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Choosing the Best Used Car for Your Teen

April 15, 2016

Handing over the car keys to your child may be a nerve-wracking experience, and every parent wants to make sure their teen is safe and sound behind the wheel. But how do you know which model is the safest and most cost-effective?

What to Look for in a Car for Your Teen Driver

Chances are that you’ll want a vehicle with as many safety features as possible without spending a fortune, and a used model is probably your best bet. But there are a few things that you shouldn’t compromise on when selecting a vehicle for your teen driver. 

  • Exceeding the speed limit is common among drivers of all ages, including excited teens. Best to avoid high-horsepower vehicles to minimize the option to speed.
  • Front and back airbags in vehicles have been mandatory since the 90s, but what happens if you’re hit from the side? Additional side and curtain airbags cover the side windows during a collision and can save your life.
  • Mid-size sedans are the best option for teens. Smaller vehicles may be cheaper and more fuel-efficient, but heavier, bigger models will protect you better in the event of a crash. But, on the other hand, large vehicles like pickups and SUVs may be prone to rollovers due to their higher centres of gravity.
  • Vehicles with traction control and antilock brakes are a bonus because they can manoeuver better and regain control faster in emergency situations. In particular, electronic stability control (ESC) reduces skidding on curves and slippery roads. In Canada, this technology has become a mandatory feature for all cars manufactured since September 2011. ESC has been reported to reduce the number of accidents caused by loss of control by 29 per cent.
  • Even if you received a CarProof or CarFax stating the vehicle’s history, take the vehicle to a reliable mechanic for a second opinion. The last thing an inexperienced driver needs is a car that requires constant maintenance and could likely throw curveballs while on the road.
  • If you’re still unsure of how well a car will fare during a crash, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts crash tests and publishes results online.

The Safest Cars for Teen Drivers

With safety ratings in mind, both the IIHS and ConsumerReports.org put together lists of recommended used vehicles that placed well in crash tests but also sit at a decent price point. We took a few, common to both lists, to profile:

Ford Fusion (2010-2012)

(Pictured: Ford Fusion 2011)

The Fusion placed well across the board in crash tests during these years. Avoid earlier models as antilock brakes only became standard in 2008. Also best to avoid the MyFordTouch infotainment control system, which can be a distraction while driving.

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Hyundai Sonata (2011-2013)

(Pictured: Hyundai Sonata 2012)

The Sonata is a mid-sized sedan that includes staple safety features like side airbags, electronic stability control, antilock brakes and daytime running lights.

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Mazda6 (2014 or newer)

(Pictured: Mazda6 2014)

This mid-sized sedan is a bit sportier and comes with a 4-cylinder option. On top of the side airbags, ESC and ABS, some models feature a forward collision warning, which fared well in IIHS crash tests.

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Volkswagen Jetta (2009-2013)

(Pictured: Volkswagen Jetta 2010)

The Jetta is a small, but reliable sedan. Not only does it offer side airbags, but later models also feature a “driver knee airbag” – a separate airbag beneath the wheel to minimize knee injuries in frontal crashes.

Best Cars for Teenagers and Auto Insurance Rates

As much as parents and teens alike would probably like to buy a new car with all the bells, whistles and safety features, adding another vehicle to the household usually results in a budget that is pretty limited. And it’s no secret that having a young, inexperienced driver under your policy can drive your insurance premiums higher. But this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to find reasonable rates for teen drivers. Young or old, check out InsuranceHotline.com to compare rates for the car insurance coverage you need.