Buying a car can be exciting for anyone, it’s also an expensive purchase so you want to make sure that you make the right decision. Before deciding on a model it could be helpful to make a list of features that are important to you and another one of the items that you are willing to compromise. Safety should be one of the priorities on your list, especially on older models, a car’s safety features could protect you in case of an accident or could help you prevent one. These are some tips to help you determine if a used car is safe to buy.

Get an Independent Inspection

If you’re buying a used car from someone you know or at a dealership, you should always have it inspected by a mechanic before you purchase it. A mechanic will be able to determine if there are any serious issues with the car and how much would it cost you to fix them, this will help you make an informed decision about your purchase. If the seller objects to an independent inspection, consider this a red flag that there may be something wrong with the car they don’t want you to find.

Check for Recalls

Check the NHTSA website for any defective parts or recalls of the car you are considering purchasing. Make sure that a defective component hasn’t caused any serious accidents or injuries. You can also check on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the NHTSA sites for reports on crash tests and how they rate the vehicle. Some vehicles have serious recalls such as ignition problems or defective tires, that could cause a serious car accident. If a defective product causes an accident you may be able to hold the manufacturer liable with the help of a personal injury lawyer, but it’s always important to check if a car is safe before purchasing it.

Go Beyond a Standard Test Drive

A standard test drive will take you around the block and give you a short ride to try out a car. Try taking a longer test drive and think about how much time you will spend in the car. Consider things like are the seats comfortable, is it easy to drive and park in tight spaces, how will it handle traveling at high speeds or during traffic. If you live somewhere with extreme heat or snow, check if the A/C will work well during these intense summer or winter months.

Get a Vehicle History Report

If you’re buying a used car it’s important to get a vehicle history report. This report will tell you about the car’s accident history, title status, mileage, and more. Severe structural damage suffered during a crash or if an airbag was deployed will usually be listed in the report. If there is severe damage listed, have an independent mechanic assess the quality of the repairs and to look for any additional damage. A vehicle history report is another tool to help you decide about a car’s quality and safety before purchasing it.

Check for Standard Safety Equipment

If you’re buying an older car check what safety equipment it comes with and if it’s functioning correctly. Older models may not be equipped with the same safety technology as newer models. Research about features such as front and side airbags, anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control. If the car is not equipped with the basic features you may want to reconsider purchasing it. You may be saving money on an older model, but will risk suffering serious injuries in the event of a car accident.

Compare several models and make sure you take enough time to weigh your options. A car is an expensive purchase that shouldn’t be taken lightly, make sure safety is one of the priorities on your list when deciding on what model to buy.