Teenagers are among the riskiest drivers because of a combination of immaturity, inexperience and social pressures. Consequently, they have crash rates that are almost four times those of drivers 20 and older. Choosing the right car can help teens stay safe, but it can be challenging to balance all the factors that make an ideal vehicle for inexperienced drivers.
Consumer Reports and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have again combined their expertise and data to create lists of used cars, SUVs, and minivans that combine accident avoidance, crash protection, performance, and reliability. These vehicle recommendations are ideal for teens, but they can serve any shopper looking for a vehicle that excels in those areas.
“In compiling these lists, we found that some of the same models that were on last year’s lists are no less expensive and some are actually more expensive now, even though they’re a year older, due to the tumultuous market,” says Jennifer Stockburger, director of operations at the Consumer Reports Auto Test Center. “As the same amount of money may not be going as far, it’s even more important to make it a safe and reliable choice.”
The lists omit subcompact cars and other vehicles under 2,750 pounds because research shows that they don’t provide adequate protection in multiple-vehicle crashes. And large SUVs and pickup trucks aren’t included because they can be hard to handle, they often have increased braking distances, and they pose a greater risk to other motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.
Even amid elevated prices, we kept our cutoff at $20,000. There are many good choices for less, just a few more than last year. For some families, the soaring prices may mean that buying a new car is the right move, either for a teen or a parent, particularly with lower loan interest rates. Not to worry: We have a list for that.
Even in this tight market, it’s possible to find some good options for young drivers. CR and IIHS identified more than 40 used vehicles ranging from $6,600 to $20,000 that met stringent safety and reliability criteria.
We present two tiers of recommendations: Good Choices and Best Choices, grouped by car category and ranked by price.