Looking for a SAFE cheap car

I was in a bad car crash a week ago. The frame of my 1999 Camry saved my life. The car was totaled and I won’t be getting much for it. I might be able to add one or two thousand to what I get. I think I might have about $5,000 to $6,000 to spend.

Understandable, my biggest priority is the best car that will protect me in an accident. Anyone have any suggestions? Thanks.

Sounds like the Camry proved itself. Why not try to find another one? You probably can’t do much better safety-wise for the $$ you have to spend.

A used Volvo is probably the safest car you will able to afford. But considering your Camry saved your life, why not see if you can get another used Camry in your price range?

Make sure you get full value for the car that was wrecked - especially if the accident was not your fault (or even if it was your fault, but you have collision insurance on this car, which I doubt was the case). Don’t accept the insurance company’s valuation until you see what the car is worth. Key factors are (aside from the year, make and model) the condition of the car, the options (power windows, auto tranny, etc.) and the mileage. Older Toyotas in good shape appearance-wise with relatively low mileage (under 100,000 is pretty good) hold their value pretty well, and in some cases are sought out.
I’d put a little work in at maxing out your settlement from the insurance company and see if you could buy the same car, maybe a little newer.
A Volvo might be safer than a Camry for the same money, but it is not a Toyota in terms of quality.

Pretty much any car newer than the 2000 model year will be even safer than your Camry apparently was.
So, if your Camry protected you well, you can look forward to even better safety from something newer.

I would suggest that you concentrate on finding a reliable car made in the last 8 years or so, and you should be fine in terms of safety–no matter what make of car it might be.

Collision was the other guy’s fault. I have collision, not that I need it in this situation. I like your advice on not necessarily accepting the insurance co.'s valuation until I see what the car is worth. Other than the Blue Book, how does one figure that out? The Camry had slightly over 80,000 miles on it.

If I don’t get a settlement for the Camry that gives me enough for another one, I’m thinking I’ll have to go smaller. Does anyone know hoe the Yaris is for safety? It’s so much smaller… but how’s the frame on it? Anyone know? Honestly, if I never had to get into a car again, that would be fine with me.

Generally smaller means less safe. That does not mean a small car is unsafe. My first car was a Sunbeam Imp. It was small, 1200 pounds rear engine. I sold that car about five years later to an employee of mine. He can into work the next day with a scratch on his head and a sore shoulder. He had fallen asleep at the wheel and ran into a parked full size car at 70 MPH. As I recall the Yaris has not been highly rated for safety.

However, I would put the drivers, skill and commitment to safe driving is more important than the specific car.

“I like your advice on not necessarily accepting the insurance co.'s valuation until I see what the car is worth. Other than the Blue Book, how does one figure that out? The Camry had slightly over 80,000 miles on it.”

I’ve had experience with this several times with total loss accidents. Go shopping for your own car ! Go online, clip newspaper ads, go to car lots. Find similar make / model / miles cars similarly equipped and with with low miles like your’s. If you can’t find ones with only 80,000 miles, but the selling price is desirable, then use those and argue the price up because of the difference in miles. Pretend that you are going to replace your Camry with an almost identical car. Get descriptions and selling prices in writing.

If you’ve done recent repairs, maintenance, bought tires, etcetera, dig out receipts. These things can help show that your car was in good condition or well-maintained.

kizwiki has given you good advice. Reread those comment, too. The insurance adjuster’s job is to save the insurance company money. Your job will be to get more of their money. The settlement is somewhat (quite) negotiable. Don’t take their first (or second ?) settlement offer. Let them know that your car was more valuable (better condition, lower miles, etcetera).

Good luck,

I was in your situation when we had a car that was totaled. This was in November of 1995 and the car was a 1988 Ford Taurus. The insurance company of the party that hit the car wanted to settle for $3125. I checked prices in my area for comparable cars and the prices were running between $3800 and $4100. I called the dealer that knew my car and he said that if the car were on his lot, he wouldn’t take less than $4000 for the car.
I had a rather heated discussion with the insurance adjuster. He told me that he had a computer printout that gave “market” value for cars. I told him that market value was what I would have to pay for a replacement. I suggested that he locate an equivalent car at a dealer and get a guaranteed price from the dealer. I told him that I would then either take the car or take the cash. The adjuster then informed me that he did not go shopping. I informed him that if I had to spend my time shopping, I would charge for my time. At that time, I was gettng $150 per hour for consulting work. The adjuster then said, “I don’t have to listen to this crap”, and hung up the telephone. I had a rental car furnished by his company, so I really didn’t care how long it took to settle up. The next day the adjuster called and said, “We have to get together on this car”. I replied, “Young man, I want two things from you: 1) an apology from you for your conduct on the telephone yesterday; and 2) $4000 for the Taurus that your insured party destroyed”. He replied, “I am putting a check in the mail for $4000 today. When you receive the check, send us the title to the Taurus”. He then hung up, so my batting average was .500.

When looking for a safe car for my teenager, I used this site:
It combines available safety test information into an overall score, and ranks the cars. You can look up used cars, too. I would get nothing smaller than your Camry, size does matter. And Volvos, while safe, are no safer than many other cars these days.

Thanks so much…

Consumer Reports article in their April auto issue, 2010, summarizes safety information for various makes and models. Start there.

Thanks. As far as “commitment to safe driving is more important than the specific car” goes, I see it through the lens of my accident. That accident was the worst kind- totally random. Safe driving didn’t have much to do with it. The water on the roads had quickly turned to black ice because the sun went down and the temp dipped from just above 32 to just below 32. It was rush hour and I am quite sure no one was aware we were all driving on sheer ice. A large pickup truck coming the other way spun out of control and went into my lane. I had enough time to think, “Oh NO!!!” before I crashed into it.

If you are considering a Yaris, have a look at the Nissan Versa. I have one and it is nearly 400 lbs. heavier than the Yaris sedan, and it might be a bit more solid if you get hit again. While a bit clownish looking because of it’s height, it is comfortable and a hell of a lot easier to get in and out of than the Yaris (I’m 6’-1" and a lot of my height is in my upper body). It is cheap, and mine runs very well! I looked at a Yaris, and I found that getting in and out of it without hitting my head was very difficult.

Stick with intermediate cars, given your concerns and your success with the Camry. One other ‘must have’ is side airbags, make sure whatever you buy has them.

Does one have to be a paying member of Consumer Reports to see that document, do you know? I live on a shoe string.

You can read it at a library.

Oh that’s right… Thanks.

5 grand should get a decent Ford Taurus or Chevy Malibu/Impala. Japanese cars may hold up well, but in your price range you’ll get an older, higher mileage one for the same price as a newer, lower mileage, domestic vehicle. Check into used Hyundais as well, they might be an even better deal than the domestics.
In response to kizwiki’s idea on the used Volvo, Volvo’s WERE the safest cars 20 or 30 years ago, now most have caught up, or surpassed, them. Also, if you find a $5k Volvo, expect to spend that each year to keep it running, they do NOT age well at all.

2006 Hyundai Accent GLS Sedan.

Good ratings and 10,100K waranty