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Best safety for the money

Dear Car Talk,
Senior looking for Safety
I am a retired senior looking for a new car. I drive less than 8,000 miles a year usually short trips. But several times a year I need to drive over an hour to the airport to visit family. The road to the airport is a high speed 70 MPH highway which everybody exceeds. I would like to know what is the least expensive car or SUV the most latest safety features. (What is the safest car/suv for the money)
Tom Bart MD, FL

Tom, there are almost no unsafe vehicles being sold anymore. Just go to every manufactures web site and use the build your own feature . You can see what a vehicle looks like different trims and the prices .
Besides what I call the best for the dollar you might not even want to be seen it.


Volvo is right. No more really bad vehicles in the common classes like midsized sedans and two-row crossovers. That said, I do find that Toyota has the best safety content on its base trims. I have tested Toyotas such as the compact $20K Corolla hatchback that had more active safety systems than the BMW I tested the following week costing $60K. Toyota was the first automaker to adopt active safety in all trims on all its new vehicles. Nissan also has a simplified way of signaling to drivers that its models have all the current safety systems.

Here’s what the IIHS has say:

The safest way to get to the airport is by bus.


Coming at this from a slightly different perspective…if your primary concern is safety on these infrequent high-speed trips, maybe consider renting a new car with all the safety features you’re wanting, just for these trips?

While I think that a safe car is a must-have in any driving situation (highway or no), if $$$ is really an issue and you’ve got a semi-dependable daily driver now, maybe consider this approach for the short/medium term

If safety is a priority, I strongly suggest that you make sure you end up with a backup camera, blind-spot monitor, and rear-cross-traffic monitor. The other nanny features might add some measure of additional safety, but in my opinion these are the most valuable ones, especially for a senior.

Aren’t trains and rail mass transit safer than buses?

I don’t know where “MD, FL” is, unless the OP is referring to Florida’s (judicial) Middle District.

The OP drives to the airport on those long trips, then flies to visit family. I’d take a taxi or Uber/Lyft to the airport.

I wonder if the OP is a medical doctor and lives in Florida.

That’s practical in places like South Florida, where you’re always relatively close to one of three international airports, but in a place like Jacksonville, you can live inside the city limits and the only airport can be as far as 40 miles away. Using Lyft, that ride will cost at as much as $42, not including a gratuity.

Even if the OP did this trip weekly, at $50 per trip it would still be an order of magnitude cheaper than a new car.

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The figure I cited was the cost of a one-way trip. For a round trip, you should double your estimate, which would still be less expensive than owning a car and paying for airport parking, so your point is still valid.

Because my mother’s vision problems now keep her from driving (thankfully, her decision), I made a similar case to my mother, that she’d have to take a lot of Lyft trips (since she uses Lyft rather than Uber) before she spends as much on Lyft as she does on payments and insurance on her car.

When we used to fly out of town for vacations, I’d look at the satellite parking cost for the period we’d be gone and compare that to the cost of paying for a ride. At the time, I had oodles of miles on an airline with a hub about 60 miles from my house. The cheapest way to get transportation for five on a 14 day trip was to rent a limo. These days, we just get one of our daughters to drive us to the airport and pick us up. We do it for them too. A cruise ship out of Baltimore is pretty close and we do the same thing there, too.

We live around 50 miles from LAX. Used to park long-term and shop around for the best rate online when we would go on vacation. Now, Uber usually would cost anywhere from $50-75 based on the traffic/etc. It is a wash for a 2 week vacation with the added bonus that I don’t have to worry about a flat tire/accident on the way there, no worries about the parking being full (the reservations don’t mean much), an no need to overdose on coffee on the trip back (with jet lag/etc) to be able to drive home safely.

I would argue that just about any car made within the past 25 years is plenty safe, assuming it was properly maintained and has no rust or body damage. I would also argue that the most important safety feature in any new car isn’t installed at the factory–it’s the person behind the wheel!

If you drive sensibly, pay attention to your surroundings, and resist the temptation to play with your cellphone while driving, even a car from the early to mid 1990’s is plenty safe. If you drive aggressively, drive under the influence of drugs/alcohol, or allow distractions such as texting and driving, then even the newest car with all the latest safety features is going to be a death trap for you.