Consumer Reports Rates the Best Cars for Teen and Senior Drivers

As summer draws to a close, parents across the country have begun the search for the best, safest cars for their newly-licensed and college-bound teens. To assist in the process, Consumer Reports has compiled its list of top picks for teens and senior drivers.

The report appears in Consumer Reports’ September issue and today CR’s Senior Director of Automobile Testing, David Champion, appeared on the CBS Early Show to offer a glimpse of what we can expect.

Champion said parents often mistakenly assume that larger cars will provide more safety for their teen drivers. More important than the size of the vehicle, he said, is its ability to avoid being involved in an accident in the first place. He said the vehicle’s active safety aspects like handling, braking ability and features like electronic stability control are more important than its ability to withstand the impact of a collision.

Consumer Reports recommends parents consider safety features like antilock brakes and head-protecting side curtain air bags as well as crash-test performance when selecting a vehicle for their young drivers. The publication says parents avoid large SUVs and pickup trucks as these vehicles have higher centers of gravity that make them more prone to roll over and don’t handle as well as sedans. Parents should also avoid high-performance models and sports cars because of their higher rate of accidents. From a dollars and cents perspective, all these vehicles tend to be less fuel efficient and have higher insurance rates than other models.

Another common mistake parents make is simply handing down the family car as a way to save money. In most cases choosing a newer car with the latest safety features pays off in the long run. If your teen is going away from home to school this fall, you need to consider the reliability of the old family car. Auto repairs and towing charges can quickly blow your budget.

Champion said the 2011 Mazda3 and 2011 Honda Accord are good choices for younger drivers because of their safety features, reliability and handling characteristics.  He said the Accord is also a good choice for senior drivers as are the Subaru Forester and Hyundai Azera. The full list of recommended cars can be seen on the Consumer Reports Web site.

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