The Safest Used Cars for Families: Top Picks for $20,000 or Less
Safety is a prime consideration for most car shoppers, and it’s not surprising when you consider the statistics. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there were 34,439 fatal motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2016 alone. Scary stuff. A vehicle’s safety performance can make the difference between life and death in many accident scenarios.
If you think you need to pony up big bucks for a new car in order to get all of the latest safety features, think again. We’ve identified five great used family vehicles that deliver safety in spades — and for as little as $10,000.
What Makes a Car “Safe”
To determine whether a vehicle makes the grade when it comes to safety, there are two areas to evaluate: its crashworthiness and its range of available driver-assist features.
Crashworthiness is a measure of how well a vehicle withstands a collision. The National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) conducts crash tests of passenger vehicles, and it rates them on a five-star scale. The vehicles with the top scores are best equipped to keep you and your loved ones protected in an accident.
While crashworthiness looks at how a vehicle performs in an accident, driver-assist features are designed to prevent accidents from happening in the first place. These include amenities such as blind-spot monitors that can help you make safer lane changes, and rear cross-traffic alert systems that will issue a warning if there’s an obstacle in your path when you’re reversing your vehicle.
There are many used vehicles with a four-star NHTSA rating for overall crashworthiness, but the pool shrinks significantly if you’re looking for a model with an impeccable five-star score. And then there’s the issue of driver-assist technology. Many of these features are relatively recent innovations, and they weren’t widely offered back when some older cars first rolled off the assembly line.
To help simplify your search for a used family vehicle, we’ve listed five models that excel when it comes to safety. All of our picks have received a perfect five-star NHTSA score for overall crashworthiness. And all our models are available with certain key driver-assist amenities that can help you avoid accidents when you’re behind the wheel. At the very least, each of our picks can be equipped with a rearview camera and a blind-spot warning system.
At Klipnik, we realize that many people who shop for used cars do so to save money, and the older the used car, the more affordable the price tag. With this in mind, all of the picks we’ve listed are at least five years old, which is when most cars have depreciated at least 50% from new. Our selections include family sedans, midsize crossovers and a popular minivan, and they’re presented in alphabetical order.
2013 Buick Enclave (or newer)
The Buick brand is known for offering premium quality at pricing that’s more accessible than that of traditional luxury brands, and the upscale Enclave lives up to this expectation. This midsize crossover, which received a significant model refresh for 2013, delivers more cargo capacity than many rivals, providing up to 115.2 cubic feet of room for your belongings. Standard features such as tri-zone automatic climate control and Bluetooth phone and music streaming make it a good fit for modern families.
With the Enclave, models that are 2013 and newer are available with an expanded list of driver-assist amenities.
- Standard driver-assist features: Rear parking sensors, rearview camera
- Optional driver-assist features: Blind-spot warning system, rear cross-traffic alert system, adaptive headlights
- Approximate cost: $13,000 – $16,000
2013 Ford Explorer (or newer)
Introduced in 1991, the Ford Explorer played has played a big role in bringing crossover SUVs to mainstream awareness. With attractive sheet metal, up to 80 cubic feet of cargo space and seating for up to seven passengers, the Explorer is an appealing alternative for shoppers who want a roomy hauler that’s more stylish than the typical minivan.
Explorers that are 2013 and newer have a perfect five-star crash-test NHTSA rating, as well as a wealth of available driver-assist features.
- Optional driver-assist features: Adaptive cruise control, rear parking sensors, rearview camera, lane-departure warning system, lane-keeping assist, self-parking system, rear cross-traffic alert system, blind-spot warning system, forward collision mitigation
- Approximate cost: $16,000 – $20,000
2013 Honda Accord (or newer)
For many, the Honda Accord is the definitive midsize sedan, offering the comfort and spaciousness prized by shoppers in this segment. Its trunk provides 15.8 cubic feet of cargo space, which means there’s adequate room on board to handle Little League gear and luggage for Thanksgiving road trips. Bluetooth connectivity is standard, and the Accord’s range of available content includes satellite radio.
The Accord was redesigned in 2013, and the upgraded model added a host of optional driver-assist technology.
- Standard driver-assist features: Rearview camera
- Optional driver-assist features: Forward collision warning system, lane-departure warning system, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot display that uses a camera to provide the driver with a clear view of adjacent passenger-side traffic via an 8-inch screen located in the dash
- Approximate cost: $12,000 to $15,000
2011 Honda Odyssey (or newer)
If you’re looking for the roomiest family transportation, minivans can’t be beat. The Honda Odyssey seats up to eight passengers, and it offers up to 148 cubic feet of cargo space. It comes with a wealth of available family-friendly features, including a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a beverage cooler that will keep your drinks chilled on long journeys.
The Odyssey added some useful driver-assist technology with its 2011 redesign, so choose a model from this year or newer to reap the best safety benefits.
- Optional driver-assist features: Blind-spot warning system, front and rear parking sensors, rearview camera
- Approximate cost: $11,000 – $14,000
2012 Toyota Camry (or newer)
Midsize sedans have been popular with parents for a long time, and the Toyota Camry is one of the best of the bunch. Its cabin is spacious and comfortable, and its trunk provides a respectable 15.4 cubic feet of cargo space. With features like standard Bluetooth connectivity and available satellite radio, the Camry is built to keep your family commutes comfortable and entertaining.
The Camry was redesigned in 2012, and the new model brought in useful driver-assist technology.
- Optional driver-assist features: Blind-spot monitor, rearview camera, rear cross-traffic alert system (added in 2013)
- Approximate cost: $10,000 – $13,000
Safe and Sound
A used family vehicle with strong safety credentials can provide you with peace of mind and superb protection when you’re behind the wheel. The vehicles listed above are well equipped to keep you and your loved ones out of harm’s way during daily travels.
One final recommendation: prior to finalizing your purchase, obtain a vehicle history report (from a source such as Carfax or Autocheck) for the specific vehicle you’re considering to ensure that it has not previously been in an accident. Prior damage, especially if not properly repaired, can compromise the integrity of a car’s chassis, reducing its ability to protect you in a crash.
As always, when you are shopping for a used car, don’t forget to involve the Klipnik community in your search. Many of our members are used car buying experts who would be happy to help you identify the best cars available in your area.
Happy — and safe — shopping!
Photos courtesy Buick, Ford, Honda, Toyota, and NHTSA