When you choose your own vehicle, most buyers consider safety ratings as a big influence when purchasing a car. But how do consumers choose vehicle rentals? Most often, renters look for the cheapest rental, ignoring possible dangers like poor safety and crash ratings and the likelihood of recalls.

A recent report by USA Today reveals how rental car choices can impact our safety on the road—often to the detriment of consumers who unknowingly choose vehicles that are subpar in crash tests.

Crash tests: a good indicator for safety

“Poor” side-impact crash ratings mean the vehicle will perform poorly when involved in a t-bone car accident. During a side-impact crash, poorly-rated vehicles will crumple inadequately, frames may be unnecessarily damaged, and most importantly, the driver’s safety is greatly compromised compared to a top safety pick, and commonly, the risk of injury increases.

Avoid these cars if you can. These six vehicles are rated “poor” for side-impact crash ratings:

  • ’11 Hyundai Accent
  • ’11 Kia Rio
  • ’11 Volkswagen Beetle
  • ’11 2-door Jeep Wrangler
  • ’11 GMC Canyon
  • ’11 Chevy Colorado, crew cab
  • ’10 PT Cruiser

And, vehicles ranking poor on rear-end crash ratings include:

  • Cadillac STS
  • Lexus HS hybrid
  • Chrysler PT Cruiser
  • Infiniti M35
  • Hummer H3

A spokeswoman for Hertz says renters “are free to consult” safety ratings, but it’s not necessary because Hertz’s fleet is made up of newer vehicles. Meanwhile, Avis and Budget spokesman says renters should only consider vehicle safety data “if they feel that doing so will help them make a more informed choice when selecting a vehicle.”

Choose the right rental: popular & affordable choices

The Insurance Institute classifies 59 as “top safety picks” from typical rental fleet. These vehicles rate “good” in all four crash tests which include front, side, rear and roof strength. In addition, vehicles have electronic stability control which aid drivers’ overall safety.

An affordable rental car and a top-choice safety? It’s absolutely possible. Consider the following list of rental cars that are both affordable and safe. These are also some of the most popular fleet vehicles, so ask for them by name.

  • 4-door Honda Civic
  • Mitsubishi Lancer
  • Subaru Impreza
  • Ford Fusion
  • Chrysler 200
  • Volkswagen Jetta
  • Ford Taurus
  • Toyota Avalon
  • Buick Regal.
  • Hyundai Tucson
  • Kia Sorento
  • Cadillac SRX

These listed vehicles not only rate “good” on all fronts, but they are popular and commonly found on rental fleets nationwide.

Car accidents or injury in a rental car

Nothing can be scarier than getting into a car accident with a vehicle that isn’t yours, and that you’re not used to. If an accident does happen, try to remain calm and take the following steps:

  • Use a car accident checklist (download now)
  • Call the police to report the accident
  • For injuries, seek medical care, even if you feel confused or shaken-up
  • Call the rental insurance company to report the accident

If you are hit and injured by another driver while driving a rental car, call the personal injury attorneys at the Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, LLP. at 1-858-551-2090 for a free evaluation of your case.

It’s important to speak to a qualified San Diego personal injury attorney to discuss your options and preserve your legal rights. Contact us today.

For more information on top vehicle safety picks for 2011, go to http://www.iihs.org/