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Safe used cars for teens can be had for under $20,000

July 30, 2020

The safest cars don't need to be expensive and teen drivers don't need to be driving old beaters, according to a new analysis. 

The IIHS teamed up with Consumer Reports to develop a list of the 65 safest cars that are valued between $5,300 and $19,600. This is the first time the two organizations have worked together in developing their recurring safest cars for teens recommendations.

While the list prioritizes safety for the most inexperienced and at-risk drivers, it can apply to any car shopper who values safety on a budget. 

Vehicles on the list have to meet six criteria. The safest cars come equipped with electronic stability control, which was mandated on all new cars as of 2012 to help drivers regain control and mitigate spinouts or plowing. The safest vehicles earn above average reliability rankings from Consumer Reports' member survey; score average or better on their emergency handling tests; and have dry braking distances of less than 145 feet from 60 mph. Additionally, the safest used cars have to earn "Good" ratings on four of the six crash tests conducted by the IIHS, and earn at least a four-star crash-test rating from the NHTSA. 

The list excludes sports cars or other vehicles with a lot of horsepower lest they tempt inexperienced teen drivers to push the car beyond the driver's ability. Lighter weight vehicles under 2,750 pounds are excluded, as are the heaviest vehicles such as full-size SUVs that can be harder to control and require greater braking distance. 

The 65 cars on the list are divided into Good Choices and Best Choices, with the latter factoring in at least an "Acceptable" rating on the small overlap front test conducted by the IIHS, and it excludes vehicles with "substantially higher than average insurance claim rates."

“Injury claims provide another window onto safety in the real world and may capture things that crash tests don’t,” IIHS President David Harkey said in a statement.

Curiously, not one Ford made the Best cut, and not one Dodge, Jeep, or Chrysler made the cut at all.

Prices are based on Kelley Blue Book values rounded to the nearest $100 as of July 1, 2020 and are based on the lowest trim level of a vehicle in good condition, with typical mileage (about 15,000/year, on average), and through an individual seller, not a used dealer lot. 

This list is further broken down by vehicle segment, and the model year includes any model year that comes after it, unless otherwise noted. 

Best Choices

Small cars

2014 Mazda 3 i Grand Touring - Driven

2014 Mazda 3 i Grand Touring - Driven

2014 Mazda 3 (built after October 2013), $7,000

2014 Subaru Impreza, $8,700

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT, $14,000

2019 Kia Forte, $14,600

2018 Kia Niro, $15,400

2019 Toyota Corolla hatchback, $15,800

2019 Honda Insight, $17,900

2018 Subaru Crosstrek, $18,700

2017 Toyota Prius Prime, $18,700


Mid-size and large cars

2018 Volvo S60

2018 Volvo S60

2013 Subaru Legacy (built after August 2012), $7,600

2013 Subaru Outback (built after August 2012), $8,500

2013 Honda Accord, $9,200

2016-2018 Volkswagen Jetta, $9,800

2015 Mazda 6, $10,500

2016-2018 Volkswagen Passat,  $11,000

2015-2017 Toyota Prius v, $12,600

2016 Lincoln MKZ, $13,300

2017-2018 Volvo S60, $15,300

2019 Nissan Altima, $17,000

2016 Hyundai Genesis, $18,000

2017, 2020 Audi A3, $18,300

2017 BMW 3-series sedan (built after November 2016), $18,600


Small crossover SUVs

2017 Nissan Rogue, 2016 Miami auto show

2017 Nissan Rogue, 2016 Miami auto show

2014 Mazda CX-5 (built after October 2013), $8,200

2016 Buick Encore, $10,700

2016 Chevrolet Equinox, $12,100

2015-2016, 2019 Honda CR-V, $12,200

2017 Mazda CX-3, $12,300

2016 Subaru Forester, $12,500

2017 Nissan Rogue, $13,400

2015 Toyota RAV4 (built after November 2014),  $13,800

2017-2018 Honda HR-V (built after March 2017), $14,000

2018 Hyundai Kona, $14,500

2016 Audi Q3, $17,300


Mid-size crossover SUVs

2016 GMC Terrain

2016 GMC Terrain

2016 GMC Terrain (2014 also recommended), $9,400

2016 Kia Sorento, $13,400

2015 Nissan Murano, $13,800

2017-2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, $15,800

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe (built after March 2016), $17,800

2017 Mazda CX-9 (built after November 2016), $18,400

2017-2018 Lincoln MKX, $19,600



2015 Toyota Sienna, $11,900

2015-2016 Honda Odyssey, $12,400

2016-2017 Kia Sedona, $12,600


Good Choices

2016 Honda Civic Sedan and 2015 Civic Coupe - Image via CivicX

2016 Honda Civic Sedan and 2015 Civic Coupe - Image via CivicX

Small cars

2011-2013 Mazda 3, $5,300

2012-2015 Honda Civic sedan, $5,600

2012 Toyota Corolla sedan, $6,800

2011 Toyota Prius, $6,800


Mid-size cars

2011 Subaru Outback

2011 Subaru Outback

2011-2012 Subaru Legacy, $5,700

2011-2012 Lincoln MKZ, $6,000

2011-2012 Subaru Outback, $6,600

2012 Toyota Camry, $7,500

2012-2014 Toyota Prius v, $7,800

2012 Honda Accord sedan, $7,900

2015-16 Hyundai Sonata, $10,100


Large cars

2011-2015 Ford Taurus, $5,400

2012-2014 Hyundai Azera, $7,200

2015-2016 Buick Regal, $8,900


Small crossover SUVs

2011-2015 Hyundai Tucson, $5,400

2015, 2018-2019 Ford Escape, $9,300

2015, 2018 Kia Sportage, $10,200

2013-2014 Toyota RAV4, $10,900


Mid-size crossover SUVs

2015 Toyota Venza

2015 Toyota Venza

2009-2015 Toyota Venza, $7,000

2008-2009 Toyota Highlander, $7,800

2014-2015 Ford Edge, $10,000



2011-2014 Toyota Sienna, $7,100

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