For many people, buying a car is the biggest purchase they will make in their lives, next to the purchase of their home. Cost is always a crucial consideration, but when you consider the number of people killed or injured in vehicle accidents every year, an even greater concern is safety.

The first thing to do is to narrow down the playing field. Determine what type of vehicle you want first – whether it is a sports utility vehicle or a 4-door passenger sedan or a 7-passenger van. This will mostly depend on your own situation and personal tastes. This is a good time to be familiar with some of the worst possible choices – at least safety-wise.

This site talks about dangerous vehicles and, based on crash tests and other information, lists the 5 most dangerous vehicles to purchase. Armed with a list of vehicles to avoid, you are still a lot of research away from choosing a safe vehicle.

Let’s say you’ve decided so far that you want a 4-door, mid-sized family sedan. What are important safety features to have in a vehicle? That information is available at a variety of sites, including this one that explains the importance of most of the safety equipment available for vehicles. If you know that a teen or an older driver will primarily be using the vehicle, consider features designed for those types of drivers. It may save you the cost of a car accident lawyer down the road. And while the thought may seem somewhat morbid, there are statistics available that show which cars are least likely to be involved in a fatal crash.

As you are narrowing your choices on safety features that seem most crucial, there are sites that can help with that search, like the National Transportation Highway Safety Administration, which makes recommendations on top safety features. You can also search online to see if the vehicles you are considering have those features standard or if they cost extra. Finally, if you are still undecided on the most important safety features for vehicles, here’s an online source that ranks the top 10 most important safety features.

Most safety experts conclude that electronic stability control is the most crucial safety available today. NHTSA has concluded, after analyzing accident date in the country, that if all vehicles and electronic stability control, single-vehicle accidents involving passengers cars would drop by 26 percent and sport utility vehicle crashes would plummet by 48 percent.

At this point, it’s time to see how the vehicle you are considering has fared when it comes to the various crash safety tests that all vehicles are required to undergo. This information is available through the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the two main agencies in the United States that conduct crash and safety testing.

The NTHSA conducts frontal, side and rollover crash tests to come up with ratings of all vehicles. The IIHS conducts 40 mph frontal crash tests to gauge the structural integrity of vehicles; side crash tests, which are designed to gauge the safety of passengers in a vehicle; head restraint ratings and slow speed rear bumper crash tests.

Now that you understand the various crash tests and why they are conducted, you can search out the performance of any vehicle sold in the country on any of the crash tests. The NTHSA organization studies the crash data and determines 5-star choices – vehicles that do best in all of the tests.

Certainly, performance on crash tests is a crucial piece of information as you seek out the safest vehicle you can find, but there is other crucial information available that is related to crash data. NHTSA has also ranked all vehicles based on crash tests and accident data to come up with the vehicles that will be the least expensive to insure. The insurance companies rely on the NHTSA data to determine which vehicles, if they are involved in an accident, can best withstand the collision and thus will have the lowest lifetime maintenance costs. In the area of small cars with four doors, the NHTSA data concludes a Ford Focus will cost about 18 percent less than the average small car to insure, while the Mitsubishi Lancer will cost more than twice the insurance costs of an average small car with four doors.

Don’t overlook individual vehicle websites as sources of information about crash data and safety features. Many vehicles, such as the Toyota Tundra truck, make all of that information available for potential buyers.

Finally, there’s one other feature that is crucial when it comes to car safety, but it has nothing to do with breaks or steering or control. Improperly installed child safety seats often contribute to the numbers of traffic injuries and fatalities. Most experts say a prospective car owner who will use a child safety seat should look for a vehicle that includes a child safety seat or ensure they know how to properly install their own safety seat into their new vehicles.