The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says teens involved in fatal accidents were more likely to be in older, unsafe vehicles. A survey found 83 percent of parents who bought vehicles for their children chose a used car. For the first time, the group has a list of the safest used cars.
AAA says over the last 10 years, teen driving fatalities are up 26 percent during the summer, compared to the rest of the year. So when it comes to buying a car for them, the IIHS says the rule of thumb should be to choose big, slow and ugly.
Research shows parents are choosing used cars and SUVs for their sons and daughters by sticking to a budget rather than picking potentially life-saving safety features.
"It's so surprising how many teens are driving vehicles that aren't the safest," said Anne McCartt of the IIHS.
The used vehicles providing the most protection for teenagers in crashes are bigger and have safety features which include electronic stability control.
"It helps the driver maintain control of a vehicle when they're going around a curve or they're on a slippery road and they begin to lose the control, and electronic stability control reduces the risk of a fatal, single-vehicle crash by about half," McCartt said.
The used vehicles on the IIHS list meet important safety criteria helping them perform well in crash tests.
Among the "best choices" under $20,000: Saab 9-5 2010 or later, Toyota Prius 2012 or later and Honda CR-V 2012 or later.
In addition to electronic stability control, "best choices" cars have good ratings for side-crash protection, good head restraints and seats for rear-crash protection and good roof strength to protect occupants in rollover crashes.
IIHS-rated "good choices" under $10,000 include the 2009 Mercury Sable, 2009 Subaru Legacy and Nissan Rogue 2008 and later.
"Good choices" cars have good or acceptable side-crash protection and head restraints rated better than poor, plus electronic stability control.
The $7,900 2005 Acura TL is also on the list under "good choices."
The IIHS says to stay away from vehicles with high horsepower as well as small and mini cars.
More information on teen drivers: