The Great Recession has had a big impact on the way Americans drive – and what cars we drive. The age of the average car on American roads is almost 11 years old, an all-time high.
Track safety recalls – There is a good chance your vehicle has a recalled part you did not know about: the average consumer response rate to vehicle recalls is less than 75%, according to National Highway Transportation Safety Agency. SaferCar.gov allows you to search for recalls specific to your vehicle, and sign up for new recall alerts.
Pay attention to your tires – Aged tires are a hidden danger on older cars. The tread on old tires can dry out, causing the tread to suddenly peel off. Even replacement tires are at risk for this problem: safety experts say that tires can deteriorate without ever being used on a vehicle. Most major tire companies recommend replacement for any passenger car tire older than 10 years; other say a tire cannot be safe on the road after 6 years.
Know your air bags – Front air bags have been standard on all cars since 1998, and trucks since 1999. But "advanced" frontal air bags have been standard since 2006: they use sensing devices to gauge the size of the front passenger, reducing the risk of an air bag-induced serious injury or death to a child. If you drive an older-model vehicle, you may need to manually switch off the front-passenger air bag for a child or small adult.
For more information, see Consumer Reports Guide to Car Safety.