When looking to buy a used car we are faced with tough choices. A car with good mileage, a car with an enticing exterior or a car high on performance may all have certain appeals to certain customers. However, when applying our various filters during the shortlisting process we often forget to apply another filter and it happens to be quite an important one, safety.
Importance of Safety Ratings
It doesn’t matter what you’re compromising on – colour, style, age, mileage or condition, as long as you’re safe inside the car nothing else truly matters. Even though the number of deaths in the UK due to road accidents have dropped by 2%, still a huge number of lives could have been easily saved, 1732 to be precise, if cars were safer.
How Safety Ratings are Determined
Safety requirements and standards are different around the world but the testing methods to determine their safety are similar. The testing methods have been designed in a similar way as the risks that any driver is subjected to, is more or less the same in every country. Following are some of the common safety tests:
Most of the accidents around the world occur due to head-on collision of vehicles. It is to avoid injury in such collisions that air bags and seat belts were introduced in automobiles. These tests are also known as ‘overlap’ tests and they usually involve head-on collisions but with some variety. In some cases they apply force to a quarter or half of the vehicle’s front end.
Preventing injury from a side crash is extremely difficult as there is little that can be done to save passengers from an impact. There is a very thin separation between the passenger seat and the point of collision. In most countries the side crash test is performed by slamming a huge metal block on one of its sides.
However, in some countries instead of a huge metal block, a pole is thrusted into the side of a car. This way a lot of force is concentrated on a smaller area and if the pole pierces through the car it means the car has failed the side crash test.
The chances of your car suffering damage from the direction of your roof are quite less but one can never be too sure. In places that are prone to hurricanes, storms or heavy rainfall, the possibility of a tree falling on the roof a car is quite high. Not just in these cases, sometimes the car rolls over and lands on its roof, this makes it important for cars to be tested for roof strength.
In the test that determines the strength of a roof, different corners of the roof are subjected to increasing weight at a constant rate. The bigger the vehicle greater is the weight placed on its roof. A vehicle with good roof strength should be able to withstand at least four times its weight before displacing for more than 5 inches.
Even though the name of the test is funny, it isn’t meant for recreation of testing engineers in between their testing job. It is a test that is normally performed in countries where animals may appear out of nowhere on the road. In such situations the standard response of most drivers is to take a sharp turn in either direction. This test determines if a vehicle suffers a roll over on being suddenly turned.
Seats and Headrests
In case you were thinking a car’s seats and headrests are just for the comfort of passengers then you will be surprised to know that they are there for their safety as well. The design and geometry of headrests is such that it has a direct impact on the severity of injuries sustained during an accident. This feature is especially useful when the vehicle is crashed from the rear end.
If the headrest has been designed the right way then it will catch the head quickly and prevent it from suffering a major jolt. The seats when designed well, cushion and support the passenger and driver’s body. Airbags also perform the same function.
When we speak about vehicle safety it is not just limited to those who are inside the car but also includes those who are out on the street unguarded by any metal around them. In this test the engineers try to determine the safety of a pedestrian who is struck by a car. Car manufacturers try to design their front end in such a way that if something like this happens the surface of the engine block does not have a severe impact on the head of the pedestrian. There have been several innovations keeping in mind pedestrian safety and these include an external airbag that gets deployed when a pedestrian is struck by the vehicle.
Electric and Autonomous Systems
With improvements in car technology, the safety systems used in cars have undergone drastic transformations. Some of these design innovations include automatic emergency braking if the system has come to a conclusion that a crash is imminent. There are also other systems that detect whether a driver is about to fall asleep while on the steering wheel. If the driver’s eyes are found to be shut for a consecutive few seconds then the car is automatically brought to a halt. They are also tested for other features such as stability control and traction.
On the basis of above tests a comprehensive report is made which includes details of how a car has performed in various tests and then a safety rating is given to the car which is being tested.
Reason for Popularity of Used Cars
The automobile market around the world has been booming since the last many years and this trend has given birth to a whole new market of used cars. These days when people want to upgrade they often opt to sell their old car. As a result the used car market today has great machines which are value for money and high in performance at the same time. Irrespective of whether you’re high or low on budget, you are bound to find a suitable match according to your requirements.
Why it’s Crucial to Buy a Safe Used Car?
When buying a used car there is very little that can be known of its history. Despite the various ways to know if a vehicle has been involved in an accident, people get duped by charming salesmen and land up buying such cars. However, if you buy a used car from a garage you can trust then possibilities are low that you will be short-changed.
There are certain cars which are built in a way that are naturally safe and will ensure minimum damage to those seated inside. This is what makes it important to buy a car that has been certified as safe by concerned authorities.
Used Cars to Avoid
There are always cars that are priced at much lower rates compared to others. It is easy to be inclined towards such cars but one should try to understand why the price of these cars is low. Is it because its performance is inferior to others? Does it have lesser seating capacity? In most cases when the price of a car is less it is because it is less safe than the others in the market.
There are many cars in the UK market at present which were primarily built for the US market but are still available in UK. These cars have a mere 1-1.5 rating out of 5 which means they are not much reliable in terms of passenger safety in accidents. Following are some of the cars that you should avoid at all cost:
- Isuzu D-Max – 2008 model.
- Chrysler Voyager – 2007 model.
- Chevrolet Aveo – 2006 model.
Cars with a 2 out of 5 NCAP safety rating.
- Jeep Compass 2.2 Diesel – 2011 model.
- Renault Trafic 2.0dCi Passenger ‘Expression’ – 2012 model.
- Ford Ranger Pick Up – 2008 model.
Balance of Safety and Budget
Wouldn’t you prefer to save money for some more months and buy a car that is safe instead of buying an unsafe car out of haste? Cars that strike a good balance between safety and affordability are often those that you find in the range of £1000 – £5000. Following are some of the cars that leave us with no excuse to compromise on safety because of budget:
The Volkswagen Golf has been deemed as the best hatchback by many automobile magazines. It has a lot of street credibility and has been engineered in a way that makes it the ideal family motor. The level of safety offered by it is impressive as it scores a whopping 5 out of 5 NCAP rating. The engine keeps getting better with each of its variant. Its spacious interiors is an icing on the cake. For £5000 you should be able to find a 2008 or 2009 make which has travelled for less than 80,000 miles.
Just like Volkswagen Golf, the Honda Jazz too is a strong contender for the title of the best family car. If you look it up on Google you will find several testimonials that swear by its safety features. This has influenced several car magazines to proclaim it as the best family car. It is a good value for money product as it provides both great running costs as well as spacious interiors.
Even the earlier models of this car which date back to 2004 have a 4 out of 5 NCAP safety rating and can be bought for just £1000. The relatively newer models belonging to the 2009 batch have an even more impressive safety rating of 5 out of 5 and can be purchased for £4500-5000.
There are always those who take out their family from time to time but also want their ride to look better than an average family car. Not only is Mazda 3 an attractive option but it also hits the right spot between price and safety. It is a visually appealing car with designs that are eye catching.
You cannot hope to get a better deal for just £5000 as you may find a great range of five door models which have run for less than 50,000 miles. If you opt for models that were built in 2009 you will be riding a car that has a safety rating of 5 out of 5.
High Budget High Safety Cars
If you can stretch your budget to £10,000 you will be able to buy a 2012/2013 model which have higher safety features to offer. Here’s a list of cars that are friendlier on your wallet but at the same time have a 5 star NCAP rating.
If there’s a car that has earned the badge of the best family hatchback then it has to be Ford Focus. It is spacious, has incredible hi-tech features such as electronic stability control and is also packed with robust safety features such as brake assistance.
You will get a 2011 model with a 5 star safety rating but in this price range you may have better options to choose from such as a 1.6 petrol with titanium trims and top spec Zetec. You can also have a car with a TDCi diesel engine manufactured in 2012 and 2013.
Ford Fiesta is one of the bestselling used cars in Britain. It is perfect for smaller families living in congested areas as it offers a range of small, economical engines and many exciting options for extra accessories such as emergency brake assist which increase the safety of the car and front windscreen heaters that are particularly useful in winters.
If you have the budget for a Ford Fiesta you should be able to get a standard 1.2 Zetec model of 2012 for about £5000. If you can stretch your budget a little further you may get an EcoBoost model of 2015 for about £10,000. It’s worth remembering that all these models have a 5 out of 5 safety rating.
If you have a minuscule budget and wish to own a safe used car then you will be surprised to know that even a 2004 Vauxhall Astra has a safety rating of 5 out of 5. However, by spending a little more, say about £8000-£9000 you can avail the full range of features that Vauxhall has to offer such as a 2015 registered model with parking sensors and cruise control. Basically, it is a car that can tailored to suit a budget of any size.
There are a ton of cars out there in the used cars market that score a perfect 5 on 5 when it comes to safety features. It is still advised that you do not take the above advice without a proper test drive and thorough inspection. It is ultimately you who needs to decide what you want from a car. If you find it difficult to shortlist a car you should go for expert opinion.