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Lynn Julian
They’re every parent’s nightmare, and every driver’s reality: teen drivers. Ideally, it’s best for parents to make a teen share the family car, giving parents the control over when, where and how the car is used. Since this is not always practical, some teenager drivers must have their own cars.

Here is a list of ideal used cars for teenage drivers. Although they aren't particularly fast or sexy, they score high on safety tests. This list was compiled using crash tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. There are purposefully no SUVs or pickup trucks listed, as neither are appropriate cars for teens. Each has a high center of gravity, which could result in a rollover, despite technology on board.

2007 Ford 500 or 2005-2007 Mercury Montego

The 2007 Ford 500 sells for less than $10K and weighs 3,660 pounds. It features standard anti-lock brakes, side airbags and curtain airbags. which keep passengers inside during a rollover, and comes with an AWD version, which helps in bad weather.

Another selling point for the teen driver is the car’s acceleration is slower than other models. Its standard V6 3-liter engine is less powerful than similar cars on the market. After 2009, some models also come with MyKey technology.

2007-2012 Ford Fusion

The Ford Fusion fares well in crash tests, handles with equal skill, retains its resale value. and features MyKey technology. The MyKey system offers parents some control by allowing them to limit the top speed to 80 mph, and set other limits on the radio, like so the radio won't come on until the front seat riders have latched their seatbelts. Try to get one without Sync. as the Sync system is complicated to use, and can be more of a distraction than a help.

2010-2012 Mazda3

Parents sometimes want their teens to drive massive cars, falsely assuming the mass and size of the car will keep their teen driver safe. In reality, cars that are easiest to drive will keep teens from getting into accidents in the first place.

The Mazda3 handles very well, and scores high on IIHS crash tests. It is the perfect size for safety too: small enough to keep the number of passengers low, and roomy enough for bag storage. (NOTE: Avoid the 2005 to 2008 Mazda3, as it scored poorly on side impact tests!)

2005-2012 Subaru Outback

The Subaru Outback is teen safety sized too: large enough in the back to hold sports equipment, and small enough in the back seat to repel most of your teen’s friends. It performs well in snow and ice with its all-wheel drive, and will retain its value. NOTE: Make sure you find models that are equipped with side airbags.

2008-2009 Honda Accord

The Accord comes with stability control, which helps cars from losing traction, and comes with many standard airbags. Consumer Reports put the Accord on its “best cars for teens” list, and its “best car for seniors” list. They say the controls in the Accord are easy enough for seniors to see and operate, which will definitely bode well for a new teen driver as well.

2009-2012 Volkswagen Jetta

The base model of this newer Jetta sedan was underpowered, which, for teen drivers, is perfect for merging onto the highway, while not giving teen drivers any ideas of drag racing. The controls are simple and easy to use, including the entertainment system, and the car has electronic stability control, along with very few blind spots.

2009-2010 Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix

The Matrix and the Vibe share most of their interior and mechanical components, but the Vibe may have better resale value because it's named Toyota, and not defunct Pontiac. Both these cars are good picks for teens because they fit a lot of the criteria: Easy handling, slightly underpowered, and scoring well on standard crash tests. The hatchbacks have plenty of storage space but tiny back seats – keeping teens from driving in groups. The Pontiac may even feature OnStar, a safety option which will alert emergency services if the airbags deploy.

2011-2012 Hyundai Sonata

Earlier versions of the Sonata made many popular top-10 lists for teen cars. But until 2011, this car’s crash test data was mixed. The Sonata only earned an "acceptable" score, not a "good" score, from IIHS, even though it featured standard side airbags.

By the end of 2011, the car will come with BlueLink, a telematics system to help parents monitor teen drivers. For example, the GeoFence can alert parents when the car has been driven outside of a predetermined area. BlueLink will also allow you to set speed limits and curfews on the car.

2009-2012 Volvo S80

Although the Volvo S80 is a solid choice for teens, it’s costs over $20,000, even used. If you can afford this car, it's got all the safety technology you could want: side airbag, curtain airbags ( in case of a rollover), blind spot warning, and even a warning if the car is about to rear end the car in front of it. Some of these Volvo cars even came with the optional “personal car communicator package,” which senses heartbeats, and can tell if someone else is lurking inside the car.

2006-2012 Toyota Camry

Like the other sedans on this list, your teen probably won't fall in love with the boring Camry’s underpowered 4-cylinder engine. The Camry didn't score well on side impact tests, so be sure side airbags are included on your used model. NOTE: The Camry fell prey to the sudden acceleration recalls of 2010, so check that any used one you buy has been back to the dealer to be fixed.

Lynn Julian resides in Boston as Senior Editor for Gearhead Diva at Cookie Cutter Girl, 21st
Century Pop Superhero, her alter ego, performed her Power Pop music on 30+ CDs. Lynn's
creative passion as a Jewelry Designer found her pieces displayed Internationally via
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