After just a few months behind the wheel and a successful round of driving school, many new drivers feel a combination of excitement and nervousness while operating a vehicle. Some teens get the old family sedan as their first vehicle, and even though the car might not be the coolest on the block, most kids appreciate their "wheels."

However, when it comes to the safest cars for new drivers, some vehicles definitely stand out over others. If you have a choice in what vehicle you'll give your teen or new driver, you'll want to try and avoid subcompacts because of their small size and performance in crash tests, as well as high-profile SUVs that a new driver might have difficulty controlling.

Resources You'll Want to Consider

One of the first resources you'll want to tap in your search for the best car for your new driver is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The auto industry touts their IIHS safety awards each year because they're so important for showing which vehicles offer a safe experience on the road.

According to the IIHS, the best vehicles for teens abide by four guidelines which include:

  • Heavy vehicles that perform well in crashes
  • High safety ratings from the IIHS
  • Electronic stability control (ESC) for slippery roads
  • Low horsepower that won't encourage speeding

Another resource you'll want to get familiar with is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which publicizes important vehicle recalls, as well as essential new and used car safety ratings. There's a good chance your new driver's vehicle will be a used one, and the NHTSA's ratings will show you crash test data from 1990 to the present.

Essential Safety Features

Forbes recently examined the characteristics of safe vehicles and found that the safest cars usually had a long list of features tied to the vehicle's expected performance in a crash. In addition to overall positive crash-test ratings, the best vehicles also featured:

  • Appropriate roof strength for rollovers
  • Head restraints and seats for rear crashes
  • Good ratings for side crash protection

Best Vehicles for New Drivers

While this list is by no means exhaustive, it will give you an idea of the size and type of vehicles that are best for new drivers. These vehicles perform well on crash tests, aren't too small, and are also vehicles that a new driver wouldn't feel overwhelmed at controlling.

Additionally, each of these cars is available used for prices that start under $20,000, which helps families on a budget. This list also features a few vehicles in each size from standard sedans to minivans. The safest versions of these vehicles are usually from model years 2009 and newer.

  • Saab 9-5 sedan
  • Ford Taurus
  • Toyota Prius v
  • Honda Accord sedan
  • Honda CR-V
  • Toyota Highlander
  • Buick Enclave
  • Chrysler Town & Country

If your finances won't allow you to shop for a brand new car for your new driver, try to make sure the vehicle you select adheres to the safety guidelines suggested by the IIHS. In addition, make sure your driver is confident and knowledgeable behind the wheel. Getting a driver's license is a life-changing event in any driver's life, and a safe car helps keep the experience exciting instead of dangerous.