Protecting our children is a concern for every parent. For many of us, how to keep our kids safe once they get a driver’s license is a real dilemma; we want the safest vehicle that we can afford but often our budgets are limited.  Thanks to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, finding a safe vehicle at a reasonable price is a little easier.

Using crash test data, the IIHS has released their latest list of recommended vehicles for teen drivers. There are about 150 vehicles on this year’s list with the majority of them costing under $10,000.  All of the “Best Choice” vehicles have good ratings in the Institute’s moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, and if they were rated by the National Highway Safety Administration they had 4 or 5 stars. For the first time this year’s list also included pickups.

The Best Choices were broken down by size, model year and price. The following are the top three in each category (except pickups which only had two):

Large cars:

  • Volvo S80, 2007 and newer (price $5,800)
  • Ford Taurus, 2010 and newer (price $10,900
  • Buick LaCrosse, 2010 and newer (price $11,300)

Midsize cars:

  • VW Jetta Sedan and Wagon, 2009 and newer (price $5,600)
  • Volvo C30, 2008 and newer (price $7,000)
  • VW Passat Sedan, 2009 and newer (price $7,300)

Small SUVs

  • Honda Element, 2007-11 (price $6,700)
  • VW Tiguan, 2009 and newer (price $7,900)
  • Subaru Forester, 2009 and newer (price $9,000)

Midsize SUVs

  • Volvo XC90, 2005 and newer (price $4,600
  • Subaru Tribeca/B9 Tribeca, 2006 and newer (price $6,000)
  • Dodge Journey, 2010 and newer (price $8,700)

Large SUVs

  • Chevrolet Traverse, 2011 and newer (price $13,500)
  • GMC Arcadia, 2011 and newer (price $15, 400)
  • Buick Enclave, 2011 and newer (price $16,100)


  • Dodge Grand Caravan, 2012 and newer (price $11,600)
  • VW Routan, 2012 and newer (price $11,800)
  • Toyota Siena, 2011 and newer (price $13,200)


  • Toyota Tundra Crew Cab (double cab), 2007 and newer (price $12,200)
  • Ford F-150 Crew Cab (super crew), 2011 and newer (price $16,800)

The list has a secondary tier of “Good Choices” priced under $10,000 that have less than perfect crash test ratings.

*See the entire list of recommended used vehicles for teen drivers here.

The IIHS also urges parents who don’t find a suitable vehicle from the list to seek a midsize or larger car, SUV or minivan with the most safety features they can afford. They also recommend:

  • Young drivers should stay away from vehicles with high horsepower
  • Bigger, heavier vehicles protect better in a crash (no minicars are small cars made their list)
  • ESC traction control is a must

Keep in mind, adding a teen driver will increase your auto insurance rates, in some instances more than doubling them. Here are some tips to help manage those insurance costs for teen drivers:

  • Purchase cars that have modern safety features
  • Take advantage of good student discounts
  • Enroll in a defensive driving course
  • Try to cut their driving miles by carpooling or using mass transit
  • Stick to lower horsepower vehicles
  • Find an insurer who treats teens as responsible drivers

California Casualty also understands what it is like to have a new driver. Like parents, we have a commitment to the safety of teen drivers. We’ve partnered with law enforcement agencies, safety groups, educators and concerned parents to create and fund Impact Teen Drivers, an intensive campaign to inform young drivers about the dangers of distracted or reckless driving. The nonprofit provides training and powerful tools to help engage teen drivers and change their attitudes behind the wheel.

Every young driver should have the best insurance possible. California Casualty offers some of the best teen driver rates in the industry, along with good student discounts. Make sure your student driver is fully protected by calling a California Casualty advisor today and talking through your options at 1.800.800.9410 or by visiting

Sources for this article:

California Casualty

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