Buying a Safer Vehicle
The right safety features are key
Buying a new or used car can be stressful. Whether buying from a dealer or directly from an owner, asking the right questions and doing your research may help you purchase a safer car.
Review safety ratings for a star performance
When shopping for a new car, begin by reviewing the overall safety ratings for various manufacturers, makes and models. Experts advise that a buyer should not purchase a car with a below-average reliability rating. Use a reputable consumer magazine to compare the car's reliability and performance. Also, view ratings published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Buying a used car — Do your homework
While shopping for a used car, steer away from cars that are on recall. Recalls are issued if a car fails to meet minimum safety standards. Find a list of recalls on NHTSA's website.
Ask the right questions
What is the car's history?
Listen for a plausible explanation, rather than an interesting story. If you are not comfortable with the answers, and the car sounds too good to be true, go with your gut — the car is probably not the right one.
Has the car been in an accident? If yes, ask about the extent of the damage, the cost of repairs and the name of the repair shop. If a car has been in a serious wreck, this is a red flag and you may not want to risk buying it.
Have there been multiple owners? Fewer owners may indicate that the car has been well preserved and maintained. Visit websites that offer vehicle history reports. These reports can provide valuable insights, such as:
- Inconsistencies with vehicle mileage.
- Undisclosed vehicle defects.
- Extensive repairs and wrecks.
Start with broad questions and listen to what the seller says — this may raise issues that you might not have considered. To ensure that you are buying a car that is in good condition, ask for its maintenance and repair receipts — this can help you verify the car's history.
Next, get details about the condition of the car's exterior and interior. Some used cars may have hidden damage caused by an accident, a flood or other incidents that can affect its performance, safety or reliability. Look for telltale signs of exterior and interior damage, such as:
- Paint overspray.
- Ill-fitting parts — gaps between the doors, hood or trunk.
- A shimmy in the steering wheel when driving at freeway speeds.
- Tires with uneven wearing.
- "Reconditioned," "salvage," "junk," "flood" or "rebuilt" titles.
- Signs of flood damage — silt, rust or corrosion in crevices, the trunk, or under carpeting, a musty smell and electronic glitches.
Last steps in the buying process
Before you agree to buy the car, have it inspected by a certified mechanic; AFTER the car has been inspected and the mechanic confirms that it is safe to operate, test-drive the car.
Purchasing the car
Contact your insurance company to ensure that you have coverage before you hit the road.
Take your time and have patience. Shopping for a safe car and finding the right one may take a while, but a hasty decision could result in a purchase that you may later regret. Doing research beforehand will pay off.
NJM Insurance Group's Commitment to Safety
NJM's enduring commitment to safety can be traced back to our earliest days — with a focus that has expanded from improving conditions in manufacturing facilities to helping keep customers safe on the roads and at home. NJM is a leader in personal and commercial auto, homeowners, and workers' compensation insurance.
"Top 12 Tips for Buying a Used Car," https://www.carconsumers.org/usedcarbuyingtips.htm.
"New & Used Car Buying Guide," https://www.consumerreports.org/cars/buying-a-car/new-used-car-buying-guide-a4326883795, (January 13, 2023).
"Shopping for a Safer Car 2019," https://www.iihs.org/media/9c43ae6d-d64d-49fc-9fdf-3e61394b20b8/bwRC7g/brochures.
"Safety Issues & Recalls," https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls.