Insurance Institute Recommends Safest Cars for Teens

List includes more than 50 sedans, minivans and SUVs – puts emphasis on safety features.

by on Jul.16, 2014

The Chevrolet Malibu is one of a dozen GM models included on the IIHS list of safest cars for teens.

With teen drivers the group at risk for serious crashes, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has issued its first-ever list of the used vehicles it most recommends for young motorists.

The list puts a premium on such safety features as airbags, electronic stability control and anti-rollover systems, though teens might not like the fact that most of the recommended offerings are low on power. The IIHS recommendations also offer something for almost every pocketbook, the picks ranging in price from around $4,000 to $20,000.

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“A teenager’s first car is more than just a financial decision,” stresses IIHS President Adrian Lund. “These lists of recommended used vehicles can help consumers factor in safety, in addition to affordability.”

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The new list from the insurance industry’s automotive safety arm covers a wide range of manufacturers, domestic and foreign, including Audi, Chrysler, Ford, Hyundai, Subaru and Toyota. But, in something of a vote of confidence, it also includes an even dozen General Motors products, including the Chevrolet Malibu and Buick LaCrosse sedans, as well as the GMC Terrain crossover.

The list covers a wide range of vehicle types, including crossovers such as this 2012 Honda CR-V.

That was good news for a company that has been struggling to recover its image after a series of safety problems that has resulted in the recall of nearly 26 million cars sold in the U.S. since just the beginning of the year. But despite those problems, IIHS officials found that the 12 used GM vehicles offered the right combination of features and value.

“We know many teens are driving the older, smaller vehicles in the family fleet are less likely to afford optimal crash protection,” explained IIHS Senior Vice President for Research Anne Mccartt. “The vehicles from GM brands on our list provide teens with important safety features across all family budgets.”

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The Insurance Institute based its recommendations on a variety of factors, including buying habits, a national phone survey showing that 83% of parents bought a used vehicle for their teen drivers. None of the models included on the list date back beyond the 2005 model-year, however, more than half were produced during or before the 2006 model-year.

The list focuses on specific versions of individual vehicle models, generally focusing on those loaded with safety features – and with low horsepower ratings. In some cases, the IIHS has chosen more expensive versions than the base models teens and parents might first go for. But McCartt notes it can be “very difficult to get a safe vehicle” without “paying a little more.”

On average, the vehicles included come in around $9,800. That’s only a few thousand dollars less than some new cars today, but those typically don’t offer the sort of advanced safety features the IIHS leaned towards, at least not in base trim.

While advanced safety technologies were considered in organizing the list, the IIHS also looked for vehicles that had fundamentally safe designs, with emphasis on factors such as good ratings for side crash prevention, good head restraints, and good roof protection in the event of a rollover.

“Enhancing the safety of our customers and the quality of our products is a top priority for Honda,” said Art St. Cyr, vice president of product planning and logistics at American Honda, which has a half-dozen models on the IIHS list.

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 942 teens died in crashes in 2011, the latest year for which such data is available. That makes motor vehicle accidents the leading cause of death in the U.S. for those between the ages of 14 to 18, according to federal data.

More than a third of such deaths were linked to speeding, according to NHTSA, while 12% involved distracted driving. Meanwhile, many of those fatalities likely could have been prevented because over half of the teens killed in crashes were not wearing seatbelts.

For the complete round-up of all the models on the new .

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