For most motorists in Wisconsin, buying a new car is a pleasant experience. After all, most of the time your new car will be a serious upgrade from the old one, and you can pick your shining and squeaky clean new vehicle from among hundreds of brands, types and models, even if your budget is limited.

You'd better get it right, because the price is high. After your house, your car is likely to be the next big-ticket item, and you certainly want to avoid the mistakes you made last time you went to the car dealer's. Most drivers in Wisconsin will use the same car for at least 4 years, and will easily have reached 100,000 miles on the odometer by that time.

100,000 miles is the equivalent of driving 4 times around the planet. Heading for such a long trip, wouldn't it make sense to pick a car that is not just mechanically reliable, sleek and comfortable, but also safer?

How do you buy a safer car? Comparing cars from a safety point of view has become a lot easier. One way to go is to look at the safety ratings published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The IIHS rating is based on the following tests and features:

  • 40 mph Frontal Offset Crash Test: One side of the vehicle's front end strikes a barrier;
  • Side Crash Test: A 30 mph moving barrier with the height and size of an SUV or pickup truck strikes the side of the vehicle;
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint: Measuring how seat and head restraint combinations protect the occupants against whiplash injuries;
  • Rollover Ratings: One corner of a vehicle's roof is pushed by a metal plate at constant speed. The resulting crush is compared to the vehicle's mass to assess structural protection in rollover crashes;
  • Bumper Evaluations: Damage to the vehicle in low-speed collisions is measured in 4 impact tests: full-width front and rear, and corner front and rear;
  • Electronic Stability Control: The presence of an ESC system significantly reduces single-accident risks by helping drivers maintain control of their vehicles during emergency maneuvers.

The IIHS's safety ratings are a good way to start when you go shopping for a new car. For every model the rating goes from Good to Acceptable, Marginal and Poor. Their Top Safety Picks must have good ratings in all four tests described above and offer ESC. Look here at the 2011 Top Safety Picks.

Hupy & Abraham, S.C. has offices in Milwaukee, Madison, and Appleton in Wisconsin, and Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Quad Cities in Iowa, and Gurnee and Bloomington in Illinois. If you or someone you love has been hurt in a car, truck or motorcycle crash, contact Hupy & Abraham today at 800-800-5676 (toll-free) or 414-223-4800 (local) for a free evaluation of your case, or send us an e-mail with your questions.