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Smiling Teenager In Car

Safest Cars for Teens Under $7000

updated: Jan. 16, 2016 –

When shopping for a car for their children, most parents find it challenging to find a car that offers optimal safety features that doesn’t break the bank. Unfortunately, many parents end up buying their children cars that lack important safety features, or even worse, give their children hand-me-downs that have even less safety features in order to save money. In the quest to find teens a reliable car, parents should keep in mind the age of the car, safety features and crash test ratings in order to provide their teens with the safest vehicle.

“Our advice to parents would be to remember the risks teens take and consider paying a little more,” says Anne McCartt, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Senior Vice President for research.

IIHS’s Video on Safe Cars for Teens

The IIHS provides a small list of crucial recommendations for parents thinking of buying their teen a vehicle for the first time:

  • Don’t buy your teen a vehicle with high horsepower; they will be more inclined to speed and drive recklessly in a powerful car.
  • Look for a mid-sized sedan or a small SUV instead of compact cars so that your teen will have more protection in a crash.
  • Electronic stability control is crucial for a beginning driver; ESC allows your teen to maintain control of the car on tight curves and treacherous roads.
  • Vehicles should have the highest safety rating possible – good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front test, acceptable ratings in a side crash test and 4-5 stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The IIHS released a list of recommendations of cars under $20,000, and also a list of cars under $10,000 that met the safety rating requirements and had the lowest trim level to keep prices affordable (see references¹). You can usually find these cars nationwide by doing a search on Google, in local online classifieds listings, or searching through Kelley Blue Book.

Acura, Honda, Toyota, and Mazda are great choices for a teen’s first car because they have consistently high reliability ratings, wonderful crash test ratings, longevity, and if you get a model 2005 or higher, usually have safety features to protect your child in the event of a crash. You can also find great deals on many models due to popularity, and these are sold nationwide at many dealerships. However, you can also find them sold through private parties as well if you check local listings in your newspaper or online.

According to a national phone survey conducted by IIHS, 83% of parents who bought a vehicle for their teenager said they bought it used. Of the 500 parents surveyed, 28% bought compact cars as their child’s first vehicle. A different IIHS study concludes that teenagers killed in crashes are more often driving small cars and older cars than adults who are involved in fatal in crashes. This is a trend that needs to be reversed.

Keeping your teen safe should be a top priority, and you can help ensure that by providing them with a sturdy, reliable vehicle. The reasons why compact cars and top-heavy SUVs should be avoided are because compact cars don’t offer as much protection as larger sedans, and big SUVs without ESC are prone to rollovers, especially on sharp turns and curves. Also, you should look for vehicles with side curtain air bags, and avoid convertibles since they offer little to no roof protection in the event of a rollover crash.

Buying your teen his or her first vehicle can be stressful, but by keeping in mind the precautions listed above, you should be able to narrow down your search fairly quickly. Keeping your teen safe also doesn’t have to come at an unaffordable price; there are many mid-sized cars on the market for under $20,000 that can provide adequate protection to your teen and give them reliable transportation. With these tips and studies in mind, the best place to start your search is local listings – you can also narrow down this search by filtering choices by price or specific locations.

Generally speaking, the more expensive a car is, the better it’s safety will be. However, if your budget is extremely tight, here are the eleven IIHS “safest cars” recommendations that fell below the $7000 price range.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan2005$6,900
Honda Odyssey2005$6,700
Suzuki Kizashi2010$6,600
Volvo S602007$6,500
Mitsubishi Outlander2007$6,300
Hyundai Entourage2007$6,300
Audi A42005$6,200
Suzuki Grand Vitara2006$5,600
Volkswagen Passat2006$5,100
Kia Sedona2006$4,600
Saab 9-32005$4,000

*Keep in mind, if you buy a car on the lower end of the price scale, it will also cost a lot less to purchase full coverage auto insurance as well.


1. Based on IIHS safe car recommendations –