Turn to IIHS 2016 Top Safety Picks when shopping for a new car

crash-testsIf you’re in the market for a new car, here’s an invaluable research tool: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Picks for 2016. There are a lot of new vehicle features and amenities that are fun to shop for and compare, but what’s more important than safety? Fortunately, IIHS has you covered. They issue annual awards that emphasize both crash avoidance and “crashworthiness,” or how a vehicle will fare when put through actual crash tests. For 2016, IIHS picked 61 cars for Top Safety Pick and 48 of those qualified for Top Safety+, the highest award. Here’s the criteria and a short video about the awards.

To qualify for 2016 Top Safety Pick, a vehicle must earn good ratings in five crashworthiness tests — small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints — as well as a basic rating for front crash prevention.

To qualify for 2016 Top Safety Pick+, a vehicle must earn good ratings in the five crashworthiness tests and an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.


The IIHS offers a variety of resources to help you in your research. Here are a few that we found particularly helpful.

Insurance losses by make and model

Driver death rates by make and model

Choosing the best vehicle for your teen

“A list of affordable used vehicles that meet important safety criteria for teen drivers. There are two tiers of recommended vehicles, best choices and good choices. Prices range from about $3,000 to nearly $20,000, so parents can buy the most safety for their money, whatever their budget.”

Crash avoidance features by make and model

Crash avoidance features are rapidly making their way into the vehicle fleet. Six of the most common new technologies are forward collision warning, autobrake, lane departure warning, lane departure prevention, adaptive headlights and blind spot detection. IIHS offers a tool to find out which models come with which features.

Presidents’ Day Car Buying – Bargains, Research & Shopping Tips

Presidents’ Day weekend is traditionally a big car buying time. Manufacturers and dealers roll out incentives and discounts galore to lure buyers into a purchase. Is it really a good time for consumers to buy? The best time to buy is when you can afford it and when you’ve done your research. Rather than acting impulsively on any of the deals, you should plan your budget, your purchase goals, and do your research in advance – then, if any deals coincide with your pre-established budget, criteria, and goals – terrific!
Step by Step: Buying a new car – a good guide from Consumer Reports that covers choosing a car, what to expect at the dealership, getting the best price on your new car and your trade in, financing tips, closing the deal, and post-sale tips.
Safercar.gov Vehicle Shoppers – Consumer resources from the U.S. Department of Transportation, including 5 Star Ratings, which measure the crash worthiness and rollover safety of vehicles. Five stars is the highest rating, one is the lowest. The site also offers information on child safety, tire safety, safety technologies, and other topics.
Watch out for scams
One other thing to watch out for: The head of Consumer Affairs in Boston says to be on the alert for questionable fees. “NewsCenter 5’s Susan Wornick obtained the results of a new state surveyin which state regulators, posing as consumers, called 180 car dealers across the state and found 130 charged some questionable fees that can drive up the final cost by hundreds or even more than $1,000.”
Just another reason not to rush into things!
Other car-buying research tools
Consumer Reports: Step-by-step: Buying a used car
Edmunds True Cost to Own Vehicle Calculator
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Picks for 2012 Autos
Myths and Truths About Timing Your car Purchase

Car shoppers: Watch out for flood-damaged cars

News reports from various states are warning car-buying consumers to be alert for vehicles that were damaged by Superstorm Sandy. In states directly affected by the flood, authorities are issuing alerts and consumer guidance – New Jersey state officials remind us that Sandy-flooded cars can be resold, but they must be properly been titled as such.
Car-buying consumers in other states should also be wary because damaged cars are often professionally refurbished and shipped to other parts of the country to be sold where consumers are unlikely to be on alert. We’ve noted before that even when cars “clean up nice,” they may well have electrical or engine damage that will surface later – this is particularly true of salt-water damage.
The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission offers the following sensible steps that used car buyers should take before making a purchase:

  • Check the vehicle’s title history and be wary if the vehicle has been titled multiple times over a short time period.
  • Obtain a vehicle history report from the dealer, or get one yourself from a reputable source; this will let you know if the car has been damaged in the past.
  • Look for an insurance company’s name on the title history, and contact the company for vehicle information.

The NJ MVC also offers ways to spot a flood damage car:

  • A musty or moldy smell or the strong scent of a deodorizer all over the car
  • Rust on metal parts where water would not normally touch
  • Water-stained upholstery or water damage on the door panels or seat belts
  • Mildew, silt or debris in areas around the engine compartment, under the carpeting or in the trunk.

For more tips on avoiding flood-damaged cars, see our prior Consumer alert: don’t buy a flood-damaged car which we issued after the 2010 floods in Rhode Island.

New fuel labels on 2013 cars will help consumers save

This is a guest post by Ross Insurance Agency, one of the insurance agency members of Renaissance Alliance.
The introduction of new cars every spring and summer is an annual rite of passage.Potential buyers eagerly watch for new models, makes, technologies, and innovations – as well as for the new price tag. Increasingly, one of the important features that consumers look for is good fuel economy and “green” technologies that help to minimize the vehicle’s impact on the environment. This year, consumers will have a helpful new tool to help with these concerns when buying a new car.
Beginning with 2013 models, all new vehicles will feature a revamped fuel economy and environmental impact label. The new labels were developed by the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency. They represent a major change designed to give consumers actionable information, more comparison tools, and better benchmarks for potential savings.
The big number in the label’s upper left is combined mileage, while city and highway mileage is included in smaller type. There is also information about the mileage range for all cars of that class so if you are buying a mid-size car,you can see the range of options and how this specific car stacks up. Another useful feature on the upper right of the label is an estimate of the additional money you will save or spend on fuel over a five year period. The label also includes an estimated annual fuel cost,and rates the vehicle for environmental impact. Finally, the label also includes a QR Code which will launch much more detailed information and additional tools if you have downloaded a scanner app on your smartphone.
There are also new labels for hybrids and electric vehicles that offer additional information specific to those vehicles, such as driving ranges. And for skeptics who think that these alternative fuel vehicles are a passing fad, a quick glance at a sample label for the electric vehicles is pretty eye-opening: An annual fuel cost of $600? Wow.
If you buy a new car this year, make sure you get the best coverage for your auto insurance in Massachusetts – look for a Renaissance Alliance Agency!

What to do if you buy a lemon

“Lemon” is the generally accepted term for a defective car or a car with recurring mechanical problems that interfere with use. While many experts say that contemporary car manufacturing quality standards make it less likely that you would buy a new lemon, it’s certainly not out of the question. Edmunds has a good article on what to do if you think you’ve been stuck with a lemon.
Consumers are in luck today with the wealth or resources online. First, research can and should start in the buying process because preventing problems is always better than dealing with them after the fact. Buyers can research car reviews, dealerships, consumer complaints. For used cars, buyers should do a VINCheck and a vehicle history search and in the case of used cars. (See our post on avoiding flood damaged cars).
If problems do occur after purchase, your warranty and your dealer is the first place to turn. Document your attempts to have things fixed, including any out-of-pocket costs and time that are involved. If problems continue, it’s much easier to research things online today to see if your problem is common and to check with manufacturers. There are also a variety of ways to learn about vehicle recalls. But if all else fails, most states offer some type of consumer remedies under what is known as “lemon laws.”
State laws vary as to whether they cover both new and used cars, and most require that the car was purchased in that state and with a warranty. Cars that are purchased under an “as is” agreement would generally not be covered. Plus, states have various gating issues before any remedies would kick in: the buyer must have tried to resolve the issue in various ways before being eligible for consumer protection. According to Edmunds:

State laws vary in what constitutes a “persistent” problem or the “reasonable” number of repair attempts that would get you over the border into lemon territory. In Connecticut and New York, for example, four repair attempts is the state standard for “reasonable,” according to Connecticut attorney Sergei Lemberg, whose site, Lemon Justice, can help determine if you’ve got a lemon. But in Massachusetts, the law requires three attempts to repair the same problem in the first 15,000 miles — and one last attempt to get the manufacturer to address the defect after that.

Here are links to state lemon laws for New England states.
Connecticut Lemon Law Program
Maine Lemon Law and State Arbitration
Massachusetts Lemon laws
New Hampshire Lemon Laws
Rhode Island Lemon Law
Vermont’s Lemon Law