Jennifer Stockburger, a mother of two children, worries about the safety of her 16-year-old son who just started driving with a learner’s permit.
“Yikes,” she said. “When you’ve got a young driver, it’s worrisome enough because you’ve got this struggle. They have a higher propensity to be in a crash. So your gut tells you to put them in the biggest vehicle you can find. But we want them to avoid the crash altogether, so you need to get them in a safe vehicle they’re comfortable handling and braking.”
Stockburger played a key role in developing the first list of its kind with teenage drivers in mind of the safest, most reliable and affordable vehicles as a collaboration between Consumer Reports and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, or IIHS.
“We had the IIHS list, based on crashworthiness and our list based on performance and reliability,” she said. “Vehicles for crashworthiness may not have performance or reliability. This is the Goldilocks combination for cars that perform well, have better than average reliability, safety features critical for young drivers, crashworthiness and they’re all under $20,000.”
That means, for example, easier emergency handling performance and better braking distances. This merges information from Consumer Reports surveys of owners of hundreds of thousands of vehicles who report crashes involving their cars and additional safety data from IIHS.
The insurance safety nonprofit organization monitors data involving insurance claims while Consumer Reports tracks owner satisfaction and reliability, in addition to doing independent safety studies.
Stockburger, who lives in East Hampton, Connecticut, is a mechanical engineer and director of operations for the Consumer Reports Auto Test Center.
“We’re positioning these cars as great for young drivers because they won’t break the bank,” she told the Free Press. “But these cars are good for anybody. It’s a well-rounded used car that clicks all the boxes.”
Safety is not just an issue of surviving a crash or avoiding injury but hopefully avoiding a crash altogether.
“That’s the struggle,” Stockburger said. “The temptation is to put your child in a Chevrolet Suburban because of its mass. Physics says if they’re in a crash they’ll benefit. But this combination of factors on our list, this is also about helping teens avoid the crash.”
Equinox scores big
Both Ford Motor Co. and General Motors made the list while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles did not.
“The best new vehicles make the best used vehicles,” said GM spokesman Jim Cain. “The engineering and testing that GM engineers put into the structures, airbags and electronic safety systems pays dividends for the life of the vehicle, not just the first or second owner. It’s important to give young drivers every advantage.”
Ali Reda, a top car salesman nationally who works at Les Stanford Chevrolet Cadillac in Dearborn, said…