What Are the Safest Cars for Your Teenager?

What Are the Safest Cars for Your Teenager?

Texas has a lot of teenage drivers. There were nearly 709,000 licensed drivers aged 19 and under in Texas in 2019.

Due to inexperience, young drivers have a high risk of getting into car accidents. In Texas, young drivers get into about 70,500 traffic accidents every year. This means your teen has a one in ten chance of getting into a crash every year.

The outcome of a car accident often depends on the vehicle. Newer vehicles have more standard safety features that older vehicles may lack. And heavier vehicles tend to protect the vehicle’s occupants better than smaller vehicles.

Here are some of the factors you should consider when shopping for the safest cars for your teenager.

Safety Features for Your Teenager’s Car

Safety Features for Your Teenager’s Car

Auto manufacturers have worked hard to improve driver safety. The federal government has also pushed auto manufacturers to include safety features in new cars.

When you shop for a car for your teenager, it can help to understand how these safety features help and learn when they became mandatory in new vehicles. Some of the safety features you will see include:

Seat Belts

Seat belts save lives. In 2020, a teen wearing a seat belt had a one in 946 chance of dying in a car crash. The same year, an unbelted teen had a one in 13 chance of dying in a car crash, odds that were 72 times higher than belted teens.

Three-point shoulder belts were first invented in the late 1950s by Volvo. The U.S. government required all new cars to include these seat belts starting with the 1968 model year.

If you are shopping for a vintage vehicle for your teen’s first car, be aware that you may only find lap belts in cars made before 1968.


Airbags reduce the likelihood of death in a front impact by 29%. The greatest benefit of airbags comes when the driver also wears a seat belt. 

The U.S. government required new cars to include airbags beginning with the 1998 model year. If you want a vehicle with an airbag, look for cars made after 1998. 

Also, check the vehicle’s accident history. If the original airbag was deployed, make sure the airbag was replaced after the accident.

Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS)

ABS automatically pumps your brakes to prevent them from locking. This reduces your braking distance substantially, reducing the chances of a collision. These brakes also help you keep control of your vehicle if it skids on slick surfaces.

ABS became mandatory on all new cars in 2013. But by then, the technology was over a decade old and many older cars included ABS as an option.

Electronic Stability Control (ESC)

ESC controls each wheel independently if it detects oversteer or understeer. This keeps the car from sliding when you turn a sharp corner or a gradual curve.

The U.S. government mandated ESC at the same time as ABS. This means that any car with a model year after 2013 will have ABS and ESC.

Hands-Free Calling

A distraction includes any activity that takes your mind, eyes, or hands away from driving. Distracted driving causes about 20% of accidents in Texas. In 2020, these accidents killed 367 people and injured 2,205 more.

Texas prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from using a handheld cell phone. To ensure your teen follows the law and refrains from distracted driving, look for a car with integrated hands-free calling. 

If you buy a car without hand-free calling, you can retrofit the stereo system to make hands-free calls.

Other Optional Safety Features

Manufacturers develop new safety features all the time.

Some safety features that are not mandated by the U.S. government but can help keep your teen safe include:

  • Traction control
  • Forward collision sensors
  • Blindspot sensors

New cars usually have more safety features than used cars. But new cars might cost more than you want to spend on your teen’s car.

Collision Rating for Your Teen’s Car

Another factor to consider while shopping for your teen’s car is the collision rating. One of the best sources for crash ratings is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). IIHS conducts crash tests with each year’s new cars to assign ratings. These ratings tell you how well the car will protect your teen in a crash.

Recall Notices for Your Teen’s Car

As you shop for used cars, check for recall notices. Some recalled cars have significant safety issues that require repair. You can check the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s website for recall notices.

Bringing All of These Considerations Together

Because of the safety mandates for ABS and ESC, you will likely want to find a car with a model year of 2013 or newer.

Sports cars generally provide less protection for teen drivers than sedans, SUVs, and minivans. Sports cars also have powerful engines that an inexperienced driver might have trouble controlling.

SUVs weigh more and provide better protection to occupants in crashes. They also sit higher, giving drivers a better view of traffic. The height can also protect SUVs from underrun collisions in a truck accident. However, the height makes SUVs more prone to rollover accidents than lower vehicles.

Sedans provide a good balance of protection. They are generally safe in all kinds of collisions. Full- and mid-size sedans are safer than compacts and sub-compacts since the additional weight can protect your teen if they are involved in a collision with a heavy vehicle.

According to IIHS, some vehicle models to consider include:

  • Mazda 3
  • Toyota Corolla
  • Kia Niro
  • Honda Accord
  • Volvo S60
  • Volkswagen Passat
  • Ford Taurus
  • Subaru Outback
  • Toyota RAV4
  • Hyundai Santa Fe
  • Audi Q5
  • Toyota Sienna
  • Honda Odyssey

IIHS recommends these vehicles based on their crash ratings, safety features, and cost.

Staying Safe in a Crash

Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of deaths in Americans between 16 and 19. Over 52% of deaths in this age group result from car accidents.

But this does not need to happen. Driving a safe vehicle, wearing a seatbelt, slowing down, and avoiding distractions can minimize both the risk of an accident and the worst consequences if an accident does occur.

If your teen has been injured in a crash, you and your child could face substantial medical and financial challenges. To discuss the compensation you could be able to seek for your teen’s injuries, contact a reputable car accident lawyer – most offer free consultations.