Why You Should Buy A Car In 2024?

Read Time: 3 minutes

Let’s start with a confession. Many car ownership histories are dominated by one strategy: buy the best “young” used car at the best price and keep it as long as possible.

This approach to car ownership can be a money saver. According to Cox Automotive, there were 2.27 million used cars on dealer lots at the start of March.

That means many model choices and price points are out there. Also, long-term owners are likely to enjoy their vehicles for many years without monthly loan payments. That’s good for household cash flow and a strong credit standing.

But now maybe older cars should not be kept so long. The reason is that we’ve entered a transition period. We’re not turning in old cars for newer cars with similar features and technologies.

SUVs, pick-ups, and the rest have increasingly gone electronic. It’s not that they’re electric-powered or hybrids, though some might be, it’s that virtually all newer cars are stuffed with chips. These bits of silicon can make a big difference for owners, especially when it comes to safety.

To understand what’s going on, let’s recall a CNN headline from 2022: “As many as 45,000 Fords can’t be sold because they’re missing parts.”

“The average vehicle has hundreds of computer chips,” it added, “which control virtually every onboard system: They regulate fuel flow, help manage fuel economy, control crash-avoidance safety features, and operate lumbar support and seat warmers.”

The ability to get chips is so important that by 2022 the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act was passed in Washington. It set aside $280 billion to assure semiconductor production within the US.

The 2022 chip shortage was largely caused by massive supply-chain interruptions that radiated throughout the economy. But, whatever the reason, the shortages explain how cars have changed and why they’re better than older models.

According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), there were an estimated 6.1 million police-reported traffic crashes in 2021. These accidents resulted in 42,939 deaths and almost five million injuries.

These are terrible numbers. Nobody wants an automotive accident. The human cost is awful, and the financial expense cannot be ignored.

But now we have the first generation of widely available electronic safety devices. Chips are the core technology that makes such safety advances possible.

Long-time safety features such as three-point seat belts, automatic headlight dimmers, and airbags are great, but now so much more is available. Consider research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Blind spot monitors. IIHS found that “lane departure warning lowers rates of single-vehicle, sideswipe and head-on crashes of all severities by 11 percent and lowers the rates of injury crashes of the same types by 21 percent.”

Forward collision systems. “Forward collision warning alone reduces rear-end crashes by 23 percent, while forward collision warning with autobrake reduces them by 39 percent. The reduction for City Safety is 41 percent.”

Back-up cameras. “On average, the cameras cut such crashes by 16 percent. Drivers ages 70 and older appeared to benefit the most.” 

Rear automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems. “Researchers found that vehicles equipped with rear AEB had 28 percent fewer property damage liability claims and 10 percent fewer collision claims.” 

Park Assist. “Rear autobrake bundled with rear parking sensors and a rearview camera can cut backing crash rates by more than 75 percent.”

Used Cars & Safety Options

The usual pattern with auto safety features works like this. They first appear with top-of-the-line models and luxury brands.

Next, their usage becomes increasingly widespread. As the results of real-world experience become available, if we’re sure the new technologies really work, proven safety features become required by law.

We’re seeing what might be called safety feature migration. Technologies that start as rare, exclusive, experimental, and expensive quickly become common, ordinary, and expected.

Such changes are important for car buyers. They mean the stock of vehicles with electronic safety features – including used cars — is rapidly growing. As a result, buyers with average incomes now have greater access to technologies that can prevent injuries and damages.

Importantly, safety features undoubtedly influence auto finances in two ways.

First, the case for newer cars is straightforward: They’re likely to have significantly more safety features than older vehicles, and that means drivers are likely to have fewer accidents and injuries.

Second, if you’re buying a used vehicle, be sure to check the specs. In some cases, safety features were optional and not always included in older cars so do not assume they’re in place. Check feature lists for individual vehicles with care to get the best deals – the ones that mean more safety for you and your family.

Peter G. Miller

Peter G. Miller is a nationally-syndicated columnist, the author of seven books published originally by Harper & Row (including one with a co-author), and has contributed to leading online sites and major print publications. He has appeared on numerous media outlets including the Today Show, Oprah!, CNN, and NPR.

Peter has been an accredited correspondent on Capitol Hill and a member of the White House Correspondents Association. He has served with the District of Columbia National Guard and holds both BA and MS degrees from The American University in Washington, DC. View Peter on LinkedIn.

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