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Nobody wants to be known for designing cars that people crash. But cars used to be designed to look beautiful, rather than promote the safety of their occupants. These days, manufacturers put their resources towards making a safe car, right at the start of the design process.

There is a huge difference in safety between the best and the worst cars. In fact, a driver in the least safe car is 10 times more likely to be seriously injured or killed than in the safest car. So what makes a car safe? There are three elements: good structure, passive safety and safety assist technologies.

Image by Saiful Anwar from Pixabay

Good Structure

The structure of a car is its shell, and this is the main protector. It has to withstand the force of a crash and channel those forces away from all occupants. A good structure will protect the driver and passengers and have effective crumple zones to absorb the energy of the crash.

During a crash, a safe car cabin can maintain its shape. The steering column, dashboard, roof pillars, pedals and floor panels do not push too much inwards. Doors remain closed, but can be opened afterwards for quick rescue. Side door strength, padding and seating all protect from common, side impact crashes.

Passive Safety Features

Well-designed cars now have built-in safety features, such as airbags, ABS brakes, electronic stability control, seat belts and seat belt pre-tensioners to manage the forces of impact. While airbags have been around a long time, they have become a lot more sophisticated.

Always look for front, side, curtain and knee pedestrian airbags for maximum safety. For example, head-protecting side airbags such as curtain airbags, work well in side impact crashes and rollovers.

Safety Assist Technologies

Advanced driver assist (ADAS) technologies actively help to prevent or reduce the severity of a crash. They may be semi-autonomous or fully autonomous. For example, intelligent speed adaptation (ISA), blind spot monitoring (BSM) autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and active lane keep assist (LKA). Note manufacturers currently use different terms for the same kinds of systems, which can be confusing.

Crash Testing

How do we know some cars are safer than others? From the results of crash testing. US Insurance Institute for Highway (IIHS) and Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) are two bodies that routinely conduct crash tests and award star ratings.

IIHS front-end crashed a 1997 Pontiac Trans Sport/Chevrolet Venture. The door frame buckled, the steering wheel pushed into the driver’s face and the cabin completely collapsed. After a redesign in 2005 using high-tensile strength materials and a more rigid structure, crash forces dissipated through the floor. The engine slid under the vehicle rather than into the driver.

ANCAP compared two models of Toyota Corolla 5-door hatchback, one built in 1998 and one in 2015. The latest model has six airbags, ABS, electronic brake force distribution and brake assist as standard. 1998 has none of these. The 1998 model crumpled heavily with extreme risk of serious head, chest and leg injury to driver and scored 0 stars. The 2015 model had minimal damage and scored 5 stars.

Design Saves Lives

Nobody wants to see a member of their family or a friend get hurt in a crash. We know the design of a car is crucial to keeping the driver and occupants safe. Moreover, most insurers reward people who drive safer cars with lower premiums. Safer cars help protect the vulnerable people around you, who are innocently going about their business.

It is worth buying a car that is not only designed to be beautiful, but keeps everyone safe.

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Are you looking to buy a used car to save some money on your next purchase? Some cars don’t retain value well once they are sold. In fact, an average car loses up to 11 percent of its value once it’s driven off the lot. Some cars, however, are known to stand the test of time. Consider the following used car models next time you head out to buy a used vehicle.

2005-2008 Pontiac Vibe

pontiac-vibeImage via Flickr by nixternal

This generation of Pontiac Vibes make a fantastic vehicle for any commuter. The small hatchback car features a generous 19.3 cubic feet of cargo space, but when you fold the back seat down, you’ll get a full 54.1 cubic feet of cargo space, making it a great small car for transporting goods. The better news is that the 2005-2007 models all get up to 36 mpg highway while the 2008 model gets 33 mpg highway, making it a money-saving vehicle on the road.

As if that isn’t good enough, the Pontiac Vibe has been known to last with high miles on it. If you’re looking for one of these vehicles made during these years, aim for the 2007 model if you can as it has received favorable reviews across the board.

2007-2008 Hyundai Sonata

hyundai-sonataImage via Flickr by order_242

The Hyundai Sonata is a vehicle best known for its affordable luxury. With the 2007-2008 models, you’ll find a nice car at a price you can afford. With generous gas mileage — 34 on the 2007 and 31 on the 2008 — and features like heated seats, this comfortable ride will leave you enjoying the commute. While the car does not come with some of the features you’d expect on newer models like navigation and Bluetooth capabilities, it is a comfortable sedan with plenty of trunk space that will deliver a high level of practicality.

2004-2007 Toyota Prius

toyota-priusImage via Flickr by EarlRShumaker

Are you interested in getting a used vehicle with great gas mileage? Known to last for well over 200,000 miles, the 2004-2007 Prius models are a great used car pick for people who want fantastic gas mileage with a long-lasting vehicle. Each model in this range is rated at 60 mpg city and 51 mpg highway, making it a wonderful purchase for people who drive a lot and would like to save money on gas. While prices will vary drastically depending on the condition of the vehicle, you could find a 2004-2007 Toyota Prius for under $10,000. Use a KBB used cars search to find one in your area.

You can also search for used cars on websites like AutoVolo to give you an idea of the price you can expect to pay for specific vehicles.

2005 Volvo S60

The 2005 Volvo S60 is worth checking out if you’re on the market for something cheap yet luxurious. Kelly Blue Book rates the retail value of this car under $5,000, so you could certainly get a great deal. The upside is that it features luxury options like a posh interior and unique Swedish styling. With mpg rated at 29 highway, you’ll get fair gas mileage at a highly affordable initial price. Additional perks include generous trunk space, impressive safety features, and heated seats.

2007 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

chevrolet-silverado-1500Image via Flickr by .Great Grandma & Grandpa T.

If a truck good for transporting heavy items is more your speed, the 2007 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 is a great choice. You’ll get up to 21 mpg highway, which is pretty decent for a truck this size. With active fuel management features, the vehicle gets slightly more enhanced fuel economy than its counterparts. The great thing about the 2007 model is that it came with remodeled updates, so you’ll get a slightly better version than some of the older ones but at the same affordable price.

Whatever type of car you need, buying a used vehicle, whether from a dealer or a private seller, can cut your initial costs drastically. With one of the above mentioned vehicles, you can further save money via great gas mileage while ensuring that you’re getting a long-lasting vehicle. Which type of vehicle are you thinking about getting for your next used car purchase?