When it comes to teen drivers, there's a common misconception among parents that putting their new drivers behind the wheel of a big, ugly car is the safest thing they can do -- other than forbidding the kids to drive altogether. The opposite is true: For inexperienced drivers, good handling and automatic stability control are keys to safety. For drivers on the other end of the age spectrum, the road to a safe ride includes easy access to controls, a superior braking system and big windows for good visibility.
According to the Consumer Reports magazine, these are the best cars for teens and seniors.
Hyundai Elantra SE is the top pick for teens and seniors. This car comes with an electronic stability control which is good for teens and seniors.
The Mazda3 looks sporty, but its safety features -- including electronic stability control on models from 2007 and up, as well as front-seat and side-curtain airbags -- make it a relatively safe bet for teens.
Toyota Boxy Scion xB
The boxy Scion xB received 5 (out of 5) stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for both driver's protection and rear passengers' protection in side crashes, which will help keep your teenagers protected from other teenagers on the road. Electronic stability control is available in models from 2008 and up.
New models of the TSX include antilock brakes -- with brake assist for "panic stops," traction control, front-seat-side airbags, and full-length side-curtain airbags. Electronic stability control is available in all models from 2004 and up.
The 2011 model of the popular sedan just received an overall 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Electronic stability control is available in models from 2008 and up.
The tragic outcomes of the teens in 1950s-era car-crash songs could have been avoided if the Optima had been around back then. The sedan receives across-the-board 5-star crash ratings from Motor Trend magazine.
The Odyssey minivan features power sliding doors for easy access to the driver and passenger seats, along with side-curtain airbags in all three rows, making it both a safe and comfortable option for seniors. Bonus: Customers may appreciate a car named after a book that's older than they are.
Subaru Forester XT Limited
Consumer Reports gave the Forester high marks for visibility, an important option for seniors, although the magazine found the lumbar support in base models to be lacking.
The Azera sedan features a power rear sunshade, adding to its relative ease of visibility. For safety, the Azera features electronic stability control, traction control and a brake-assist feature that adds extra stopping power in perceived panic situations.
Unlike your great uncle Harvey, the seven-seat "microvan" sports a low beltline, which means bigger windows for superior visibility. The Rondo also features seatbelt tethers specially designed for carseats in the second and third rows, making it easier for grandparents to spend time with their grandchildren.