Finding a safe car for your teenager to drive

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    With fatal auto accidents a serious danger for teenagers, you want to make sure your teen is driving a safe car. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which rates cars after crash tests, has some advice. And the IIHS has a list of safe used cars going back to 2005 models.

    "A teenager's first car is more than just a financial decision," says IIHS president Adrian Lund. "These lists of recommended used cars can help factor in safety, in addition to affordability." The IIHS list includes averages prices for the models it recommends.

    The Institute's most important piece of advice: Avoid small cars. Among fatally injured drivers age 15 to 17 between 2008 and 2012, 29 percent were in small vehicles, IIHS says. And make sure any car you consider has modern safety equipment. That usually means 2006 models or later, except in the case of brands like Volvo that pioneered new safety equipment.

    For those reasons, the Institute recommended no small cars and mostly cars of the 2006 model and later, through 2012. All their recommendations received high crash test ratings when they were new.

    The safety specialists at IIHS recommend avoiding cars with powerful, high-horsepower engines since they are too tempting for teens to see how fast they can go. And a crucial safety feature is electronic stability control (ECS), also known as traction control. This technology senses when a car starts to slide and stabilizes that slide, preventing a potential rollover accident.

    You do want to hunt for a bargain in a used car if possible. Just putting a teenager on your auto insurance policy will increase your premiums by an average of 79 percent, according to InsuranceQuotes.com.

    The IIHS list includes dozens of "best" and "good" vehicles - here we highlight six reasonably-priced choices from the list.

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    Jerry Edgerton, author of Car Shopping Made Easy, has been covering the car beat since Detroit companies dominated the U.S. market. The former car columnist for Money magazine and Washington correspondent for Business Week, Edgerton specializes in finding the best deals on wheels and offering advice on making your car last.

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