Given this common 20th Century scenario and add cigarettes, the Cold War and a few actual hot wars, it’s a wonder granddad lived to sire a family. Well, we’re way better off these days—perhaps far too better off in some ways—and you can put a reasonably-priced, safe, reliable, slow used car under your kid’s butt, if it’s time for such an undertaking.
With this two-piece belt system, the shoulder belt was always latched – the car would not start if unlatched – yet the occupant still had to latch the lap belt. In violent head-on crashes where only the shoulder belt was secured, serious injury due to submarining under the dash could occur and in some ugly cases, it caused decapitation. Bad regulation, meet the laws of physics.
Rather than motorized shoulder belts, some cars had belts that were affixed to the door, so that when you closed the door, you were already belted. This made ingress a comic form of performance art, the poor sod trying to enter his car getting tangled in an ill-conceived web of belts that Detroit weaved. This door-belt variety is a different kind of dreadful, especially when doors flew open in high-impact crashes. Don’t buy one of these motorized belt or door-belt cars. Ever. For anyone.
Also by 1995, most cars in the U.S. had reliable, minimal-maintenance and widely serviceable fuel injection systems. They improved drivability, economy, compensated for thinner air at altitude which carburetors, God bless their little float bowls, did not. They almost always ran cleaner, too.
Most importantly, though, stability control systems were not required by the government until 2012, but many vehicles had the feature far before then. Stability control is a proven lifesaver. Every young driver should learn how to control a skidding car on slippery surfaces, however.
But that’s a lesson or a day for a controlled environment. And there are worthwhile youth driving programs like Bob Bondurant’s Teen Driving Program and Skip Barber’s Teen Safety and Survival School. But it’s not always practical to enroll and attend right when a youngster starts driving, so stability control is the paramount factor in your young ones’ car.
In fact, in October, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety even compiled a list of recent used cars recommended for teen drivers solely judged on safety and crash test results. Some are more affordable than others based on current data from Kelly Blue Book (kbb.com), but there are many excellent choices under $10,000 across body styles and brands.
The IIHS does not factor repair costs or desirability, so there are several which I concur with, given those factors. Clearly, they are not all enthusiasts’ cars that would cause you and I to salivate upon first sight, but they are solid choices that won’t break the bank for your young drivers.
These include the 2007-up Volvo S80 and 2008-up Volvo C30; the 2011-up Chrysler 200; the 2010-up Chevy Malibu with a build date after November, 2009 (these scored better on passenger safety then prior models); the 2008-up Audi A3; 2010-up Subaru Legacys and Foresters; 2011-up Hyundai Sonatas; the 2007-11 Honda Element; and the 2006-up Subaru Tribeca SUV, despite its homeliness.
The common thread through all of these disparate cars? Stability control.
Your kids are worth it.