When looking for a safe used car for a teenager, stay away from high horsepower models as these can tempt teens to drive unsafely. Instead of buying an overly powerful car such as a V6 or V8, it's best to limit your selection to vehicles with four-cylinder engines.
Find a car that's not too small. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or IIHS does not recommend minicars or small cars for teenagers as these typically do not offer enough protection in car crash situations. Small SUVs are fine because they generally have the same weight as midsize cars. The bigger and heavier the car, the better its safety features, according to the IIHS.
Be sure to choose a car with an Electronic Stability Control or ESC feature. ESC helps the driver to avoid skidding in adverse road conditions and improves the car's traction.
Look for used cars with the best safety ratings. Organizations such as the IIHS and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA offer vehicle safety ratings, which can be found online. Minimum safety ratings to look for include good IIHS moderate overlap front test ratings, acceptable IIHS side crash test ratings and a four- or five-star safety rating from the NHTSA.
The IIHS provides recommendations for the best used vehicle choices for teens on its website. These include the Volvo S80 from 2007 onwards, the Volkswagen CC from 2009 onwards, and the Honda CR-V from 2012 onwards.