Motor vehicle recalls dominated the news in 2014, and 2015 has also seen its share of large auto recalls. In fact, 2014 was a record year for vehicle recalls. This knowledge is enough to make anyone hesitate before purchasing a new or used vehicle. How do you know your car is really safe?
Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to determine a vehicle’s safety both before and after you buy.
IIHS Safety Awards
Each year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) publishes a comprehensive list of “top picks” for a broad range of vehicles, ranging from large family cars and minicars to midsize luxury SUVs and minivans.
The IIHS bases its criteria on two factors: crashworthiness and crash avoidance and mitigation. To evaluate crashworthiness, the IIHS rates vehicles in five areas: moderate overlap front, small overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also rates vehicles based on safety and performance. The NHTSA bases its rating criteria on four areas: front crash, side crash, rollover, and resistance. Vehicles are rated using on a five-star ratings system, with a one-star vehicle earning the lowest safety rating and a five-star vehicle receiving the highest rating possible from the NHTSA.
If you already own a vehicle, or you plan to purchase a used car, you can also use the NHTSA website to search for recalls applicable to a specific vehicle. The NHTSA’s website features a search tool that allows consumers to enter their car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to retrieve a list of past and current recalls. You can also sign up for email alerts that notify you of new recalls.