5 On Your Side

Keep clunkers away from teen drivers, experts say

Posted July 16, 2014
Updated July 17, 2014

Teen drivers are obviously inexperienced and need all the help they can get.

But new research shows that, when it comes to finding a vehicle for them, parents consider budget over potentially life-saving safety features.

"It's so surprising how many teens are driving vehicles that aren't the safest,” said Ann McCartt, senior vice president of research with the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, a nonprofit funded by auto insurers.

So, what makes an ideal vehicle for a teenager? Experts say it’s one without a lot of horsepower, so young drivers aren’t tempted to test the limits.

Bigger, heavier vehicles protect better in a crash, and there’s one safety feature that’s a must: electronic stability control.

"It helps the driver maintain control of a vehicle when they're going around a curve or they're on a slippery road, and they begin to lose the control,” McCartt said. “Electronic stability control reduces the risk of a fatal single-vehicle crash by about half.

"We used to steer parents away from SUVs because they had a tendency to roll over. But with the advent of electronic stability control, that tendency has really been reduced," she said.

IIHS offers a long list of choices for teen drivers. At the top of the under $20,000 list is the Saab 9-5, model year 2010 or later; the Toyota Prius, model year 2012 or later; and the Honda CR-V, model year 2012 or later.

Some good choices for under $10,000 are the 2009 Mercury Sable, the 2009 Subaru Legacy and the Nissan Rogue, model year 2008 or later.


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  • 678devilish Jul 22, 2014

    Its what the parents can afford. I see nothing wrong with that. Then too, the kids should get a job and purchase their own car. This should never be the parents responsibility. I have 3 girls and they all bought and paid for their own car. They appreciate it more when its theirs.

  • raleighboy524 Jul 18, 2014

    View quoted thread

    It's Consumer Reports information, not something WRAL did -- despite the credit line it gave its "reporter." Consumer Reports operates independently, without ties to business or industry.

  • 3TeensGrowinUp2Fast Jul 17, 2014

    As a mom of three teenage drivers, we allow the kids to drive our explorer and a bmw awd sedan. They're not permitted to drive the toyota matrix as it's a death trap...and lacks the acceleration we feel is needed when entering a highway. Three teen drivers, no accidents and no tickets. We've also told them if they so much as get a parking ticket, they must surrender their licenses and pay for any insurance increase. They all pay for their own gas, and regularly wash the outside and clean the inside of the vehicles. Both the vehicles they drive are older than 2004...and have great safety features. You don't need to spend 10-20k on a car for a teen. Not even close.

  • Big Mike Jul 17, 2014

    Need a car that shuts down as soon as the kids cell phone goes on. Too many luxuries on drivers training cars...automatic, a/c, radio, electric everything....we took DT in plain cars..straight drive, bench seat, no A/C, no radio. You were going to learn the right way or not at all. We practiced slamming on brakes at 40 mph and letting the right side wheels go off the road so we would safely slow down and drive back on without over steer.

  • berniwheeler Jul 17, 2014

    I taught my kids to drive and they all drive responsibly. They constantly comment on how many other adults in the late 20s range have no clue what this or that means on the road. Sorry but Im handing down my truck to my grandkids. Its a v6 - 5speed stick and unless you have a lot of years on a clutch it takes forever to get up to speed. as far as traction control, I had a vehicle once that almost got me killed as I swerved to avoid an out of control oncoming car and traction control tried to pull me right back into his path!!!! I turned that thing OFF and will NEVER have another traction control vehicle again!!!!

  • Sean Creasy Jul 17, 2014
    user avatar

    The best way to teach kids responsability is to make their first car a "clunker" and then have them pay for and repairs that are needed. My best advice to parents is to TEACH YOUR KIDS TO DRIVE!!!! Quit expecting the school system (I.E. Drivers Ed.) to teach them adequately enough to make them good drivers. My other piece of advice is DON'T BUY THEM A "SPORTS" CAR!!! Parents who CAN afford to buy their kids BMWs, Porches, MR2s, Camaros, Mustangs, etc. shouldn't. Buy them a Toyota hatchback, or a Nissan Sentra, or Ford Fiesta, anything that has a 4 cyl. or 6 cyl. engine that isn't turbo charged and not considered "fast" and don't let them modify it. Lastly PUNISH THEM FOR SCREWING UP!!!! Take those keys away for a couple of months if they get a ticket... ANY kind of ticket!!

  • Steve MacComas Jul 17, 2014
    user avatar

    Nice fear piece you got going here WRAL. How much is Crossroads Ford and the other dealers kicking you back for this "if you don't buy your child a new car you are a bad parent" bs.

  • Danny Cole Jul 17, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Back in my day you had to work and earn the money to buy what you could. Nothing was handed down to you. Even those whose folks passed the car down, you still had to work to put gas, tires and sometimes make it run. If you wanted extras you earned the money to buy them Nothing was given to you.

  • Danny Cole Jul 17, 2014
    user avatar

    Give them nothing. I had to get a job and buy my first car. Now days, kids believe they should be handed everything. They think they are "Entitled" to it. It's this attitude that is allowing our Government to take away our rights. These kids are thinking the Government is right when they hear you don't have to work for anything you're entitled to it.

  • Pineview Style Jul 17, 2014

    Back in my day you were handed the keys to whatever was handed down from your folks. If you did something crazy with it, then it was back to taking the shoe sole express....