Safe car for teen

I’d like to buy my teen a very old (aka, cheap) car. But I also want it to have side air bags, anti-lock brakes and stability control. How can I figure out which older models (ideally, oldest model) has these?

I think you have conflicting criteria. To get these safety features in an old car you are looking at circa '98 Volvo’s, and Mercedes Benz. Old cars that are not cheap and are going to be very expensive to repair and keep on the road. In 2003 side air bags were an option in the Honda Civic, and only a few had them.

You may have to settle for a larger car, size adds to protection, with front airbags and antilock brakes. These are readily available, ie mid '90’s Ford Taurus. If you can do without stability control and side air bags you have a lot of old cars to select from.

What is the earliest year model you will accept? The features you want typically are not found on old low end cars.

You can “google” a potential car and many times there is a Wikipedia profile on it.

Best safety features are driver training and parent input. Yours is a common question use the “search” feature to look at prior responses.

You won’t find a very old car with these features, except maybe ABS, which has been around for a while. Side air bags and stability control have only been available for a few years. Some brand new cars don’t have stability control as standard equipment.

The more expensive luxury brands had these features first, but they don’t really make good used cars, and they’re never cheap.

When you started to drive, did your vehicle have any of this stuff? My first few cars didn’t have seat belts or padded dashboards. Yet somehow we survived.

The most important safety feature in any vehicle is the driver. If you teach your teen to drive safely, and NOT use the phone while driving, he or she will be safe in just about any vehicle, new or used.

The most important safety feature in any vehicle is the driver. If you teach your teen to drive safely, and NOT use the phone while driving, he or she will be safe in just about any vehicle, new or used.

I totally agree.

Where are my stars I said the exact same thing?

There’s a 5 star penalty for being too succinct.

I agree with earlier statement…If you’re really looking for the “cheapest” safest cars, I would opt. for the newest you can get for the money with some size and reliability.
Fore my money, nothing beats a used off lease Ford Taurus. Fords have always been solid safety performers in a reliable, inexpensive when used product.

Verbal brevity, I had to look it up. Was not as bad as I thought.

I would just look for something that is underpowered with good brakes.

IDK, maybe a Hyundai?

It’s a virtue in this world,and a complement.
BTW, you’ve been reinstated.

“underpowered” depends upon degree. Ideally, a safer car has appropriate merging power, and if a manual trans, power enough not to stall in less than ideal clutch operation. If you want you kid to drive under 55 mph, that’s a problem.
A safe Taurus will have a decent v6 for example…which you may not prefer, but IMO helps make it safe if used correctly.
You can still brake any speed limit in a Hyundai.

Define Cheap. I Recently Shopped For A Safe Car For One Of My Kids.

One and a half years ago this resulted in a 2001 Chevrolet Impala LS, ABS, Front Air Bags, Driver’s side air bags, 5-star front crash rating, NO stability control. Safety features resulted in lower insurance cost (unless you’re going with no collision insurance). My son loves this car and the 30+ mpg actual hwy mileage with the 3.8L engine. Mpg drops down a little in city driving, but it’s not bad at all. I am envious of the fold-down rear seat that gives a lot of practical cargo room from the tail lights to the back of the front seats, a very handy feature for a teen going away to college. My opinion is that it’s practical, comfortable, sporty looking with alloy wheels and spoiler, and very competent in any sort of weather conditions.

You still need to define “cheap”. Go too cheap and you will possibly have a car with worn-out or rusted parts that will be neither safe nor cheap. You could wind up throwing money at it to get it on the road and keep it there.


I’d take a look at a Ford Taurus or it’s sibling, a Mercury Sable. As UncleTurbo pointed out and someone else echoed, solid, big, and safe for the task at hand.

2000-2003 years might be a good place to start, and strike a balance between cost, safety, and quality (for what you want).

We went through this two years ago and got an 01 Subaru Forester for the teenagers (girls). It is AWD so there is no need to choose 2WD or 4WD. Easy to see out of. Easy to turn. Sits lower than other SUV’s. Little 2.5L 4 cyl engine. Side airbags. It is a little cool in that it has a huge sunroof… 2 1/2 years and 2 teenage drivers and no problems so far…