Monday, June 08, 2009

Why it May be Worth Waiting Until 2011 to Buy a New Vehicle

Besides personal finance and investing, i'm an avid reader on cars. I like to frequent Motortrend and other related sites to keep current on cars and trucks. Previously, I was planning on buying a car three months before we move from Washington State, sometime between June and August of 2010. I wanted to wait since WA state allows non-resident military to purchase vehicles sales-tax free within three months prior to a move. Now, I have even more of a reason to wait.

Waiting till 2011 may be good for you if you hate the current crash rating system for vehicles. All to frequently I find it difficult to exclude cars from my shopping wish list based on safety alone. Take for instance the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). IIHS has a "top safety picks list of 2009" which lists a whopping 74 vehicles. What's so top about 74 vehicles? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) isn't that tough on its crash test ratings either.

NHTSA recognizes that nine out of 10 vehicles routinely score either four or five stars out of five. NHTSA now vows to increase the standards for front- and side-impacts, along with more stringent rollover testing starting with 2011 models. Reference:

The Energy Independence and Security Act amends the 1975 law by requiring fuel economy standards for 2011-20 models to be set to ensure an industry-wide average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020 for all new passenger vehicles combined (that is, different standards no longer will apply to cars and light trucks). This law authorizes NHTSA to use a size-based system for both cars and light trucks, and the agency’s new (March 2009) standard for 2011 models uses such a system. The result will be to promote fuel economy without compromising safety (source).

Knowing this, I'll either wait and buy a 2011 model or buy a heavily discounted 2010 if the model didn't change significantly between 2010 and 2011 and the 2011 crash test results are top of its class. If you want to view current NHTSA crash results go to If my research is correct, the cheapest new vehicle with 5 star crash ratings (front, side, rollover) is the 2010 Mazda 6.


Dr. Bidez said...

Certainly, all consumer test programs for automobiles can be strengthened; however, the comment related to IIHS and their "74 top rated" vehicles isn't completely fair. It is extremely important to only compare vehicles within the same weight class and not look at all 74 vehicles in one lump category. A closer examination of the IIHS ratings reveals that for a given class of vehicle, IIHS only lists 3 or 4 top rated vehicles compared to dozens that are available in each class. A consumer
should decide what class vehicle they desire based on affordability, fuel efficiency or other factors and then choose the safest vehicle in that class. Obviously, if price is not a primary barrier, the overall safest vehicles are listed in their luxury sedan category. The IIHS consumer safety testing program is far more demanding than the U.S. NCAP ( For those interested in another rigorous consumer program, visit the European consumer test program (

Finance Junkie said...

You might want to recount the # of vehicles listed in each IIHS top pick category.

For instance, in the midsize SUV category there are 20 top picks. Doesn't look like much exclusivity to me.

Don't get me wrong, I truly value the work of IIHS. I only question how IIHS can call 20 midsize SUVs as top safety picks. If they listed 3 or 4 I would better understand the useage of "top safety" pick.

I look forward to the industry improving standards to reflect something closer to real world driving conditions (speeds, etc.)