You may not know that insurance companies sometimes offer discounts on premiums if your car or truck comes equipped with certain safety features. Add-ons such as airbags and crash-resistant doors, for example, can lead to potential savings in the hundreds of dollars per year. Ratings are made for each make and model, and are established by independent, impartial vehicle safety organizations. You may not automatically be offered a discount, so it's up to you to ask.
The two rating organizations are the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). If you're evaluating car makes based on safety--for both new and used vehicles--the NHTSA offers rankings on a range from one to four stars on its website. The IIHS site allows consumers to view a side-by-side comparison of safety features that result from tests they conduct on many automobile makes and models.
Choosing for Safety and Insurance Discounts
Vehicle safety ratings often take into consideration size, weight, restraint systems, traction control, structural crash worthiness, and tires. Insurance companies may slash premiums by as much as 5 percent for positive safety ratings. Driver and passenger airbags are now required on all cars and trucks under federal law, so don't expect a discount just because you have them. But choosing vehicles that have side airbags may help. Here are five features to consider if they offered as standard equipment or as options when you buy a car or truck:
Popular ratings organizations such as Consumer Reports often publish annual safety reports and ratings of the safest automobile models on the road. The vehicles are broken down into categories of passenger vans and minivans, upscale sedans and SUVs, family sedans, compact cars, pickup trucks, regular SUVs, and high-performance cars.
Insurance companies prefer factory installed safety equipment to after-market gear. While having a top-rated safe car or choosing vehicles with exceptional safety equipment won't necessarily reduce your premiums, it's a good idea to check with your agent on rates and features before deciding on your purchase. Ultimately, roads are only as safe as the people who drive on them.
Gabby Hyman has created online strategies and written content for Fortune 500 companies including eToys, GoTo.com, Siebel Systems, Microsoft Encarta, Avaya, and Nissan UK.
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