Tips for Buying a Safe Vehicle
TIPS FOR BUYING A SAFE VEHICLE
When buying a vehicle (new or used) it is important to make sure that it will be safe for everyone – the kids in the back and the adults in the front. Deciding which vehicle to buy can be overwhelming, but here are some must-have safety features that might help narrow down your list. In my opinion, these 3 are the non-negotiables (i.e. if the vehicle doesn’t have it, I wouldn’t buy it). At the bottom are some links to crash test ratings for new and used vehicles.
MUST-HAVE SAFETY FEATURES
1. Electronic Stabilization Control (ESC)
Electronic Stabilization Control (ESC) systems are marketed under various names, including dynamic stability control, vehicle stability control, dynamic stability and traction control, among others. The percentage of vehicles with this technology has increased tenfold since the 1998 model year. For the 2009 model year, ESC was standard on 73 percent of new passenger vehicle models and optional on 14 percent. ESC was standard on 74 percent of cars, 99 percent of SUVs, and 38 percent of pickups.
2. Side-Impact Airbags (SABs) that offer head protection to the front AND back seat passengers
Visit this website from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to learn which vehicles offer side airbags. When you find a vehicle you are interested in, click on the “view details” button to learn about which type of side airbags are featured in that vehicle. The ideal is one that offers head protection for the front AND back seat occupants.
There are three main types of SABs: chest (torso) SABs, head SABs, and head/chest combination (combo) SABs.
- Chest (torso) SABs are mounted in the side of the seat back or in the door and are designed to help protect the chest in a serious side-impact crash.
- Head SABs are usually mounted in the roof rail above the side windows and are designed to help protect the head in a side-impact crash. There are two types of head SABs: curtain SABs and tubular SABs. Curtain airbags drop down like a curtain to cover the windows, which means they can also protect passengers from flying glass when the windows break in a crash.
- Head/chest combination (“combo”) SABs are usually mounted in the side of the seat and are typically larger than chest (torso) SABs. Combo SABs are designed to help protect both the head and chest of an adult – they are usually found only for the front seats.
3. Adequate trunk space
CRASH TEST RATINGS
Two separate government agencies offer crash test ratings for new and older vehicles – NHTSA and IIHS. Both try to determine a vehicle’s crash worthiness using multiple parameters. The two agencies perform different crash tests, which may explain some of the discrepancies between their findings for the same vehicle.
NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)