology is worth it.
Cars with ESC also come standard with anti-lock brakes, and keep your eye out for advanced airbags. Multi-stage front airbags as well as side and head protection curtain airbags are some of the best crash safety features available today. In an emergency situation, those systems will be worth every penny.
Vehicle Types to Avoid
For teen drivers, try to avoid pickups as they are more prone to rolling over than other vehicle types. As you’re probably aware, sports cars and sporty models that go faster have a higher rate of accidents, which will call for higher insurance premiums and drain your college savings. On the other hand, you may feel safe putting them in a “tank” of an older, large sedan or SUV, but thanks to improved structure and modern technology, newer smaller models are actually safer. And finally, it’s best to avoid minivans or third-row SUVs and more passengers equal more unneeded distraction for a beginner behind the wheel.
A small or mid-sized sedan or SUV has proven to be the sweet spot for safety, affordability and handling. However, keep in mind that every used car has been treated differently, so be sure to have any vehicle you are considering purchasing inspected by a mechanic before you write that check.
With the above factors in mind, we put together a list of vehicles that would be good options for your teenage driver. First, we took a look at Consumer Reports’ list of recommendations, then based on safety features and overall affordability, we whittled it down to four models each in three of the safest categories. Each vehicle on this list is equipped with ESC and has earned at least a good rating by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Prices were taken from Kelly Blue Book on November 1, 2014 and rounded to the nearest $100. They reflect the following vehicles in excellent condition (which KBB says is very is rare, so you can expect these to be peak prices) with the base trim level, typical mileage (about 75,000 miles for a 2009 model), and private party purchase in Battle Ground, Wash..
subaru legacy // 2009 // $9,800
Masda6 // 2009 or later // $8,400
Saturn Aura // 2009 // $7,700
Acura TL // 2004 or later // $7,400
Full size cars
Acura RL // 2005 or later // $9,000
Kia Amanti // 2009 // $9,400
Mercury Sable // 2009 // $8,700
Ford Taurus // 2009 // $8,200
Nissan Rogue // 2008 or later // $9300
Ford Escape // 2009 or later // $8,400
Mazda Tribute // 2009 or later // $7,900
Mitsubishi Outlander // 2007 or later // $6,000
If you’ve found a used car that you’d like to have checked out, bring it by the shop and we’ll take a look at it! No appointment necessary.