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IIHS Releases Recommendations on Used Vehicles for Young Drivers. Volkswagen Group Products Make the List.

Parents take note. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has released a list of vehicles recommended as first cars for young drivers largely based on the criteria of safety and relative affordability in the used car market. 

Before we post the entire press release from the IIHS, we first wanted to call out the Volkswagens or Audis that they chose as worthy candidates for your son or daughter’s first car.

By the way, the Jetta made the list. “Duh!” said every sorority sister everywhere.

Mid-Size Cars

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Audi A4 (2009 and later, est. price $14,300)

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Audi A3 (2008 and later, est. price $11,300)

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Volkswagen CC (2009 and later, est. price $11,200)

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Volkswagen Passat (2009 and later, est. price $10,000)

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Volkswagen Jetta (2009 and later, est. price $8,200)


Small SUVs

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Volkswagen Tiguan (2009 and later, est. price $10,200)

Minivans

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Volkswagen Routan (2012, est. price $14,000)

Recommended Used Vehicles Starting under $10,000

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Volkswagen Routan (2009-2011, est. price $8,600)

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Audi A6 sedan (2005 and later, est. price $8,300)

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Audi A3 (2006-2007, est. price $7,400)

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Audi A4 (B7, 2005-2008, est. price $6,200)

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Volkswagen Passat (2006-2008, est. price $5,100)

Check out the IIHS’s full Press Release below, and see the entire list of recommended vehicles here.

ARLINGTON, Va. — Many teenagers are driving vehicles that don’t offer good crash protection and lack important safety technology, new research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows. To help guide parents toward safer choices, IIHS has compiled its first-ever list of recommended used vehicles for teens.

IIHS is known for its ratings of new vehicles, but for many families, a 2014 TOP SAFETY PICK orTOP SAFETY PICK+ isn’t in the budget. In a national phone survey conducted for IIHS of parents of teen drivers, 83 percent of those who bought a vehicle for their teenagers said they bought it used.

With that reality in mind, the Institute has compiled a list of affordable used vehicles that meet important safety criteria for teen drivers (see below). There are two tiers of recommended vehicles with options at various price points, ranging from less than $5,000 to nearly $20,000, so parents can buy the most safety for their money, whatever their budget.

“A teenager’s first car is more than just a financial decision,” says IIHS President Adrian Lund. “These lists of recommended used vehicles can help consumers factor in safety, in addition to affordability.”

Among the 500 parents surveyed, 43 percent said the vehicle their child drives was purchased around the time he or she began driving. Minicars or small cars were the most commonly purchased type of vehicle, with 28 percent buying from this category. A little more than half of newly purchased vehicles were from the 2006 model year or earlier. That’s a problem because older vehicles are much less likely to have safety features such as electronic stability control (ESC) and side airbags.

Teenagers who drove a vehicle that the family already owned were even more likely to drive an older vehicle: Two-thirds of those parents said the vehicle was from 2006 or earlier.

A separate IIHS study shows that teenagers killed in crashes are more likely than adults to have been behind the wheel of small vehicles and older vehicles. Among fatally injured drivers ages 15-17 in 2008-12, 29 percent were in minicars or small cars, while 20 percent of fatally injured drivers ages 35-50 were. Eighty-two percent of the young teen drivers were in vehicles that were at least 6 years old, compared with 77 percent of those in the adult group.

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

In the survey of parents, the mean purchase price for a teen’s vehicle was about $9,800, while the median was just $5,300. There are many options on the recommended list for under $10,000, but just three that cost less than $5,300.

“Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to get a safe vehicle for a teenager at the prices most people are paying,” says 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 recommended used vehicles have standard ESC and provide good protection in moderate overlap front crashes. Those considered “best choices” for under $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 under $10,000 have good or acceptable side crash protection and head restraints rated better than poor. Prices on the best choices list start at $7,300, while the cheapest good choice is $4,000.

Vehicles rated by NHTSA were included in the recommended lists only if they earned four or five stars in the front and side tests under the agency’s original testing regime or an overall rating of four or five stars under the newer, more stringent rating system that began with 2011 models. One vehicle, the Hyundai Santa Fe, was excluded from the list of best choices because its 2012 model had an overall rating of just three stars.

High-horsepower vehicles also were left off the list, but many of the recommended models have high-horsepower versions that should be avoided. The base engines of all the listed vehicles have adequate power for teens.

Parents who don’t find a suitable vehicle from either list should seek out a midsize or larger car, an SUV, or a minivan with the most safety they can afford. Besides ESC, specific things to look for in a used vehicle are side airbags and low horsepower. In some cases, it may be possible to find an ESC-equipped vehicle for a model on which the technology was optional. Those models aren’t included in the recommended lists because equipped vehicles can be difficult to locate. Keep in mind that SUVs and pickups are particularly risky when not equipped with ESC because they are the most prone to rollover crashes. Information about the availability of ESC and side airbags can be found here.

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