When you start the process of finding a car to lease or purchase, you should consider the car's safety features alongside what the car looks like, how it runs and which specifications it features. While you can expect to find cars with basic safety features like airbags and seat belts in both old and new cars, more recent models make use of new safety technology to help you drive more safely, stay aware of what's around you and even get help quickly in an emergency. Beyond these benefits to the well-being of you and your passengers, these safety features could save you money on insurance, but you also need to consider the added cost. Take a look at what you should know about car safety features.
Basics of Car Safety Features
Car safety features include both physical components and electronic systems that can help you drive smarter, inform other drivers of your actions, avoid car accidents and get support when an accident, injury or other incident happens on the road. For example, some safety features such as blind-spot monitoring help you detect people or things around your car that you might have otherwise hit, while others help minimize injury by protecting your body from being ejected from a vehicle or hitting your steering wheel in an accident. You can also find car safety features that make it easier to see at night or drive through hazardous weather conditions.
Depending on the safety feature, it may be mandated by the government to be in all modern cars, or it may be available as a common standard feature or upgrade on new cars. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration takes the laws that governments have passed and creates regulations for vehicles to ensure safety. It also participates in crash safety tests that can help manufacturers produce cars from stronger materials as well as maintains an educational section on its website that can offer drivers tips on road safety and overviews of various safety features available on vehicles today.
While you'll always need your vehicle to include government-mandated safety features like seat belts, turn signals and airbags, you as a driver get to decide the other types of features that you deem important. For example, frequent night drivers might invest in safety features such as special headlights and collision avoidance systems, while those who want peace of mind in case of an accident might get a car with accident sensors and a service that immediately contacts help in a crisis.
Impact on Car Price
The impact of car safety features on vehicle price will depend on the type of features, the number of them you want and the vehicle model you choose. You can find some safety features like anti-lock breaks on even the standard model of some vehicles. However, comprehensive safety feature packages with the latest technology may be only on the premium version of a vehicle model. If a specific car doesn't have the safety features you want, you can ask about adding them for an extra fee if possible.
The price tag for these safety features can get large when you're looking at technologies such as monitoring tools that can look for traffic, people and lane lines near your car or automatically stop your car when something is detected. For example, the Javaheri and Yahoudai law firm estimates you might pay as much as $9,000 extra for a comprehensive safety package versus $1,800 on average for up to four safety features. If you usually buy used cars, keep in mind you might need to pay a premium and find a new car that has safety features not available on older models.
Consumer Reports cautions that you should also consider how choosing different safety features can impact the cost of repairs over time. Having more electronics and systems in your car means there are more components to fail and be replaced in time, and this can add up with both labor and part costs. If you get in a car accident, some safety gadgets can make the restoration more costly and complex as well. Although these are some considerations to know, the organization also mentions that the benefits of car safety features often outweigh the extra cost you might face with repairs, so you shouldn't make your decision based on the cost factor alone.
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Impact on Car Insurance Rate
When you're investigating car safety systems and features for your next purchase or lease, you probably want to see your car insurance rates go down since your car will be safer to drive. Drivers can see some small discounts depending on the type of safety feature and the car insurance company. However, you'll want to keep in mind that the main factors that determine your car insurance rate include things like the specific vehicle model you drive, where you live, how old you are and whether you have a record of safe driving.
The Zebra mentions that the typical discount you can expect to get on your car insurance simply due to having car safety features is under one percent, and some features usually don't give you a discount at all. Specifically, you can expect a small discount if you choose a vehicle with electronic stability control and anti-theft features like car alarms and vehicle disabling devices. Other options like warning systems, night vision tools, camera systems and parking assistance often yield no discount.
If you're considering a specific safety feature only to lower your car insurance rate, consider calling your insurance company to find out if you'd gain any rate change from it. At the same time, you'll want to consider the non-financial benefits for a specific feature rather than write it off just because it doesn't change your insurance premiums.
Read More: Does Car Insurance Go Down Over Time?
9 Safety Features to Consider
Now that you understand the benefits of car safety features alongside the potential costs and impact on your car insurance rate, it's worth learning more about some of the most popular options available. While some of these have been standard on vehicles for several years, others have come out as technology and artificial intelligence have led to advancements that allow vehicles to be aware of their surroundings. Here are nine car safety features you might look into for your next vehicle.
1. Front, Side and Rear Airbags
Since front airbags became legally required as of 1999, these safety devices have become a common feature in new and used cars from the last few decades and provide an inflatable cushion that activates during a crash. Further, most cars now have airbags on the sides of the vehicle as well, even though current law doesn't demand it, and you can even find airbags in the back seats of some cars. Airbags are a particularly important standard safety feature since they have a key role in cutting down on fatalities from car accidents as they help drivers and passengers avoid hitting something inside the vehicle from the impact of a crash.
2. Driver and Passenger Seat Belts
First required in all vehicles in the late 1960s, seat belts are a life-saving safety feature that many take for granted as they're standard regardless of the car model you choose. They work together alongside airbags to keep you restrained so that you don't move from the seat or hit hard objects that could injure you. Some cars even feature inflatable seat belts to further reduce the effects of the impact.
3. Safety Issue Warning Systems
Newer vehicles sometimes feature various warning systems that use sensors and cameras to let you know that you're performing a dangerous driving maneuver or missing something in a blind spot. For example, if you're drifting out of your current lane and don't have your turn signal activated, a lane departure warning system would let you know so that you can correct your driving and avoid hitting someone.
There are also blind spot detection systems that might include cameras on your mirrors as well as sensors on your bumper that can warn you if a car is in your blind spot on the highway. Forward-collision warning systems, on the other hand, can notify you if you're about to hit something in front of you.
4. Electronic Stability Control
Electronic stability control helps prevent losing traction on the road due to risky maneuvers that come from when you oversteer or understeer, and it utilizes wheel sensors to work. When this feature kicks in, it gets you going back in the right direction by automatically applying the brake and changing the engine power so that you can avoid losing traction. For example, it can come in handy when you're driving in slick weather or when you need to make a sudden move to avoid hitting an oncoming car. Along with helping you avoid plowing and spinning out on the road, this safety feature could also prevent your car from rolling over in certain situations.
5. Car Camera Systems
Required for new cars as of 2018, backup camera systems include a small camera near your back license plate alongside a screen in your car where you can see directly behind you when you're backing out of a parking space or driveway. These cameras are helpful safety tools since they can help you avoid harming people or pets who you might not see in your rear-view mirror. They also double as a parking assistant tool that can help you back into parking spots. You might also hear a beeping sound that warns you of something detected behind you.
Technology has also led to 360-degree camera systems that allow you to see completely around your car and get a better idea of what's happening from different angles. Like the simple backup camera, this safety tool helps with parking and can prevent accidents.
6. Adaptive Cruise Control
While standard cruise controls can be convenient for long drives on the highway, it comes with safety risks since it can be easy to get distracted and not respond to changing road conditions. That's where adaptive cruise control comes in handy as it uses cameras and radar tools to determine how to adjust the speed based on the traffic and desired following distance you wish to keep. However, you'll still need to respond to sudden changes like someone stopping in front of you as well as handle the steering yourself.
7. Safe Braking Systems
Another standard feature you'll find is the anti-lock braking system that can help prevent your wheels from locking up and making you slide when you need to stop suddenly. This makes use of sensors so that the brakes can be applied correctly and prevent you from losing your steering ability. Alongside anti-lock brakes, some cars feature automatic emergency braking systems that suddenly stop your car when you're about to crash and can help reduce the impact if you can't avoid the crash.
8. Turn Signals
Standard since the 1950s, turn signals are a safety feature found on all cars. They help inform other drivers of your actions on the road and help prevent accidents and loss when you use the turn signals properly. Whether you're changing lanes or making a turn at an intersection, your turn signals will let drivers know when to slow down behind you, wait for you to proceed or expect you to move into their lane.
9. Onboard Safety and Security Services
Vehicles from General Motors brands like GMC, Chevrolet and Buick often include hardware for an onboard safety and security service called OnStar that can get you help in the case of a car crash as well as assist with issues like vehicle theft, natural disasters and lockouts. For example, the service works with your car's sensors to detect crashes and will contact emergency services to help you as well as connect you to an advisor who will stay with you until help arrives. There are also advisors who can help you drive through dangerous weather, send roadside assistance if your car breaks down and offer advice on medical emergencies on the road.
Being subscribed to this service can help you obtain discounts on your car insurance. However, you'll need to pay a monthly fee that depends on the safety and security package you choose. You'll often get a period of free trial service with a new car purchase and the option to continue afterward for a fee.
Read More: How to Find Stolen Vehicles
- Carfax: What Are the Benefits of GM’s OnStar Telematics System?
- OnStar: OnStar Can Help You Get Exclusive Insurance Discounts
- IIHS: Airbags
- Car and Driver: Everything You Need to Know about Car Safety Features
- Nationwide: Safety Features to Consider When Buying a Car [Infographic]
- NHTSA: Regulations
- Consumer Reports: The Hidden Cost of Car Safety Features
- Jabaheri & Yahoudai: Are Those New Car Safety Features Really Worth the Money?
- PolicyGenius: Car Add-Ons That Can Save You Money on Car Insurance
- MotorTrend: How 360-Degree Camera Systems Turn You Into a Parking Pro
- Safercar.gov: Electronic Stability Control
- MotorTrend: What Is Adaptive Cruise Control? Is It Worth Paying For?
- Wagner: A Simple Guide To Your Anti-Lock Braking System
Ashley Donohoe has written about business and technology topics since 2010. Having a Master of Business Administration degree, bookkeeping certification and experience running a small business and doing tax returns, she is knowledgeable about the tax issues individuals and businesses face. Other places featuring her business writing include Zacks, JobHero, LoveToKnow, Bizfluent, Chron and Study.com.