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Insurance Institute recommends safest used cars for teen drivers

Many teens are driving cars that are poorly matched to their driving skills, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The institute released its first list of recommended used vehicles for teens Wednesday after finding in a survey of 500 parents that 83% bought a used, rather than new, car for their teen to drive.

The institute reviewed crash ratings and safety features -- such as electronic stability control systems -- for used cars and then obtained price data from Kelley Blue Book to build its list.

Mindful that families can have varying budgets, IIHS recommended cars along a broad spectrum of prices. It recommended, for instance, the Lincoln MKS from the 2009 model year, which starts at about $15,500, but also 2006 to ’08 Volkswagen Passats, which start at about $5,000 on the used market.

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“These lists of recommended used vehicles can help consumers factor in safety in addition to affordability,” said Adrian Lund, the group’s president.

IIHS found that teens tend to drive small or subcompact cars that don’t offer good crash protection and also older cars, from the 2006 model year or earlier. That’s a problem because older vehicles are less likely to have important safety features such as electronic stability control and side air bags.

Teenagers killed in crashes are more likely than adults to have been behind the wheel of small and older vehicles, IIHS said. Among fatally injured drivers ages 15 to 17 from 2008 through 2012, 29% were in small or subcompact cars. That compared with 20% for drivers ages 35 to 50.

When picking a car for their new driver, parents should follow these guidelines:

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* Avoid high-horsepower vehicles that could tempt teens into speeding.

* Select bigger cars that have the mass to protect occupants in an accident.

* Put young drivers in vehicles equipped with electronic stability control, which helps a driver maintain control of the vehicle on curves and slippery roads. Such systems are as important as seat belts, the insurance group said.

* Parents should also pick vehicles with good IIHS and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration safety ratings.

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“You don’t want to get your kid the spiffy red BMW that will be tempting to race,” said Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Safety and Reliability.

Parents purchasing a used car for their teen should also check to see if the vehicle has been recalled but not fixed, Shahan said.

“There are something like 36 million cars out there that have a pending recall,” Shahan said.

The insurance group found that, on average, parents spend about $9,800 on a car for a teen. But the median point of car purchases for teens is far lower, at just $5,300.

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“Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to get a safe vehicle for a teenager at the prices most people are paying,” said Anne McCartt, IIHS senior vice president for research. “Our advice to parents would be to remember the risks teens take and consider paying a little more.”

All the cars on the IIHS list have electronic stability control and provide good crash protection.

The group’s “best choices” for less than $20,000 also have good ratings for side crash protection, good head restraints and seats for rear crash protection, and good roof strength to protect occupants in rollover crashes.

Vehicles considered “good choices” for less than $10,000 have good or acceptable side crash protection and head restraints rated better than poor.

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Prices on the “best choices” list start at $7,300, while the least expensive “good choice” is $4,000.

Here are the lists:

BEST CHOICES:
Recommended used vehicles for teens starting under $20,000

Vehicles on this list earn good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. If rated by NHTSA, they earn 4 or 5 stars overall or 4 or 5 stars in the front and side tests under the old rating scheme. All come with standard ESC.

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Prices, rounded to the nearest $100, were taken from Kelley Blue Book on July 1, 2014, for the lowest trim level and earliest applicable model year based on the following criteria: vehicle in good condition, typical mileage and private party purchase in Arlington, Va.

LARGE CARS MODEL YEARS PRICE
Saab 9-5 sedan 2010 and later $17,500
Lincoln MKS 2009 and later $15,500
Buick Regal 2011 and later $13,500
Ford Taurus 2010 and later $13,500
Buick LaCrosse 2010 and later $12,900
Volvo S80 2007 and later $9,000

MIDSIZE CARS MODEL YEARS PRICE
Toyota Prius v 2012 and later $19,100
Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan 2009 and later $16,000
Honda Accord sedan 2012 and later $14,400
Audi A4 2009 and later $14,300
Toyota Camry 2012 and later $14,300
Buick Verano 2012 and later $14,100
Subaru Outback 2010 and later $14,000
Lincoln MKZ built after April 2010 and later $13,500
Kia Optima 2011 and later $13,300
Hyundai Sonata 2011 and later $12,100
Subaru Legacy 2010 and later $11,900
Dodge Avenger 2011 and later $11,600
Audi A3 2008 and later $11,300
Volkswagen CC 2009 and later $11,200
Chev. Malibu built after Nov. 2009 and later $10,900
Chrysler 200 sedan 2011 and later $10,700
Mercury Milan built after April 2010 and later $10,700
Ford Fusion built after April 2010 and later $10,200
Volkswagen Passat 2009 and later $10,000
Volvo C30 2008 and later $9,800
Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen 2009 and later $9,400
Volkswagen Jetta 2009 and later $8,200

SMALL SUVs MODEL YEARS PRICE
Honda CR-V 2012 and later $18,100
Kia Sportage 2011 and later $13,800
Hyundai Tucson 2010 and later $13,100
Subaru Forester 2009 and later $12,800
Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2011 and later $12,000
Volkswagen Tiguan 2009 and later $10,200
Honda Element 2007 and later $8,900

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MIDSIZE SUVs MODEL YEARS PRICE
Volvo XC60 2010 and later $18,000
Saab 9-4X 2011-12 $17,800
Toyota Highlander 2008 and later $17,100
Toyota Venza 2009 and later $15,900
Ford Edge built after Feb 2011 and later $15,500
Ford Flex 2010 and later $15,100
GMC Terrain 2010 and later $14,900
Kia Sorento 2011 and later $14,500
Infiniti EX 2008 and later $14,400
Chevrolet Equinox 2010 and later $13,700
Dodge Journey 2010 and later $11,200
Subaru Tribeca/B9 Tribeca 2006 and later $8,500

Volvo XC90 2005 and later $7,300

LARGE SUVs MODEL YEARS PRICE
Buick Enclave 2011 and later $19,900
GMC Acadia 2011 and later $17,800
Chevrolet Traverse 2011 and later $16,600

MINIVANS MODEL YEARS PRICE
Chrysler Town & Country 2012 and later $18,100
Honda Odyssey 2011 and later $17,100
Toyota Sienna 2011 and later $16,400
Dodge Grand Caravan 2012 and later $15,200
Volkswagen Routan 2012 $14,000

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GOOD CHOICES:
Recommended used vehicles for teens starting under $10,000

Vehicles on this list earn good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front test and good or acceptable ratings in the side test. If rated by NHTSA, they earn 4 or 5 stars overall or 4 or 5 stars in the front and side tests under the old rating scheme. They also have standard ESC and a better-than-poor rating for head restraints and seats.

Prices, rounded to the nearest $100, were taken from Kelley Blue Book on July 1, 2014, for the lowest trim level and earliest applicable model year based on the following criteria: vehicle in good condition, typical mileage and private party purchase in Arlington, Va.

LARGE CARS MODEL YEARS PRICE
Acura RL 2005 and later $9,700
Mercury Sable 2009 $9,700
Kia Amanti 2009 $9,500
Ford Taurus 2009 $9,100
Audi A6 sedan 2005 and later $8,300
Hyundai Azera 2006 and later $5,700

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MIDSIZE CARS MODEL YEARS PRICE
Subaru Legacy 2009 $9,900
BMW 3-series sedan 2006 and later $9,300
Mazda 6 2009 and later $8,900
Saturn Aura 2009 $8,800
Acura TL 2004 and later $7,900
Volvo S40 2007 and later $7,700
Audi A3 2006-07 $7,400
Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2005-08 $6,900
Suzuki Kizashi 2010 and later $6,600
Volvo S60 2007-09 $6,500
Audi A4 built after Oct. 2004 to 2008 $6,200
Volkswagen Passat 2006-08 $5,100
Saab 9-3 2005 and later $4,000

SMALL SUVs MODEL YEARS PRICE

Nissan Rogue 2008 and later $9,800
Ford Escape 2009 and later $8,700
Mazda Tribute 2009 and later $8,100
Mitsubishi Outlander 2007 and later $6,300
Suzuki Grand Vitara 2006 and later $5,600

MIDSIZE SUVs MODEL YEARS PRICE
Mazda CX-9 2007 and later $9,800
Ford Edge 2007-10 $9,600
Hyundai Veracruz 2007 and later $9,600
Hyundai Santa Fe 2007-10 $8,900
Honda Pilot 2006 and later $8,800
Saturn Vue 2008-09 $7,700
Ford Taurus X 2008-09 $7,500
Mazda CX-7 2007-11 $7,200
Suzuki XL7 2008-09 $6,200

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MINIVANS MODEL YEARS PRICE
Volkswagen Routan 2009-11 $8,600
Dodge Grand Caravan 2008-11 $8,200
Chrysler Town & Country 2008-11 $8,100
Honda Odyssey 2005-10 $6,700
Hyundai Entourage 2007-08 $6,300

Kia Sedona 2006 and later $4,600

Note: Some listed models include a “built after” date. This applies when a manufacturer makes changes to improve safety in the middle of a model year. Information about when a specific vehicle was manufactured can be found on the certification label typically affixed to the driver door or near it.

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