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U.S. News is known for ranking everything from colleges to cars, and the site recently released a roundup of the top used vehicles for teens in 2021. Given teens’ penchant for speeding and distracted driving, the site based its findings largely on car safety features and other factors. In the end, one model topped the list of used midsize SUVs: the 2017 Toyota Highlander.

Read on to learn why this Highlander model year might make a great choice for the teen in your life. 

How does U.S. News determine the best cars for teens?

A dark-red metallic 2017 Toyota Highlander SE parked outside a restaurant
2017 Toyota Highlander SE | Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc

U.S. News says that when choosing the best used vehicles for the 13-to-19 set, it evaluated models based on five characteristics: overall quality, high safety ratings, strong reliability, low long-term ownership costs, and accident avoidance technology. The site considered only 2016, 2017, and 2018 models.

In addition to the above factors, U.S. News also considered comfort, cargo space, and fuel efficiency. After all, teens often don’t have a ton of money for gas, while having space to haul things to and from college or high school activities can be essential. 

U.S. News reminds readers that because the vehicles under consideration are a few years old, they don’t necessarily have all the advanced safety features that often come standard on new models. For example, teen controls and lane-keep assist are less commonly found in models built before 2019. 

The 2017 Toyota Highlander has a lot to offer

In the category of “Best Used Midsize SUV for Teens,” the 2017 Toyota Highlander gets high praise for its safety features. 

Driver assists available on this Highlander include automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, and blind-spot monitoring. What’s more, optional rear cross-traffic alerts and a 360-degree parking camera can help your new driver navigate backing up in tricky places such as parking lots. 

The 2017 Toyota Highlander also earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick+ distinction and a five-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. So you can rest assured your teen will be about as safe as you could hope for. 

You should avoid these things when choosing a car for a new driver


2021 Toyota Highlander vs. Honda Pilot: Their Differences Are Starker Than Ever

U.S. News also offers helpful tips on types of vehicles to avoid when shopping for a teen driver. Sports cars and vehicles with a great deal of horsepower, unsurprisingly, make the list. When a teen is still learning to drive responsibly and manage impulses, indulging their need for speed is never a good idea.

For similar reasons, trucks and large SUVs are also not generally great choices for teens who are still learning to feel comfortable behind the wheel. These vehicles’ large size can make them more difficult to maneuver, and they also create more danger for others on the road. 

Also making U.S. News’ list of characteristics to avoid in a vehicle for your teen is a high seating capacity. The more passengers and friends your teen piles into their vehicle, the greater chance for distraction. And we all know that distracted driving can be deadly. So, to reduce the risk to your teen and others, limit their ability to pack their friends into the car. 

Finally, if particularly large vehicles don’t make great choices for teens, neither do especially small ones. Given their tendency to crumple in an accident, small cars don’t offer the collision protection that standard-sized vehicles provide. 

Overall, there are many points to consider when buying a car for a teen, but with awareness of the advanced safety features offered on various vehicles, you’ll be sure to find one — such as the 2017 Toyota Highlander — that meets your and your teenager’s needs.