How to Buy a Safe Car

To choose the safest transportation for you and yours, it is wise to research feedback from third parties and owners who have been driving the car for more than three months.   Before placing your trust in a review, determine whether the car being evaluated was purchased from a dealer and paid for by an independent party.   It is good to note that most car magazines test well-equipped cars provided by the manufacturer for a short period of time.    Some awards are created by organizations affiliated with the car companies themselves.  So, consider the source as well as the relevance of any information you find.  


Safety features have come a long way now that the crash test results are published on sales stickers.  While these results are helpful, the Informed for Life ratings are far more reliable because they are based on statistics from real-world accidents instead of crashes staged in a controlled environment with dummies.  


Daytime running lights, automatic stability control, LATCH anchors, back up sensors and cameras have empowered new model cars, trucks and crossovers to avoid many of the most common accidents and minimized the injuries associated with crashing.   That said, as vehicles get larger, visibility is often compromised.  Another concern is the integration of technology.  If you tend to use a phone, music device or rearview entertainment, look for easy-access to controls on or near the steering wheel as well as intuitive Bluetooth technology to help avoid distractions.  


During your test drive, examine rear windows and ensure that side mirrors that are wide enough to eliminate blind spots.  Consider investing in back up sensors or cameras to alert you if someone or something is in your way when you are operating a vehicle in reverse.  Be sure to test drive a vehicle that is equipped with the options you plan to purchase.   Different trim models often have different engines, etc.  Lastly, bring the car seats you plan to install during the time you will own the vehicle.   For example, if you plan to have additional children or will regularly carpool with other families, you need to verify easy access to all seats while car seats and/or booster seats are installed.  One negative about most SUVs that tends to be overlooked during the buying process is that they do not have LATCH anchors for car seats and booster seats in the third row.   


Below are some of the best resources to help you negotiate a good deal on a new or used car that is truly safe:  

  • Informed for Life
    This website uses ratings and fatality data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) to calculate the relative safety of vehicles.
  • Insider Car Secrets
    Learn how to buy a new or used car at the lowest possible price with the best financing available.
  • Roadfly
    A guide tailored to auto enthusiasts featuring real-world feedback and the video about independent road tests and design changes.
  • CarSpace
    The forum section of the Edmunds.com site, where you can get up-to-the-minute information about pros, cons and pricing of specific makes and models.
  • MotorMouths
    An acclaimed resource for finding the latest reviews and scores on any new car.
  • CarZen
    Answer a few questions and CarZen will help you narrow down your list to the perfect car.
  • Safercar.gov
    Vehicle safety information regarding child passenger safety, crash tests, rollover ratings, defects and recalls.