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How to Choose a Safe Car

blck car with wrecked front end

When in the market to buy a new or used car, the vast array of brands and models from which to choose can make the process confusing. Of course, there may be a style or some particular features that you want in a vehicle, but there are practical issues to consider as well.

One of the most important things to consider when choosing a car is its safety. This is because even the best drivers sometimes have accidents, and you want a vehicle that is likely to protect you and any passengers in the event of a collision.

Part 1 of 1: Choosing a safe car

IIHS ratings
Image: IIHS

Step 1: Research recent crash test scores. Crash test ratings indicate how well various vehicles held up in controlled collisions with crash test dummies and provide a good idea of how well particular models would hold up in real-life accidents with actual passengers.

You can browse safety test ratings at either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. The tests from IIHS are generally more comprehensive, but both agencies are reputable sources for safety information.

safer car ratings page
Image: Safercar

Look for good scores on all of the collision tests for car models that interest you, especially when it comes to frontal collision scores, which applies to the largest percentage of accidents.

Step 2: Ensure there are airbags in addition to seat belts. While seat belts go a long way in protecting those inside the car from harm during an accident, airbags also prevent a lot of fatalities and serious injuries.

crash test dummies

For maximum safety benefit, look not only for front airbags but also side airbags in both the front and back seats. After frontal collisions, side collisions are the most common type of accident. Side collisions are also more likely than any other type to result in a fatality.

ESC features
Image: IIHS

Step 3: Look for the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) feature. ESC is basically a multi-directional version of the Antilock Braking System (ABS), and it significantly reduces incidents of skidding on curvy roads.

ESC applies braking forces to individual tires, which gives the driver greater maneuverability and is estimated to reduce by half the risk of having a single vehicle crash resulting in a fatality. This feature seems even more important in light of reports indicating that half of the deaths resulting from car wrecks each year are due to single vehicle crashes.

mechanic performing a pre-purchase inspection

Step 4: Have the car thoroughly inspected before you buy. While you may choose a vehicle that has high safety ratings and the safety features you desire, it doesn’t mean the individual car you are considering for purchase is in proper working order. Always have a qualified mechanic, such as one from YourMechanic, conduct a pre-purchase inspection before completing a sale.

Taking the time to find a safe car for your next purchase is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself and your family from harm. Although it requires a little time and effort to do the research, safety ratings are public and easily accessible online. With the addition of a pre-purchase inspection before you commit, you can gain a lot of peace of mind each time you get behind the wheel of your new car.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
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