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7 of the safest used cars for teen drivers

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Parents buying cars for teenage drivers tend to focus on safety given that the fatal accident rate for teenagers is three times that for all other drivers. Now the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has come out with a recommended list of safest used cars for teens.

More and more safety features have been required on car models over the last 10 years. As a result, "It's easier than ever to find a used vehicle with must-have safety features and decent crash test performance without spending a fortune," said Ann McCartt, the institute's senior vice president for research.

A crucial example of a necessary safety feature is electronic stability control, which helps drivers maintain control on curves and slippery roads. It has been mandatory since 2012 and on some models going back to 2006. All IIHS recommendations include stability control.

The IIHS recommended list of used cars are all under $20,000 for base models, with many choices under $10,000 and a few near $5,000. The average price paid for cars to be driven by teenagers is $9,800, according to an IIHS survey, and the median price just $5,300. "We would urge parents to consider paying a little more for safety if they can," said McCartt.

The institute's list of "best choices" all had top scores in its front, side and rollover crash tests. A second list of less-expensive "good choices" have slightly lower, though still strong, ratings.

In choosing a teen car, IIHS noted, bigger, heavier vehicles -- including SUVs and pickups are safer in crashes than smaller cars. And the institute counsels parents to avoid high-horsepower models as too tempting to young drivers.

Here's a closer look at seven of the IIHS recommendations -- one good-value choice for each the categories the organization includes. While pictures and prices (Kelley Blue Book private party sales, for base models) are for the earliest recommended model year, the recommendation includes later model years as well.

Click ahead to check out the list.

Midsize car: 2012 Honda Accord $10,900


The 2012 Accord was among the top-rated midsize sedans among reviewers surveyed by U.S. News. Reviewers noted that this Accord had an unusually spacious interior for the class with seats roomy enough for tall people -- handy if your teen is friends with basketball players. Test drivers also praised the Accord for its agile handling.

The base LX version is powered by a four-cylinder engine EPA-rated at 22 MPG in city driving and 34 on the highway.

Large car: 2007 Volvo S80 $5,800


Since Volvo has been almost always first with the latest safety equipment, you might feel comfortable going with an eight-year old model. When the car was new, reviewers emphasized that safety reputation. They also cited a comfortable, spacious interior.

The base model is powered by a six-cylinder engine rated for 16 MPG in city driving and 25 on the highway.

Small SUV: 2009 Subaru Forester $9,000


Because small SUVs are increasingly popular now, the Forester might be an easier sell to your teenager than some alternatives. The maximum cargo space of 68.3 cubic feet gives plenty of room for sports gear. When it was new, reviewers noted the Forester's safety and practicality. Like all Subarus, this one has all-wheel drive.

The base model Forester is powered by a 170 horsepower engine rated for 20 MPG in city driving and 27 on the highway. Avoid the more powerful turbocharged engine, which is more costly and delivers too-tempting acceleration.

Midsize SUV: 2011 Kia Sorento $12,300

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Reviewers praised the Sorento as one of the best values in its class after its 2011 redesign. They especially noted its comfortable ride and strong fuel economy. The base four-cylinder engine is rated for 21 MPG in city driving and 29 on the highway. Teens are likely to appreciate some of the features that come standard even in the base model, such as USB ports and Bluetooth connectivity.

And Kia still has one of the best warranties, covering powertrain repairs up to 100,000 miles or 10 years from when the vehicle was purchased new.

Large SUV: 2011 Chevrolet Traverse $13,500


Heavy enough to stand up well in a crash with smaller vehicles, the Traverse is also extremely roomy with three rows of seats. Reviewers noted that the 2011 model had more cargo space than most of its competitors, meaning it works well for soccer teammates and gear.

The base Traverse comes with a six-cylinder engine rated 17 MPG in city driving, 24 on the highway.

Minivan: 2011 Honda Odyssey $13,600


To be sure, minivans aren't a teen favorite. But if you need it as a family vehicle that your teen can also drive at times, this could be a good choice. The Odyssey was ranked No. 1 among 2011 minivans by the reviewers surveyed by U.S. News. Reviewers in 2011 cited a redesigned suspension that gives the Odyssey a smoother ride than most competitors.

The base Odyssey has a six-cylinder engine rated for 18 MPG in city driving and 27 on the highway.

Pickups: 2007 Toyota Tundra Double Cab $12,200


The IIHS included pickup recommendations because its survey found that 14 percent of teenagers are driving pickups. And this Tundra was a redesigned entry for Toyota competing with American stalwarts from Ford, Chevrolet and Ram. Reviewers in 2007 praised the large size and roomy interior in the crew cab.

The V-6 engine in the base model is rated for 15 MPG in city driving and 19 on the highway. Avoid the V-8 model, which will be too costly and have too much tempting power. And when it comes to price, the Tundra is about $4,600 cheaper than the only other recommended pickup, the 2011 Ford F-150.

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