Buying a new safe car these days is easier than ever, as ever-more features become standardized across the US fleet, such as head/torso side airbags, electronic stability control, and good front, side, and roof scores. However, if you’re on a budget, the search does become significantly more challenging. Fortunately, there are safe cars available at every budget that are worth considering if you are invested in keeping yourself and your loved ones safe on the road. Here are my recommendations for the safest cars you’re likely to find for $7,000 or less as of May 2014. Prices are based on private party prices in the Chicago Craigslist. I’ll post similar lists for minivans and SUVs soon.
2003-2004 Infiniti G35
The G35 has one of the lowest driver death rates (DDR) ever calculated at 11, which rivals those of the newest vehicles on the road today. It came standard with ESC from 2003. It also comes with front and rear head curtain airbags and front torso airbags. It also comes with ABS. It also has a “good” frontal score, as does every vehicle on this list.
The downsides of the G35 are that it can be a bit expensive to maintain, even though it’s much cheaper to keep on the road than something like a Mercedes (next), Volkswagen, Audi, or Volvo. It also doesn’t come with a side impact score, although it would likely receive an “acceptable” or “marginal” score, based on the “acceptable” score of the 2006 G35, which had a reinforced side structure.
There are 30 currently listed in the Chicago Craigslist between $4000 and $7000.
2003-2004 Mercedes E-Class (e.g., E 500 or E 320)
The E Class makes another appearance on the safest car list because of the plethora of features it contains. It has a DDR of 14. It comes with a “good” frontal score, front and rear head curtain airbags, front torso airbags, a rollover sensor, ESC, ABS, and DRL. On paper, it’s the safest car on this list. It is also the only vehicle in this list to feature the rollover sensor, where the side airbags are deployed when the computer senses an imminent rollover.
The primary downside to the Mercedes–well, to every Mercedes–is maintenance. You really need to know how to fix these or know someone who can do so cheaply, or you might easily spend the value of the car yearly in repairs. Besides that, it would also likely have received an “acceptable” or “marginal” side score due to the 2006 E Class receiving an “acceptable” score.
There are 2 currently listed in the Chicago Craigslist between $4000 and $7000.
2004 Audi A4 / S4
The A4 / S4 makes a well-deserved appearance on this list due to its low DDR of 14 and rich range of safety features. It comes with a “good” frontal score, front and rear head curtain airbags, front torso airbags, ESC, ABS, and DRL.
The primary downside to the Audi–well, to every Audi–is maintenance. You really need to know how to fix these or know someone who can do so cheaply, or you might easily spend the value of the car yearly in repairs.
There are 16 currently listed in the Chicago Craigslist between $4000 and $7000.
2004 Lexus ES 330
The ES 330 joins the safety list with its DDR of 18. It comes with a “good” frontal score, front and rear head curtain airbags, front torso airbags, ABS, and DRL. However, it does not come standard with ESC, which is relegated to an option. It is, however, the only vehicle on this list with an actual side impact score, which was “good.”
The main disadvantages to the ES 330 include its lack of ESC as a standard feature. It does have the advantage of being the vehicle least likely to need repairs on this list.
There is 1 currently listed in the Chicago Craigslist between $4000 and $7000.
Stay tuned for future posts investigating the safety of minivans and SUVs in the next price range. When it comes to keeping your family safe, driving safely and having safety gear is important. However, it is essential to make sure the vehicle you’re driving has the crashworthiness necessary to protect you in the event of a collision. If this list is helpful, share it with your friends and family to keep them safe.
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