Car Shopping with Safety in Mind

Shopping for a new car is a difficult task, even before someone considers safety. Once the stability and safety of the vehicle are factored in, there are many aspects to factor in for every part of the vehicle. This consideration is different depending on whether the car is new or used. Although a new car is generally more up to date regarding safety features, there are still basic components that should be checked out thoroughly in either case. Here is a list of the factors to consider before climb behind the wheel of a new or used vehicle.

Crucial Features:

According to Nationwide, buyers should always ask the dealer about the crash test ratings of the vehicle in question. The features are just as important as the price, and should not be overlooked. With that in mind, here is a case-by-case breakdown of the essentials for each of the most important components for vehicles.


Tires may be the most important feature of a car as it is the part of the car that comes into contact with the road. The difference between a good and bad tire is the difference between you staying on the road or not. A blowout is a terrifying experience, one no one ever wants to go through. It is important, even when buying a new car, that the buyer checks to make sure that the tires show no sign of uneven wear or tear (on both the inside and outside), and that they are the proper age. Any tire over ten years old is in need of replacement. Finally, always be sure to check that the tires on the car are appropriate for that make and model.

Seat Belts

According to Consumer Ratings, proper use of seatbelts is the foremost prevention of death and serious injury in regards to collisions. Thus, knowing that your vehicle’s seat belts are up to standard are just as important as making sure that you use them. The things to look for in this area are adjustable upper anchors for the shoulder belts, seatbelt pretensioners, and force limiters. Ask the seller if the car in question has these enhancements, and if not, consider having them added yourself.


Front airbags have been standard in cars and trucks since 1998, so when buying a used car, keep in mind that anything made before that period might not come equipped. Adaptive (or dual front) airbags have been standard only since 2003. Be sure to find out if the airbags in the car you are looking at have ever gone off before, and if so, if they have been replaced. Once you are informed of the equipment, remember that although airbags have saved countless lives, it is not recommended that children under 12 be placed in seats where they are likely to go off, since they are not necessarily appropriate for individuals that age. A child seat and proper seatbelt usage is recommended for children 12 or younger.


Windshield safety is not as likely to be a top priority for buyers as other features, but it is important. According to Autohaus Az, “90% of your driving decisions are based on a clear, unobstructed view of the road”, this means that being able to see out of the windshield in all weather conditions is crucial toward making a safe trip every time. Worn wiper blades can obscure your view and lead to accidents. Keep in mind that “ozone, airborne contaminants, oil, sunlight and dirt all act to weaken and reduce your wiper blades' ability to keep your view unobstructed. And exposure to sunlight and ozone cause the wiper blades to age, even if they're not used much.”

Ask the dealer or seller about the age and usage of the wiper blades before purchase, to avoid any unwelcome surprises.

Engine and Electronics

The engine is the heart of a car and without it, the car won’t be able to run. The last thing any driver wants is for their engine to die in the middle of a drive. The electrical system is just as important. When buying a used car, the essential questions to ask about the vehicles engine are to check the engine light. If it goes off, this will alert you that either the engine or the electronic system has problems. Block your wheels when checking the engine, and always ask about the age of the engine. Check how many miles it has on it, and, for double safety, take it to a trusted mechanic.


Whatever the make or model of a car, there are basic components that ought to be thoroughly checked for safety before purchase. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Tires
  • Seat Belts
  • Airbags
  • Windshields
  • Electronics
  • Engine


Additional Resources:

Shopping For A New Car  The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s(IIHS) guide to all of the pertinent considerations for buyers shopping for a new car.

Used Car Safety Inspection Checklist  A thorough checklist for things to look out for when buying a used car, as provided by Highway Motors. Goverment resource site to keep car buyers informed and up-to-date on safety the standards of automobiles.

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