How to Select the Safest Cars: A Buyer's Guide

(Finding an option that works best for you)

Two cars sit alongside a road following a traffic collision.

On average, 40,000 motorists die on U.S. highways and county roads each year. When the safety of your family and passengers is at stake, finding the safest new or used cars on the market is a must. Whether you are looking to buy the next family vehicle, a teen's first car or a reliable set of wheels for a senior parent, this guide will identify the safest rides.

Safest Cars for Teenagers

Most new teen drivers would prefer to drive flashy two-door sports cars, and most of their parents cringe at the thought. With traffic collisions being the No. 1 cause of teen deaths in the nation, the safety of your child's car is paramount. Each year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety develops its list of Top Safety Picks – a coveted designation for automakers and a good indicator for crash-worthiness and overall safety for car buyers.

The good news for parents of teen drivers is that this list includes several models that are not only safe when they first roll off the dealer's parking lot, but also retain their safety features years after.

You can acquire any one of these cars used and still enjoy the peace of mind they offer. The Kelley Blue Book not only rates cars for safety, but this trusted source for car buyers will also indicate if the seller is asking a fair price for their used vehicle.

Safe cars for teens range from the predictably sedate, including the Ford Taurus, Honda Accord and Ford Fusion, to the entertainingly quirky like the Scion xB and Subaru Impreza, and even some that are downright fun to drive such as the Audi A3 and Honda Fit Sport if your teen is intent on looking cool while staying safe. All of these models made the IIHS Top Safety picks as safest cars of years 2012, 2013 and 2014.

But wait! There is more good news. Each of these models get quoted for lower insurance rates more consistently than other makes and models, which is always an added bonus for the expensive teen driver on your auto insurance plan. Independent agents can help you get several quotes for coverage after just one call, email, or visit.

Safest Cars for Seniors

Seniors aged 80 and older are involved in 5.5 times as many fatal crashes per mile driven as middle-aged drivers, so special care is important when choosing the safest cars for them.

The October 2013 issue of Consumer Reports lists what the magazine believes are the best cars for seniors. It may be hard to convince Mom or Pop to give up that old Lincoln or Caddy, but neither manufacturer made Consumer Report's list last year. The following did, however:

  • Acura: RDX (2013)
  • Ford: Taurus (2008-2009)
  • Honda: Accord V6 (2006-2007), Accord (2008-2012)
  • Hyundai: Azera (2006-2011), Genesis (2009-2012)
  • Infiniti: M (2006-2010)
  • Lexus: RX (2006-2009)
  • Mercury: Sable (2008-2009)
  • Nissan: Altima (2010-2012), Impreza (2012), Legacy (2010-2013), Outback (2010-2013), Forester (2009-2012)
  • Toyota: Avalon (2005-2012), Camry (2007-2012), Highlander (2004-2012), RAV4 (2006-2012)
  • Volkswagen: Tiguan (2009-2012)

The great thing about this list is it gives possibilities that range from used cars to new. If the senior in your life is on a fixed income, purchasing used cars may make more financial sense than purchasing a brand new 2014 model. Most of these models offer certified used vehicles that ensure fully operational safety features.

Safest Cars for the Family

The IIHS has no shortage of full-sized family vehicles that it rates to be safe. The following models not only made the IIHS list, but USA Today and several other publications mention them as being the safest family cars:

  • Buick LaCrosse
  • Buick Regal
  • Chrysler 300
  • Dodge Charger
  • Ford Taurus
  • Hyundai Azera
  • Kia Cadenza (2014 models)
  • Toyota Avalon

If you need more space than a four-door sedan can offer, however, the following SUVs received high marks for safety as well:

  • Small SUVs: Ford Escape, Buick Encore and the Jeep Patriot made this list, among many others.
  • Midsize SUVs: Chevrolet Equinox, Dodge Durango, Dodge Journey, Ford Edge, Ford Explorer and the Ford Flex are among the safest models.
  • Large SUVs: Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and the Volkswagen Touareg earned high safety marks among these beasts of the road.

A safe car may not prevent the little ones from bickering in the back seat (or the third back seat), but at least it will ensure they'll have time to settle the dispute during the next family outing. Just make sure you're covered with an affordable car insurance policy.

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