Trucks and teenagers can be a good mix. Size and weight are major factors in vehicle safety and buying a truck for your teen instantly gives you high marks in the safety department.

Trucks allow drivers and passengers to sit higher than they would sit in a standard car and typically fare better in crashes. Sitting high above the base of the truck allows the vehicle’s frame and chassis to receive the brunt of any impacts. It also gives your teen a wider view of the road ahead to look for potential problems or danger.

Size also plays a part in getting noticed on the road. By their sheer size alone, trucks may be much more noticeable cruising down the street than a compact hatchback or low-lying convertible.

The Safest Trucks

Not all pickups are created equal, and not all are equally safe. Good choices for teen trucks are those chosen as Top Safety Picks by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, or IIHS. Trucks were rated according to their performance in a series of crash tests. These included frontal offset tests, side impact tests and roof strength tests. The IIHS also provided ratings for rear crash protection and head restraints.

Ford F-150

The Ford F-150 crew cab models are one of the best picks for teens for several reasons. The truck rated high on IIHS crash tests across the board. Models made from 2008 to 2012 received the highest mark of good in frontal offset test results, although models made from 1997 to 2003 received a poor rating.

Later model Ford F-150 trucks made from 2009 to 2012 come with standard side airbags, resulting in good results on the side impact tests. The best roof strength test results were for models made after February 2011, as were the best ratings for rear crash protection and head restraints.

Honda Ridgeline

Honda Ridgeline trucks are another vehicle designed to encase your teen in safety. The IIHS gave the truck the highest marks across the board for 2012 models, which is the only one that received a good rating in roof strength tests.

Models built from 2006 to 2012 received good marks for frontal offset and side impact tests. Those made in 2006 and later come with standard side airbags. Ridgelines from 2009 and later that include power leather seats merited good marks for rear crash protection and head restraints. The RTL models made from 2006 and 2008 only received an overall marginal rating in the same category.

Toyota Tundra

Crew cab models of the Toyota Tundra may be another safe pick for your teenage driver. Models made from 2006 to 2012 were applauded with a good rating in the frontal offset tests. Those made from 2007 to 2012 also received good marks for side impact tests, based in part to the standard side airbags. Roof strength was also good for models made in 2007 and beyond.

Rear crash protection and head restraint ratings were good for 2007 to 2012 Tundras with manual cloth seats. Those built from 2005 to 2006 ranked marginal and acceptable. Marginal ratings went to those with bucket seats with an adjustable lumbar area. Acceptable ratings were earned by those with bucket seats without an adjustable lumbar area.

New vs. Used

Buying your teen an old, used truck may seem to make sense, based on the chances of the driver dinging up the vehicle anyway. While that may be the cheapest choice, it is not always the safest choice. As evidenced by a few of the IIHS crash test results, older model trucks do not always have the same fortification as newer models. They may also lack some of the newer safety features, such as airbags, which have since become standard equipment.

If you do go for a used truck, a comprehensive safety check is definitely in order. A number of safety tips below can give a quick overview of things to inspect before you hand a young driver the keys.

Proper tire pressure is a must, as is making sure the tread depth is adequate for traction. New tires might be a good idea on a used truck. Edmunds says to check the tread depth is at least 2/32nds of an inch, which you can check using a coin. Insert a quarter into the groove of the tire that is most worn. Check to see that the raised area at least covers the top of Washington’s wig. If the top of his wig is visible, it’s time for new tires.

Other musts to be included in your safety check are the taillights, blinker and windshield. Make sure all lights are functioning properly. Make sure the windshield is not pitted by dents or hampered by salt, both of which can impair visibility.

Taking the truck to a service station for a safety check is very good idea when buying a used vehicle. The station should particularly check the brakes, steering and suspension.

Always remember that regardless of high ratings on crash tests, no vehicle is safe unless all its parts are in working order.