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Choosing A Safe Car For Your Teen Driver
Published: Tuesday, October 26, 2010

By: Staff

If you are shopping for a car for your teenager, choosing a safe vehicle is probably paramount in your mind. As you probably know, crash statistics show that teens are not only involved in more crashes than any other age group. Teens causemore crashes than more mature drivers.


If you are planning to buy a vehicle for your son or daughter, it's well worth the time required to do some serious research on the safety of the vehicle you are considering. Here's how you can go about this important task.


In the USA there are two primary crash testing and rating organizations. First is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), part of the Federal Department of Transportation. Second, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is a non-profit funded by insurance companies.


Each does extensive crash testing and rates vehicles based on the likelihood of injury for drivers and passengers involved in different kinds of crashes.


You can research vehicles by make, model and year by visiting, a NHTSA web site. There you can easily compare one vehicle against another and even watch crash test videos.


Visit to research The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety vehicle ratings. Click the "Vehicle Ratings" tab. You can easily compare, say, all "Midsize moderately priced cars."


Size and Type of Vehicle Do Matter

According to the Institute, the gross vehicle weight is an important factor to consider as well. Smaller, lighter cars simply don't stand up to crashes as well as heavier vehicles. It's recommended that you shop for a passenger car weighing between 3,500 and 4,500 pounds.


While light-weight cars save gasoline, those under approximately 3,500 pounds are not going to provide the level of safety you want your teen to have. Further, pickup trucks and SUV's -- usually built with a center of gravity high off the ground -- tend to roll over more easily. Most experts recommend a passenger car in the preferred weight range, that is not a high performance model. "Big and Slow" might not be what you teen wants. But safety is more important than image every time!

Still, be aware that e
very year our cars are becoming safer and safer. Some advise that getting an older "tank car" is a wise choice. However the Insurance Information Institute advises looking for a late model car. Many of these now provide head and side airbags as standard equipment, while others are being equipped with Electronic Stability Control (ESC) to ensure safer driving. Here's what the Insurance Information Institute suggests when shopping for a new car... [new window opens to]

P.S. - Be sure to download a free copy of 911 for Parents; it too has advice on choosing a safe car for your teen driver.


If you decide to buy a used car, you won't go wrong by spending about $10 to get a copy of Consumer Reports "Used Car Buying Guide."  It contains "Best and Worst Used Cars" complete with reviews, reliability ratings and expert buying advice, and is available at many bookstores and auto parts stores. You can similar information online here. [Opens a new window]


Recently one of our staff helped her daughter buy a used car. He sat with the Consumer Reports book in one hand and the other hand on the IIHS and III web sites to study safety ratings. Read the articles below and you'll be able to make a sound decision that balances cost and safety.


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