Best cars for teen drivers

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When it comes to the best cars for teen drivers, safety is a key concern. But some new info from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has me reversing some of my longstanding advice.

I used to say you wanted teen drivers in an underpowered car with a lot of metal around them. That traditionally meant an older 4-cylinder sedan.

What are the safest — and the deadliest — cars on the road?

The IIHS took a look at driver deaths per 1,000,000 vehicles on the road among 2011 models. What they found is eye-opening. Nine cars did not have a single death for that model year. They include:

  • Audi A4 4WD   
  • Honda Odyssey   
  • Kia Sorento 2WD      
  • Lexus RX 350 4WD   
  • Mercedes-Benz GL-Class 4WD   
  • Subaru Legacy 4WD   
  • Toyota Highlander hybrid 4WD   
  • Toyota Sequoia 4WD   
  • Volvo XC90 4WD

On the other hand, here are the 2011 vehicles models with the most deaths per 1 million registered vehicles:

  • Kia Rio      (149 deaths) 
  • Nissan Versa sedan (130 deaths)  
  • Hyundai Accent 4 door   (120 deaths)
  • Chevrolet Aveo    (99 deaths)
  • Hyundai Accent 2 door (86 deaths)

My theory is that the profile of the driver of that second group has a fair amount to do with fatality rates. Some of those cars attract younger male drivers who may be inclined to drive kind of recklessly.

I said earlier that I’ve adjusted my advice about what kind of car to put a young driver in. The data from IIHS notes that cars built in 2008 — just 3 model years before the 2011s — had a fatality rate that is almost 50% greater than the 2011 models. That’s because the 2008s often didn’t have this #1 safety feature all cars need, among others. Three model years can make that big of a difference!

So now I’m advising to parents to put kids in newer model year vehicles instead of old beaters — even though that means you’ll have to pay extra for comprehensive and collision through your insurer.



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