Best Vehicles for Teens

Teen Driver in Your Household? Put Vehicle Technology on Your Side

Helping your new driver take to the road safely can certainly be nerve-racking, but the time and effort you put into a little research can greatly increase your teen’s odds of avoiding a severe accident.


If you’re looking for a suitable car for a novice, leverage safety technology to stack the deck in your favor. Large, slow “beaters” may be your first instinct, but they’re not actually optimal. Many older cars lack safety features that can reduce accident frequency and severity. These newer safety technologies can help compensate for inexperience and most are available in newer used cars.

  • Adaptive headlights are designed to improve a driver’s field of vision in low-visibility conditions. Some are designed to provide better illumination during cornering and others automatically adapt their levels of brightness based on driving conditions or the proximity of other vehicles.
  • Extended air bags can provide excellent supplemental coverage. Look for vehicles with side-mounted air bags that are designed to protect the torso and curtain air bags that protect the head during side-impact crashes.
  • Antilock braking systems reduce or eliminate skidding when braking on slick surfaces to provide more traction.
  • Camera and laser technology is not yet easy to find in reasonably priced used cars but is worth investigating. Higher-end vehicles may offer features like forward collision control, backup sensors, collision avoidance systems, adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning and lane departure warning.
  • Electronic stability control is one feature worth searching out. It is standard on all cars model year 2012 and later but can also be found in some older vehicles. Sensors detect angle, speed, lateral motion and rotation to determine and monitor the vehicle’s path. If drift is detected, one or more wheels are momentarily braked while engine power is temporarily reduced to get the car back on track.
  • Tire-pressure monitors identify underinflated tires and show a dashboard alert.Because soft tires can be hard to detect and can create poor handling during corning or lane changes, this early warning system alerts drivers to be cautious and correct the issue as soon as possible.
  • Traction control systems help ensure wheels maintain optimal traction while accelerating. Inexperienced drivers often have difficulty estimating the amount of acceleration needed in various conditions and lose control of the vehicle.

Size Does Matter – and So Does a Good Track Record

Check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s crash ratings tests to see which models perform best. You’ll notice none of the top-rated vehicles are small cars – studies have shown a high incidence of teen driver fatalities in small cars.

While small cars are associated with elevated injuries and fatalities, vehicles with room for several passengers can also present a major risk. Driver distraction is a serious problem for teens, and accident statistics show that teen drivers with multiple passengers experience a higher percentage of accidents than peers with no or only one passenger.

Pickups, some vans and SUVs can tip and roll more easily than vehicles with a lower center of gravity. In addition, a taller vehicle presents more surface area for strong winds to affect. You should also be aware that some SUVs have performed poorly in impact crashes testing roof strength.

Hold the Horses!

High-performance vehicles with high-power engines and teen drivers are a bad combination. It’s far too easy for an inexperienced driver to over-accelerate in challenging situations. Fast cars are also exciting, and many teens have simply not matured enough to let safety considerations outweigh the thrill of a fast ride.

The first and best defense your teen driver has is you. They’ll pick up their driving and vehicle maintenance habits by watching you. So practice good driving habits and maintain your vehicles well to help your teen be safe, not a statistic.

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