Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Picks for 2012 Autos

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has announced its Top Vehicle Safety Picks for 2012. There are 18 new picks for a total of 115 winners in the following categories: 69 cars, 38 SUVs, 5 minivans, and 3 pickups. The award recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side, rollover, and rear crashes based on ratings in Institute evaluations. The ratings, which cover all 4 of the most common kinds of crashes, help shoppers pick vehicles that offer the highest levels of crash protection.
Here’s a handy list of the 2012 Top Safety Picks with links to the ratings.
If you will be shopping for a new vehicle, you may also want to consult this list: Insurance Losses by Make & Model. And you will also want to talk to your local insurance agent.

Silent Running: Hybrid Safety

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has weighed in on the safety risks of driving hybrid and electric vehicles. Their conclusion was that hybrid and electric vehicles are more hazardous to pedestrians and cyclists. Electric engines are near silent compared to combustion engines and don’t give the same audible warning as previous cars, especially when traveling at low speeds. Children and the visually impaired are often cited as being the most at risk, and the low noise engines are reported to be putting many pedestrians at higher risk of an automobile collision.
Although new technologies can usher in new risks, moving vehicles have always posed dangers to pedestrians. In 1899, Henry Bliss was run over by an electric cab, giving him the dubious distinction of being the first US auto fatality. But in the same era, horse drawn carriages were taking quite a toll: In New York in1900, 200 pedestrians were killed by horse drawn carriages.
Car manufacturers are reacting to the new threat by adding artificial sounds to hybrid vehicles to warn pedestrians. The Nissan Leaf EV now makes “wooshing” sounds despite its near silent engine, and Ford held a Facebook poll for users to vote on which artificial engine noise their new car should make, having posted a series of potential noises on YouTube. The noises ranged from more traditional engine sounds to futuristic spaceship noises. These fake engine noises are still being rolled out so they may not stick around since reactions appear to be mixed.
While the ostensible danger of silent vehicles is to pedestrians, drivers can also be at risk of not hearing a hybrid, increasing the potential for collisions. Plus, responsible drivers need to be hyper vigilant about the safety implications for pedestrians. Striking a pedestrian is a highly traumatic event that can result in injury or death. Depending on fault, it can also result in criminal charges or lawsuits. The liability portion of your auto insurance offers some financial protection should you strike a pedestrian. According to the Insurance Information Institute, liability insurance is compulsory in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Only New Hampshire does not have a compulsory auto insurance liability law. The chart on this page offers a breakdown of minimal liability limits for auto insurance by state.
If you live in New England and have questions about your auto insurance coverage, why not connect with a Renaissance Alliance insurance agent near you?

True Cost to Own a Vehicle Calculator

The Edmunds True Cost to Own Calculator is a handy tool that will help inform you of the true cost of your next vehicle purchase. The purchase price is not the only indicator of which car is the better deal as sometimes the cheaper car will hit you with other costs down the line. The True Cost to Own Calculator helps reveal those hidden costs.
Here’s how it works. Based on your area and the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price, it then factors in estimates about depreciation, taxes, fees, financing, fuel, maintenance, repairs, and the purpose of this blog, insurance. All estimates are based on a 5 year period with 15,000 miles driven per year. Although these are just estimates it’s educational and often surprising to compare the charts of different makes and models to see what the estimated “True Cost to Own” is.
It’s also good for comparing whether or not that hybrid car you’ve been eying is finally worth it, since in theory the higher purchase price will save you gas in the long run. You might be surprised. The True Cost Calculator helps determine this and reveal other hidden costs.
Insurance is already figured into the tool, but here is a list of the Most and Least Expensive Cars to Insure for 2011. Another factor you might want to consider is susceptibility to theft. Here is a list of the Top 10 Most Stolen in 2010.
Before you purchase your next vehicle be sure to check this tool out – it pays to do a little advance research!

Flood Damaged Vehicle Fraud Prevention

The east coast is still recovering from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, and other heavy rain events. The succession of storms and hurricanes this season have resulted in fleets of vehicles being inoperative from flood damage. Unscrupulous car dealers are notorious for turning around these flood damaged vehicles and selling them to unsuspecting buyers. As a result the National Insurance Crime Bureau has released this list of Flood Vehicle Fraud Prevention Tips.
Here is what they recommend:

  • Select a reputable car dealer.
  • Inspect the vehicle for water stains, mildew, sand or silt under the carpets, floor mats, headliner cloth and behind the dashboard.
  • Check for recently shampooed carpet.
    Inspect the interior upholstery and door panels for fading.
  • Check for rust on screws in the console or areas where water normally doesn’t reach.
  • Check for mud or grit in the spare tire compartment, alternator crevices, behind wiring harnesses, around the small recesses of starter motors, power steering pumps and relays.
  • Check inside the seatbelt retractors by pulling the seatbelt all the way out and inspect for moisture, mildew or grime.
  • Check door speakers as they will often be damaged due to flooding.
  • Have a certified mechanic inspect the vehicle prior to purchasing it.
  • Ask about the vehicle’s history. Ask whether it was in any accidents or floods.
  • Inspect the title and ownership papers for any potential or questionable salvage fraud.
  • Conduct a title search of the vehicle.
  • Look under the hood for signs of oxidation. Pull back rubber boots around electrical and mechanical connections for these indicators: Ferrous materials will show signs of rust, Copper will show a green patina.
  • Aluminum and alloys will have a white powder and pitting.
  • Trust your instincts: If you don’t like the answers or the deal sounds too good to be true, walk away!

If you are concerned the vehicle you are looking at may have been declared salvage from flood damage, you may want to check out our previous post, Consumer alert: don’t buy a flood-damaged car for specific ways to confirm this, such as researching your car’s Vehicle Identification Number for a history report. Also if you discover a car dealer who is committing this type of fraud, make sure you inform the NICB at 800-TEL-NICB.

Even if you aren’t shopping for a vehicle you should be concerned about the aggressive flooding this year. According to The Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory the Atlantic Hurricane Season lasts until November 30th, meaning there is still a chance of even more flooding that could affect your car your home.
Take steps to protect your property. Your car insurance may cover more than you think but homeowners beware: flood damage is not covered by most homeowners policies, you would require special flood coverage. Contact your insurance agent to ensure that your vehicle and your home are protected against any future flood damage before it’s too late.

Consumer Reports: best cars for teens and seniors

If you’re planning to buy a new car for your college-bound student, your first thought might be to shuffle the vehicle deck to give them grandma’s car or your car, and then purchase a replacement. But experts say you might want to think twice about a strategy like that. Newer cars have all the latest safety features, a very important consideration four younger, less experienced drivers.
Before making any decisions, you might want to check with recent recommendations from Consumer Reports. On their Car Blog, they feature a video and a post talking about considerations when buying cars for teens and seniors. They offer their recent picks for the best car options in various classes for each population. Also see their picks for Small drivers and Tall drivers).
In their post, they make some other important points about teen drivers:

Many states have graduated licensing programs that progress teens through a series of steps to achieve the full freedom of driving, by restricting driving hours, passengers, and cell-phone usage. Even if your state doesn’t have such a program in place, you can implement one at home. Studies have shown that there are biological risk factors that diminish as your teen becomes a young adult, signaling immaturity as a significant concern. Limiting risks when the teen is 16 and even 17 years old can increase the chances of responsible, accident-free driving.

They also cite a prior post about teen defensive driving schools. This is a great idea to help your teen learn how to practice and prepare for emergency situations. Plus, it may help you to save money. Ask your insurance agent about any available auto insurance credits, such as Good Student, Advanced Driver Training, or Motor Club Credits.