What should you consider when buying your teen a used car?

It’s tough to buy a vehicle right now. The pandemic and the semiconductor shortage have priced used vehicles at a premium – if you can find one at all. If you’re buying a vehicle for your teen or a young graduate, it could be tempting to buy the cheapest car you can get your hands on.

Don’t compromise on safety. Even in a tight market, it is possible to find used vehicles that focus on safety yet are still affordable. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Consumer Reports found 61 used vehicles that average in price between $6,400 and $19,800 and which have the safety features you should be looking for. They found another 29 acceptable vehicles between $19,900 and $39,500.

What were the safety groups looking for in a safe, reliable, affordable car?

For one thing, none of the vehicles recommended were sports cars with lots of horsepower. These can tempt young drivers to put themselves in risky situations. Also, there are no minicars on the list, as these are not as protective in crashes. Conversely, the largest SUVs were also struck from the list for being unwieldy and having increased braking distances.

Other than that, the cars the two safety groups recommend had these factors in common:

  • Electronic stability control system was standard
  • Above-average reliability on Consumer Reports’ member survey for the majority of years
  • Average or better scores from Consumer Reports’ emergency handling tests
  • Dry braking distances of less than 145 feet from 60 mph, according to a Consumer Reports brake test
  • Good ratings in the four IIHS crashworthiness tests (moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints)
  • Four or five safety stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, if rated

The favorable ratings were divided into “Good Choices” and “Best Choices.” In addition to meeting all the standards above, the Best Choices had a good or acceptable rating in the IIHS’s driver-side small overlap front test.

Finally, the safety groups excluded vehicles that otherwise met the standards, but which had a substantially higher than average insurance claim rate indicating injuries to the occupants.

All of the vehicles recommended are winners of IIHS’s TOP SAFETY PICK or TOP SAFETY PICK+ award.

To choose among the vehicles rated as Good Choices and Best Choices, you can go by overall price or choose based on the type of vehicle you want. All of these vehicles put safety first. Enjoy shopping!

Skip to content