How To Check For Safety In A Used Car

Earlier, we talked about working with both your Fort Collins Auto repair shop as well as online sources to make good choices when purchasing a new or used vehicle. Another thing you need to look for, aside from general upkeep and maintenance, is safety. A good place to start your investigation is with your Fort Collins Auto Repair shop. They will have seen virtually every car manufactured rolling into their repair bays, and have a some solid ideas of which cars tend to have higher safety ratings than others.

Here are several very worthwhile resources for you to use in investigating the safety issues (both good and bad) associated with any particular car you are considering purchasing.

Insurance Industry Crash-Test Ratings

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a safety-research group. It conducts its own series of crash tests. For a frontal-offset crash, the IIHS runs a vehicle at 40 mph into a deformable barrier. Instead of engaging the whole width of the car’s front end, the barrier covers 40 percent of the car in front of the driver. This method simulates a car-to-car, driver’s-side-to-driver’s-side collision, one of the most common forms of crashes resulting in fatalities. By using a specific test criteria and materials to stimulate this type of crash, the IIHs is able to properly assess a specific car’s structural integrity and its ability to protect the area around the driver without collapsing.

The IIHS scores its frontal-crash results as Good, Acceptable, Marginal, or Poor. You can find ratings for all tested vehicles on the IIHS website.

Government Crash-Test Ratings

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducts two types of tests: side impact and full frontal crashes. Resulting scores range from 1 to 5 stars, with higher stars indicating better structural integrity in any specific vehicle. You can check the scores for all crash-tested vehicles online at

Accident Avoidance And Air Bags

A vehicle’s ability to help you avoid an accident is just as important as its ability to retain its structural integrity during a crash. Consumer reports evaluates braking and emergency handling of cars in potential crash scenarios. They also look at acceleration, visibility, and driving position (in consideration of how effective the driver can enact avoiding an accident).

Legally, every new passenger vehicle is mandated to be equipped with dual front air bags. Most upscale vehicles and many others now have some version of a “smart” air-bag system. Side air bags have become common for front occupants. Consumer Reports highly recommends head-protection side air bags where they’re available. Again, visit their site for air bag testing results and recomendations.

Head Restraints

Look for head restraints that lock in the raised position—a legal requirement for cars made since September, 2009. Those that do not can be forced down in a crash, losing effectiveness. Some cars’ rear restraints are too low to effectively protect against whiplash, which Consumer Reports notes in its road test reports. The IIHs website tests head restraints as part of its offerings on car safety. Restraints need to be tall enough to cushion the head above the top of the spine. The IIHS website provides head-restraint for rear-crash ratings for many models.

Child Safety

Colorado law requires child carriers, booster seats and other restraints. Be sure and test any child carriers in a car prior to purchasing it, to insure that the belt mechanisms tether the child seat effectively.

Whatever resources you use in evaluating the safety of a new car, be sure and give us a call at Fort Collins Foreign Car Service if you have any questions along the way. May you get the safest, most efficient car of year dreams!