Buying a used car doesn’t mean that you have to give up safety. For example, the advanced skid prevention technology, electronic stability control (ESC), has been standard on all models since 2012. And ESC appeared on many cars years before that.

Interestingly, some safety systems, like inflatable seat belts, might not be the best option in certain cases. Let’s look at some important safety features you should keep in mind when shopping for a used car.

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Air Bags

Since the late 1990s, front air bags have been standard on all vehicles. If you have children, they shouldn’t sit in the front seat, as airbag deployment can cause serious injury or even death. Starting in 2007, front air bags come with a seat detection system that powers-down or deactivates the airbag if an occupant is small or too close to the dashboard.

Side airbags usually pop out of doors and curtain air bags drop from the ceiling. These features can be found on many models even those several years old.

Electronic Stability Control

This system has proven to be so useful that it’s now standard across all models. However, if the car you are considering was made before 2012, ask specifically about this safety feature. ESC uses special sensors to automatically brake specific wheels to stop cars from spinning or sliding out of control. This system has been shown to reduce rollover risk especially in top heavy vehicles such as SUVs.

Inflatable Safety Belts

Introduced by Ford in 2011, these devices are like airbags built into the seat belt. They work by diffusing impact force over a wider area which is especially important for children and older adults. However, if you are using child safety seats, you should check with the manufacturer to make sure there’s no compatibility problem. There is some controversy surrounding inflatable safety belts since almost no car seats are designed or tested in consideration of this safety feature.

The best bet for children’s car seats is the LATCH system which uses an anchor and tether mechanism. In every case, bring along the seat you plan to use and make sure it fits well into any used car you might buy.

Brake Assist

If you suddenly brake fast and hard, brake assist sensors will employ 100% braking in conjunction with your vehicle’s anti-lock braking mechanism (ABS). Most drivers in emergency situations don’t brake hard enough, and this led car makers to develop this system. Brake assist became standard on all Mercedes-Benz models in 1998, and now most makes and models have incorporated this feature.

More recently, enhanced systems employ cameras, radar, and/or lasers to detect if an obstacle is coming up too fast. Then the brake assist kicks in automatically, even if the driver doesn’t brake.

Other Features To Consider

Even though the above mentioned safety measures are the most important, many other features can be found on used cars such as:

  • Tire pressure monitor – automatically detects if tire pressure is too low.
  • Blind spot and lane change warnings – alert you if a car is in your blind spot or if you are about to collide upon changing lanes. Advanced versions even automatically steer you back into your lane.
  • Active head restraints – headrests adjust upon collision to diminish impact and prevent whiplash.

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