This is the wagon that one New England’s heart years ago. Don’t be parochial. It’s a great family car in any climate.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safetyhas a set criteria for its rankings for what makes a safe car. Here is its definition of those criteria that helped determine the About.Com Top 10 Safest Used Family Cars.
Criteria: The Institute rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor based on performance in high-speed front and side crash tests plus evaluations of seat/head restraints for protection against neck injuries in rear impacts.
The first requirement for a vehicle to become a Top Safety Pick is to earn good ratings in all three Institute tests. A new requirement for 2007 is that the winning vehicles must offer electronic stability control. This addition is based on Institute research indicating that ESC significantly reduces crash risk, especially the risk of fatal single vehicle crashes, by helping drivers maintain control of their vehicles during emergency maneuvers. [Ed. note: 2006 vehicles have slightly different criteria. Consult the IIHS website for more information.]
However, don't compare ratings across vehicle size groups because size and weight influence occupant protection in serious crashes. Larger, heavier vehicles generally afford more protection than smaller, lighter ones. Top Safety Picks are the best vehicle choices for safety within size categories, but this doesn't mean a small car that's a Top Safety Pick affords more protection than a bigger car that doesn't earn the award.
Some of these models may be available as certified pre-owned vehicles, but that could mean a higher price from the dealership. In most cases, the models mentioned are of the highest trim level for less than $15,000. Less expensive models may be available.
It is also important to note that some of these models have specific optional equipment, such as side airbags, that makes them a Top Safety Pick. Make sure the safe used family car you are purchasing has that optional equipment. Otherwise the car may not be a safety pick as determined by the IIHS.
Pricing was current as of Oct. 23, 2010. Market values may have changed prices. Refer to Edmunds.com for up-to-date pricing information.