One of the most important things you should be considering if youre looking at buying a new, or even second-hand car, is how safe it is.
In the same way its unwise to begin an ascent of Mount Everest only to realise youre terminally afraid of heights, the moment a drunkard slams into the back of your stationary car one rainy night is an unfortunate moment to discover the car you paid thousands of pounds for has all the structural rigidity of a plastic bag.
It really is in your best interest to do a bit of research.
If your car, or the one youre thinking of buying was built after 1997, the odds are that a company called Euro NCAP has purposefully slammed one into a concrete block in the name of safety. There are four categories, adult, child, pedestrian protection and safety assist. For each category, the vehicle can be awarded a maximum of five stars, providing it meets the maximum degree of safety achievable within the limitations of current technology.
In an attempt to encourage investment and innovation from carmakers, the criteria upon which vehicles are judged have been annually re-written since 2009, making this criteria evolution ever harder to achieve the coveted five-star status. Cars that gained five-stars for vehicle safety in 2011 wouldnt necessarily perform as well under 2012s renewed regulations.
Today, a five-star car must achieve an 80% (Up from 70) score on adult protection, and 75% (Also up from 70) on child protection.
It would need to score 60% (Up from 25) on pedestrian protection. More weight has been given to this category in light of Euro NCAPs continuing commitment to improving the safety of pedestrians, in 2007 76% of vehicles tested would have achieved only between two and four stars in this category.
Only eight cars assessed last year meet this years more steadfast requirements; the BMW 1 Series, BMW X1, Ford Focus, Ford Ranger, Mercedes M Class, Nissan LEAF, Subaru XV and Volvo V60.
The constantly evolving requirements present a problem for consumers. Vehicles tested last year may still be marketed as having achieved five-stars, though its more likely that theyd have lost one or even two stars had they been tested more recently.
So just remember, always treat manufacturers claims with a pinch of salt. Head over to Euro NCAPs website to see for yourself.