teen driver 1There are very few sentences that strike fear into the hearts of parents while bringing total joy to teenagers than “I got my driver’s license!” Another is “can I get a car?” Well, the first sentence is pretty much inevitable, and the pain of the second can be lessened by a little research done by the good people at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

“It’s easier than ever to find a used vehicle with must-have safety features and decent crash test performance without spending a fortune,” says Anne McCartt, the Institute’s senior vice president for research.

When it comes to crash test ratings, vehicles on the “best choices” list have good ratings in the Institute’s longstanding moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. Vehicles on the “good choices” list have good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front test, good or acceptable ratings in the side test and a better-than-poor rating for head restraints.

If rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, vehicles on either list must earn 4 or 5 stars overall or 4 or 5 stars in the front and side tests under the old rating scheme.

The recommendations on teen vehicle choice are guided by four main principles:

– Young drivers should stay away from high horsepower. Vehicles with more powerful engines can tempt them to test the limits.

– Bigger, heavier vehicles protect better in a crash. There are no minicars or small cars on the recommended list. Small SUVs are included because their weight is similar to that of a midsize car.

– Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is a must. This feature, which helps a driver maintain control of the vehicle on curves and slippery roads, reduces risk on a level comparable to safety belts.

– Vehicles should have the best safety ratings possible. At a minimum, that means good ratings in the IIHS moderate overlap front test, acceptable ratings in the IIHS side crash test and four or five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).


Remember to ask your insurance professional about adding any new driver living in your household, whether they have their own vehicle or not. Also, even if you are paying cash for a new or use car, that vehicle needs to carry at least the state minimum liability coverage.


To check the IIHS recommendations, visit www.iihs.org.