Getting a driver’s license is one of the teenage rites of passage. When your teenager is ready to start driving, it’s a good idea to put some serious thought into the type of car that your teen drives. After all, teen drivers have a higher risk of getting into a car accident than any other age group.

Many teens drive older model cars that are family hand-me-downs or cost less to purchase than a new car. Teens also tend to drive smaller cars that require less pocket money to fill up the gas tank. While that’s understandable, smaller cars offer less protection in a collision than larger vehicles and older cars lack many of the safety features that new models have.

A study recently published in the journal Injury Prevention found that almost half of the teenage drivers ages 15 to 17 years old who died in car accidents from 2008 to 2012 were in vehicles at least 11 years old.  In addition, nearly a third of the accident victims were driving small cars, the researchers at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) said.

In other words, many of the most accident prone drivers are driving the most dangerous cars. It’s important to take into account car safety as well as affordability in selecting a vehicle.

Focus on Safety Features to Protect Teen Drivers in Accidents

The IIHS does safety testing of vehicles and compiles a list of recommended safe vehicles for teen drivers. In making the recommendations, the it focuses on four main principles:

  • Hold the Horses — Your teen may want a sports car with a big engine, but high performance cars encourage speeding and reckless driving. Teenagers driving high performance cars are more likely to push the limits. Avoid high horsepower vehicles in selecting a car for a teenager. A sedate family sedan is a safer choice.
  • Safety Features — Electronic stability control (ESC) is an important safety innovation. ESC helps keep cars stable on curves and helps prevent rollover accidents, which are associated with serious injuries. ESC was required on cars starting in 2012. Some models manufactured as far back as the late 1990s have ESC as well. A majority of 2008 and newer vehicles have side airbags that shield the head and torso in an accident. They greatly reduce injuries in side impact collisions.
  • Big and Slow — No small cars or mini cars made the IIHS list of recommended cars for teens. Big cars are more stable and offer more protection to your teens in a collision.
  • Safety Ratings — Vehicles chosen for teen drivers should have a high safety rating.

Recognizing that many families cannot afford to buy a 2015 model car for a teenage driver, the IIHS put together a list of more affordable used cars that have certain safety features. Their prices range from less than $5,000 to $20,000, so there is a safe car to fit many budgets.

The list of car recommendations for teen drivers is broken into best choices and good choices. Here are some highlights of the best category:

Large Cars

  • Buick Regal, 2011 and later
  • Ford Taurus, 2010 and later
  • Buick LaCrosse, 2010 and later
  • Lincoln MKS, 2009 and later
  • Volvo S80, 2007 and later

Midsize Cars

  • Buick Verano, 2012 and later
  • Chevrolet Malibu, 2010 and later; built after November 2009
  • Dodge Avenger, 2011 and later
  • Honda Accord sedan, 2012 and later, coupe 2013-14
  • Hyundai Sonata, 2011 and later
  • Kia Optima, 2011 and later
  • Subaru Legacy, 2010 and later
  • Subaru Outback, 2010 and later
  • Toyota Camry, 2012 and later
  • Toyota Prius, 2012 and later

SUVs

  • Ford Edge, 2011 and later
  • Ford Flex, 2010 and later
  • GMC Terrain, 2010 and later
  • Honda CR-V, 2012 and later
  • Infiniti EX, 2008 and later
  • Kia Sportage, 2011 and later
  • Subaru Forester, 2009 and later
  • Volvo XC60, 2010 and later
  • Volvo XC90, 2005 and later

You can view the complete lists of recommended vehicles for teen drivers here.

An encouraging fact is that fatalities among teenage drivers in Kentucky dropped by more than half from 2004 to 2013, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Still, young drivers ages 16 to 19 are three times more likely to be in a fatal accident than drivers ages 20 and older. As car accident attorneys who represent those harmed by other drivers, we see firsthand how those accidents devastate families.

Teen drivers are inexperienced drivers. They’re more likely to make incorrect assumptions about another driver’s intent. It makes sense to put them in the safest vehicle possible to protect them.