While your teenagers are driving and enjoying their newfound freedom, you're losing sleep worrying about them staying safe behind the wheel. Although you can't completely eliminate these concerns, buying your teen one of the safest used cars on the market can help put your mind at ease. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) rated the safest used vehicles for teens across various segments, and you'll be relieved to know that you don't need to spend a fortune on a brand new vehicle to keep your teen safe.
What makes this list of used vehicles safer for your teen driver than the average used car? IIHS evaluated criteria including reasonable horsepower numbers that won't get a young driver in trouble, larger vehicles that offer more protection in case of an accident (compact cars are excluded), electronic stability control, and top safety ratings from the IIHS and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). We selected the most budget-friendly vehicles from this list, all of which fall under $15,000. See which one is the right car for your teen.
1. Volkswagen Passat: 2013 and Newer
Teens will enjoy driving the 2013 Volkswagen Passat thanks to its refined handling and spacious interior. For the teen that's all about being original, this sedan also offers a unique style compared to sedans like the Honda Accord or the Toyota Camry. Parents will be more concerned about the Passat's safety and will be happy to learn this model earned the Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS. It scored a "good" grade for all crashworthiness criteria besides "small overlap front: driver-side" for which it earned an "acceptable" rating. It also got top scores from the NHTSA, earning a 5/5 star rating.
The 2013 Volkswagen Passat in the 2.5-liter SE trim has a 5-cylinder engine for a reasonable 170 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. It's enough power to safely accelerate on the highway, but not too much where teens can get carried away. Available safety features include brake assist, daytime running lights, electronic stability control, and traction control.
Average Used 2013 Volkswagen Passat Price: $6,600
2. Ford Fusion: 2013 and Newer
Purchasing a used Ford Fusion for your teen will let you breathe easier, not just because it's an affordable option for a new driver, but also because it is one of the safest used cars your kid can drive. In addition to a 5-star NHTSA rating, it earned the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award with "good" ratings in every crashworthiness category besides "small overlap front: driver-side" for which it earns an "acceptable" grade. While you're thrilled about these ratings, your high schooler will be thrilled with the Fusion's sporty handling.
The standard 2.5-liter engine for the 2013 Ford Fusion offers 175 horsepower while the 2.0-liter Ecoboost engine has higher horsepower at 231 and offers AWD for all-weather driving. For additional confidence, look for available safety features like adaptive cruise control, active park assist, front parking sensors, rear cross traffic alert, lane keeping assist, a blind spot information system, and MyKey, which allows owners to limit the Fusion’s top speed.
Average Used 2013 Ford Fusion Price: $8,100
3. Subaru Legacy: 2013 or Newer
In addition to top ratings from the IIHS (Top Safety Pick+) and NHTSA (5/5 stars), the Subaru Legacy has an advantage over the other cars on this list because each trim comes with standard AWD. Teen drivers will be able to build confidence in their driving skills thanks to the Legacy's good handling, comfortable ride, and responsive steering.
The Legacy’s base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine gives this sedan 173 horsepower. This number may look modest, but it keeps your teen's temptation for speed at bay. The available 3.6-liter V6 engine offers a more substantial 256 horsepower, but it's still not too powerful to get your teen in trouble. In 2013, Subaru introduced the EyeSight Driver Assistance system which adds a pre-collision braking system with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, and sway warning. Look for vehicles with this tech for extra safety measures.
Average Used 2013 Subaru Legacy Price: $8,300
1. Volvo S80: 2007 or Newer
Volvo has a reputation for safety and the used S80 is no exception. This sedan is proof that an older vehicle can still be dependable for your teen driver. You'll feel confident with your teen behind the wheel of the S80 thanks to its IIHS Top Safety Pick award where it aces every category with a "good" rating. The Volvo S80 also gets above-average reliability ratings which is another reason to feel comfortable with your teen driving an older car. Optional safety features to look for include blind-spot monitoring and an adaptive cruise control system that includes a collision warning to alert the driver if he is too close to the vehicle in front of him.
The 2007 Volvo S80's standard 3.2-liter V6 engine produces 235 horsepower, while a 4.4-liter V8 is good for 281 horsepower. The base engine offers adequate power for your teen's trip to and from school or afterschool activities. Can we claim the S80 is a very exciting car to drive? No, but this can be a good thing when it comes to your teen behind the wheel. In exchange for the thrills, they'll enjoy the comfortable ride, competent handling, and spacious interior.
Average Used 2007 Volvo S80 Price: $3,900
2. Ford Taurus: 2013 or Newer
Earning a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS, and 5/5 stars from the NHTSA, the 2013 Ford Taurus makes the idea of your teenager behind the wheel an easier pill to swallow. Available driver assistance features include a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, collision warning with automatic braking, active park assist, and blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert.
The standard engine for the 2013 Taurus is a 3.5-liter V6 good for 288 horsepower. The engine is powerful enough to help your teen feel confident passing or merging onto the highway, but it's not excessive where they'll be inclined to test the limits. The interior features high-quality materials and comfortable front seats, plus more cargo space than most competitors in the segment. That means more room for all the sports or music equipment your teen is lugging around.
Average Used 2013 Ford Taurus Price: $10,000
3. Chevrolet Impala: 2015 and Newer
The 2015 Chevrolet Impala gets "good" scores in nearly all IIHS rankings only missing the Top Safety Pick due to an "acceptable" rating for 'Child Seat Anchor Latch' category. It also scores a 5/5 from the NHTSA which reinforces that it a safe choice for your newly licensed driver. The Impala offers antilock brakes, electronic stability control, and available safety features like forward collision warning and rear cross-traffic alert.
The 2015 Impala's base engine is a 2.5-liter 196-horsepower 4-cylinder for sufficient power that isn't overwhelming. If you find a model with the optional 3.6-liter V6, the horsepower will increase to 305. Will your kid be concerned about how safe the Impala is? Probably not. They'll be too busy checking out the teen-friendly features like the infotainment system, Bluetooth, a USB port, satellite radio, six speakers, and a Wi-Fi hot spot.
Average Used 2015 Chevy Impala Price: $13,200
1. Mazda CX-5: 2014 and Newer
If you're hoping your teen will help chauffeur their younger siblings around, the Mazda CX-5 will be a safe option that fits your whole family. It scored a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS and a 5/5 star rating from the NHTSA. The Mazda CX-5 is excellent to drive thanks to nimble handling and responsive steering. For advanced safety features, look for a trim level up from the base model and check if the vehicle has tech like blind-spot detection, pre-collision braking, and a rearview camera.
The base engine in the 2014 Mazda CX-5 is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 155 horsepower. Touring and Grand Touring models come with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 184 horsepower. Even the base engine provides excellent power for everyday driving, but the higher trims offer a noticeable bump in power that isn't too much for young drivers to handle.
Average Used 2014 Mazda CX-5 Price: $10,700
2. Nissan Rogue: 2014 and Newer
Another spacious and safe crossover choice for your teen is a used Nissan Rogue. The Rogue was fully redesigned for 2014 and boasts "good" scores in all IIHS categories, earning it a 2014 Top Safety Pick+ award and a 4/5 star rating from the NHTSA. The 2014 Rogue offers active driver-assist features that many of its competitors lack. Look for safety tech like blind-spot detection, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning. If you live in a climate that requires your teen to drive in inclement weather, look for a model with AWD for more peace of mind.
A fuel-efficient, 170-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder is the only engine choice for the 2014 Nissan Rogue. The engine gives your teen enough power to get up to highway speeds safely, but not too much where they'll be tempted to take the Rogue for a joy ride. The strong mpg numbers of 26/33 mpg city/highway are an added benefit to help your kid save for college instead of blowing all their money on gas.
Average Used 2014 Nissan Rogue Price: $11,500
3. Subaru Forester: 2014 and Newer
Earning a Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS and a 5-star rating from the NHTSA, the 2014 Subaru Forester will make you more comfortable with your teen hitting the road without you in the passenger seat. Each model offers standard AWD so you won't have to search for this feature while you car shop. In order to get safety features like adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and lane departure warning, you will want to look for the Touring trim.
The base engine of the 2014 Forester is a 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine which is paired with a six-speed manual transmission (it's never too soon to learn to drive stick) or a continuously variable transmission. A 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder is optional for 250 horsepower, but the power from the base engine will be adequate for the teen driver. The Forester offers a stable ride and responsive steering to help your teen become a confident driver in record time.
Average Used 2014 Subaru Forester Price: $12,000