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How To Check Vehicles For Safety Before You Buy

Aug 17, 2007
One of the most important considerations to make before buying a vehicle is its safety features. Safety has become more important to everyone in recent years so let's take a look at what is needed.

One of the best indicators of overall safety is the government crash test rating. All new vehicles will have these ratings and this is a good place to begin. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA uses two methods of crash testing for determining the safety of the vehicle, full frontal impact and side impact. A five star scale is used, the higher the number of stars the safer the vehicle is, the lower the number of stars the more dangerous the vehicle. You can find these grades at safercars.gov.

Another good source is the The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a research group which conducts crash tests as well. The thing I like about their frontal crash testing is that they use a more realistic offset testing method. Instead of crashing head on the vehicle is run into a deformable barrier meant to simulate another vehicle at 40 M.P.H. and the barrier is only covering the portion of the vehicle in front of the driver. Very rarely is a vehicle involved in a direct head on collision, it is usually offset like this and this usually results in worse damage due to torque and structural weakness. The scores in this test are Good, Acceptable, Marginal, or Poor.

You will also want to check into what type of air bag system the vehicle has. All new vehicles are mandated by law to have dual front airbags but many manufacturers have began to offer side and rear airbags as well which is especially important in multi passenger vehicles like vans and SUVs. The side curtain airbags that drop down from the headliner offer head protection from the side and are recommended. Some vehicles now have weight sensors as well that disable the airbag if a person below a certain weight is sitting there. My Nissan Titan has this feature.

One should also consider the rollover rate of the vehicle as well. Vehicles with a higher profile are more likely to turn over. SUVs are up to three times more likely to roll over than passenger vehicles. The majority of all SUV fatalities have been due to rollover.

Antilock brakes have been around awhile and are a proven safety device, which is why insurance companies give you a discount if your vehicle has them It is highly recommended that you not buy a vehicle without them. ABS prevents the wheels from locking up during a hard stop, something that can cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle. ABS almost always provides shorter stops, but, even more importantly, the system helps keep the vehicle straight and allows the driver to maneuver during a panic stop.

When considering child safety you should look for the new technology called LATCH which stands for Lower Anchors And Tethers For Children. This universal system was designed to make it easier and safer to attach car seats due to the fact that many car seats are incompatible with the vehicle's safety belts. You should also be sure that if the vehicle has power windows and door locks that it also has disabling locks that you can control to keep children from accidentally opening doors and windows.

These are just a few on the main safety features to look for. Consumer Reports is another good source for comprehensive safety reports.
About the Author
Gregg Hall is a business consultant and author for many online and offline businesses and lives in Navarre Florida with his 16 year old son. For quality
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