It doesn’t matter if you’re buying used or new, understanding car safety is vital for all drivers.

Car safety is important regardless of the vehicle you drive. Here are four essential components to examine when considering the overall safety of a vehicle.

1. Brakes and Suspension

When you test-drive a vehicle, you can tell if the brakes or suspension need work from how it feels during the ride, but you should also visually check the components. Look at the condition of the brake pads and rotors. Often, you can see them through the wheels or when you turn the steering wheel so the rear of the tire is facing away from the vehicle. The pads should have plenty of life left on them and the rotors should not be scored. Check the struts or shocks by bouncing the vehicle up and down. When you stop bouncing, the vehicle should only bounce one or two more times.

2. Active Features

Some active safety features cannot be tested in a typical test drive, and that includes emergency braking. When you do take the car for a test drive, however, you can check the blind-spot systems, rear view cameras, lane-departure warning, and road-departure mitigation. To check lane-departure warning and road-departure mitigation, see if the lights illuminate when changing lanes without a blinker.

3. Tires

You don’t necessarily need to check the tires on a brand new vehicle, but you should check them on a used vehicle, even one that is only a year old. Look for air pockets in the sidewalls, which denote a separated tire. If you notice shaking in the steering wheel at low speeds—about five to ten mph—it may mean a tire is separated.

Additionally, check the tread depth and wear. If the tread is worn on one side only, have a dealership or mechanic check the alignment and suspension. If the tread is worn evenly on both sides or is worn in the center of the tire, that means the tire was under-inflated or over-inflated, respectively.

4. Security

Security features are designed especially for your safety. If the vehicle has perimeter lights, vehicle alarms, a security system, or remote start, be sure to check they’re all working properly.

You’ll also need to check the turn signals. Don’t forget the turn signals that are integrated in the door mirrors, if applicable. Check the taillights, brake lights, and the headlights as well. For your automatic headlights try pulling into a darkened garage or tunnel to check them as well. If the sun is in the right position, automatic headlights will even come on in a carport.

Car safety is key. Never just assume a vehicle is working properly, even when new. Be sure to give your potential car a good test drive and thoroughly check all the features. It’s also a good idea to read through the owner’s manual so you’re aware of which features your car should have.

Traci Benoit

About the AuthorTraci Benoit

I'm an automotive copywriter with more than 10 years of professional writing experience. I've written automotive content, articles, how-tos, magazine articles, sales copy and more. I have more than 15 years of professional hands-on experience in the automotive industry.