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Best used vehicles for teens

IIHS has updated its recommendations for used vehicles for teens. (Photo: Rolf Bruderer/
IIHS has updated its recommendations for used vehicles for teens. (Photo: Rolf Bruderer/

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has updated its 2014 list of recommended used vehicles for teens, and the 2015 list has grown by more than 50% — even though the price and safety criteria haven't changed.

The first list of recommended used vehicles for teens was compiled after IIHS found that the majority of parents who bought a vehicle for their teens bought a used one. The survey also found that the budgets for teens' vehicles were limited: the mean purchase price was $9,800, while the median was $5,300.

The "best" vehicles on IIHS' list are priced under $20,000 and have good ratings in the Institute's four oldest crashworthiness tests: moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. If rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, vehicles must earn 4 or 5 stars overall or 4 or 5 stars in the front and side tests under the old rating scheme.

New to this year's list are pickup trucks, which weren't included last year because those that met IIHS' safety criteria exceeded the $20,000 price limit. This year, several made the cut.

When selecting a vehicle for teen drivers, IIHS makes the following recommendations to take into consideration:

  • High horsepower should be avoided. The temptation to test the limits of a powerful engine is too hard for many teens to resist. Vehicles that only come with big engines have been left off the lists, but many recommended models have high-horsepower versions that should be avoided. The base engines of all the listed vehicles have adequate power for teens.
  • Bigger, heavier vehicles are safer. Consumers won't find minicars or small cars among the best choices or the good choices. (Small SUVs, which weigh about the same as midsize cars, are OK.)
  • Electronic stability control is a must. This technology, mandatory since the 2012 model year, helps a driver maintain control on curves and slippery roads. It's a proven lifesaver, cutting single-vehicle fatal crash risk nearly in half. All listed vehicles have the feature standard.

Click "next" to see IIHS' selections for the best used vehicles for teens in the categories of Large Car, Midsize Car, Small SUVs, Midsize SUVs, Large SUVs, Minivans and Pickups.

See the full list of best cars, and the separate list of "good" vehicle recommendations, from IIHS.

Read related:

10 best and worst states for teen drivers

The 10 most & least expensive states for adding a teen driver to an auto policy [Ranked]

Best Large Car: Volvo S80 (model year 2007 and newer)

Price: $5,800

Best Midsize Car: Volkaswagen Jetta sedan and wagon (2009 and newer)

Price: $5,600

Best Small SUV: Honda Element (2007-2011)

Price: $6,700

Best Midsize SUV: Volvo XC90 (2005 and newer)

Price: $4,600

Best Large SUV: Chevrolet Traverse (2011 and newer)

Price: $13,500

Best Minivan: Dodge Grand Caravan (2012 and newer)

Price: $11,600

Best Pickups: Toyota Tundra crew cab/double cab (2007 and newer)

Price: $12,200

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