Report names best affordable used cars for new drivers

WASHINGTON — A new report is aiming to get teen drivers behind safer, affordable used vehicles.

The Institute for Highway Safety — an Arlington-based non-profit organization funded by insurers — on Wednesday released its first-ever list of recommended economical used vehicles for teens.

The list comes after IIHS research showed teenagers killed in crashes are more likely than adults to have been behind the wheel of older, unsafe vehicles. Eighty-two percent of the young teen drivers were in vehicles that were at least six years old, compared with 77 percent of those in the adult group.

“A teenager’s first car is more than just a financial decision,” IIHS President Adrian Lund, said in a news release, adding that safety is paramount in car-buying.

IIHS looked at two tiers of vehicles: those starting at less than $20,000 and those starting at less than $10,000.

To get the vehicles’ values, IIHS used Kelley Blue Book prices on July 1, 2014, and rounded to the nearest $100. The prices reflect the vehicles’ lowest trim level.

In IIHS’ survey of parents, the mean purchase price for a teen’s vehicle was about $9,800.

Top recommended used vehicles for less than $20,000 include vehicles such as the Buick Regal for $13,500, Ford Taurus for $13,500, Audi A4 for $14,300, Kia Optima for $13,300, Honda Element for $8,900, GMC Acadia for $17,800 and the Toyota Sienna for $16,400.

Top recommended used vehicles for less than $10,000 include vehicles such as the Mercury Sable for $9,700, Volkwagen Passat for $5,100, Saturn Auro for $8,800, Mitsubishi Outlander for $6,300, Ford Escape for $8,700, Mazda CX-7 for $7,200 and Dodge Grand Caravan $8,200.

Get the full list and the vehicles’ model years on the IIHS website.

IIHS made its choices under the following recommendations for teen drivers:

  • Lower horsepower. Vehicles with more powerful engines can tempt teens to test the limits.
  • Bigger, heavier vehicles. The larger, heavier cars are better protection in the event of a crash.
  • Electronic stability control. ESC helps a driver maintain control of the vehicle on curves and slippery roads and reduces risk on a level comparable to safety belts.
  • Best safety ratings. The vehicle should have the best ratings possible from the IIHS and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tests.

IIHS conducted a national phone survey of parents of teen drivers and found that 83 percent of those who bought a vehicle for their teenagers said they bought it used.

Anne McCartt, IIHS senior vice president for research, said that while parents are looking to save money with used cars, they should remember the risks that come with young, inexperienced drivers.

“Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to get a safe vehicle for a teenager at the prices most people are paying,” McCartt, said in the release.

“Our advice to parents would be to remember the risks teens take and consider paying a little more.”

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