Cars Are Safer Than Ever, But…
February 15th, 2016
Here’s the good news. If you have the misfortune of being in a collision in a later-model car, your chances of survival are better than ever. For a long time, people thought that the mass of sheet metal and drivetrain in a 60s or 70s-era car inherently kept the driver and passengers safer. That’s now been definitively proven wrong.
Vintage cars have been crash-tested with newer, much smaller and lighter vehicles, and it’s the vintage cars that always come out much worse in these encounters. With no seatbelts, no airbags, no padded surfaces, old-style safety glass and doors that could pop open and eject the occupants, older cars were pretty lethal, really. With 50s-era cars in particular, their rigid frames and bodies might hold up fairly well in a collision…but the passengers, not so much.
Newer cars, on the other hand, are designed with airbags for front and side impacts, protecting occupants as they’re knocked around in the vehicle. They also feature crumple zones of sheet metal and frame members that give way easily to absorb the tremendous energy of a collision before it can be transmitted to the passenger compartment. In addition, with vehicle stability control and antilock brakes, it’s easier to avoid a collision in today’s vehicles. Volvo, in particular, is so proud of their safety record that they promise a “deathproof” car by the year 2020 – one in which no passengers will die in a collision.
When it comes to buying (or hanging onto) a car that’s been in a collision, though, it’s a different story.
If you’re lucky, you’ll end up with no bigger problems than a door that won’t open and shut quite right, or some painted body panels that don’t quite match and look correct. The impact of a collision, though, can lead to a lot of other problems. It can stress or break motor and transmission mounts, or cause internal problems with the transmission or drivetrain components like the differential, U-joints or CV joints. Front-end impact might bend the radiator core support and other underhood structures, damaging engine assemblies or resulting in a hood that never lines up and shuts right. A car with frame damage may never drive or handle properly and may “dog-track” down the road, constantly skewed somewhat from a straight line. Even if the frame is straightened on a straightening machine, it might never be quite the same again.
Vehicles with unibody construction, where the frame and body are one assembly, tend to come out worse in a collision. The crumple zones of a unibody vehicle, even if they’ve been repaired, are permanently weakened and may fold up unpredictably if the vehicle is ever in another collision.
If your car’s been in a collision, however minor, and you decide to hang onto it, remember that all collision info is now reported through Carfax and your vehicle’s resale value will take a serious hit. It doesn’t take much of a collision to cause these kinds of problems – even a hit at about 20 mph can be enough for an insurer to call the vehicle a total loss. Total loss generally means a repair cost that’s 75-90 percent of the vehicle’s resale value.
On the other hand, if you do a complete and thorough checkup of the vehicle before buying, a car with a salvage title can present a fairly good deal (as long as the vehicle wasn’t flooded!). Just be aware of what you’re getting into with one.
If you’re buying a vehicle that has a collision on the Carfax report, there are various signs of the extent of damage and the quality of the repair work that might not be apparent to the casual viewer. If you suspect a problem or just have questions about auto repair, give us a call and make an appointment at Goodyear of Buckhead.