Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health insuran...

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Chris Harrigan has an economic degree from Limestone College and an MBA from Clemson University. He previously managed auto insurance claims for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Currently, he is using his business and insurance expertise to provide insurance data analysis and visualizations to enhance the user experience.

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Reviewed by Chris Harrigan
Former Auto Insurance Claims Manager

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2020

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Key takeaways...

  • Seatbelts are the oldest car safety feature that has saved thousands of lives
  • An airbag deploying can cause someone who isn’t wearing a seatbelt even more serious injury
  • Anti-lock brakes are another safety feature that lowers car insurance

There are many features we look for in cars that we buy: the size of the engine, the miles per gallon, the music player, and the color.

Some of the most important things to look for, however, are the safety features on the vehicle. Not only can these keep you safer, but they can save you money on your car insurance.

Safety features might not be the most exciting features on a car, but you will get excited when you see the discounts they will earn you on your car insurance premium. Check out these safety features that lower car insurance rates for all drivers.

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Seatbelts are the oldest car safety feature around. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that seatbelts cut serious injuries and deaths due to car accidents in half.

More than half of the vehicle deaths in this country every year occur to people who were not buckled up.

Although they seem simple, and definitely aren’t as exciting as some of the newer safety features, seatbelts are the foundation for safety in a vehicle.

In fact, some of the other features, like airbags, depend on you having your seatbelt on, or they won’t work.

An airbag deploying can cause someone who isn’t wearing a seatbelt even more serious injury.

That isn’t to say that seatbelts haven’t become more advanced in recent years. Modern cars are equipped with adjustable anchors that allow the wearer to get the fit of the seatbelt just right across the chest and shoulder.

Seatbelts with tensioners are an important advancement, especially if the vehicle is equipped with airbags. These pretensions pull taut when a frontal impact is detected.

This pulls the driver or passenger into the safest posture for when the airbag deploys.

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Front Airbags

After seatbelts, the next great leap in car safety was probably the airbag. An airbag is a heavy-duty nylon fabric that is explosively filled with air when an impact is sensed.

The most common place for airbags to be found is in the front of the car.

Usually, there is one located in the steering wheel and another in the dashboard in front of the front seat passenger.

If the front seat accommodates three people, usually the front passenger airbag is designed a little larger to help the middle seat passenger as well.

Slamming into the steering wheel has historically been one of the most common ways the driver gets injured in a collision.

The steering wheel airbag has been a major help in lowering this kind of injury.

However, they aren’t always a helpful thing. As mentioned earlier, airbags can actually cause more harm to passengers who aren’t wearing a seatbelt.

Even airbags, a relatively modern safety feature, have become more advanced in recent years.

Vehicles made since 2007 were required to have a sensor that would detect not only whether the occupants had their seatbelts on, but how hard the impact was.

In lower-speed impacts, the airbags don’t deploy as forcefully, reducing some of the discomforts of hitting the airbags.

For more information about airbag safety, see the federal government’s site, Safercar.gov.

Side Impact Airbags


Once front airbags became common, car makers started looking at ways to expand this technology further. This has developed into side curtain airbags.

They deploy on the side of the vehicle — usually over the window — to protect a passenger’s head from hitting the side window. It also helps protect their torso area.

At first, these side airbags were found only in the front seats, but more and more car manufacturers are putting them in rear passenger areas as well.

This has had the added benefit of helping reduce the number of ejections during rollover accidents.

Anti-Lock Brakes

Perhaps as important a safety feature as airbags and seatbelts are a vehicle’s brakes. Anti-lock brakes, or ABS, are another feature that insurance companies will reward you for having.

To combat this, student drivers were taught to “pump the brakes” in these conditions to help prevent wheel lock up.

Anti-lock brakes basically do this pumping action for you.

Thus, drivers in cars with ABS should not pump the brakes, as this will actually keep them from working as they are designed.

For a better understanding of how anti-lock brakes work, see this description.

With the advent of anti-lock brakes, drivers were now able to safely steer their cars even in rainy or icy weather.

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Traction Control


To further assist driving in adverse weather, most vehicles now have what’s called “traction control.”

Traction control is an added assistance to help the tires maintain traction on the road.

Rather than working when you’re braking, traction control helps when you are accelerating. It helps keep the wheels from spinning too fast, which allows the tires to grip more effectively.

There are differences even in vehicles that have traction control. Some vehicles only have traction control at lower speeds, while others have a system in place all of the time, at any speed.

High-performance cars even have the ability to engage or disengage the traction control at the punch of a button.

The anti-lock brakes provide the wheel spin control at lower speeds. Cars that have traction control at higher speeds use a combination of the ABS and the powertrain.

If you step on the gas pedal too hard in wet conditions, the traction control system senses this and uses the ABS to slow the wheels down so they can grip better.

Stability Control

Stability control is a more recent safety feature building on the framework of  ABS and traction control. Have you ever been going too fast on a dirt or rain-slicked road?

Then you’ve probably had the tail end of your car “fishtail” out to the side. Stability control works to correct this.

The advanced sensors can sense that a skid has occurred. They then send the appropriate amount of braking power to the proper wheels to correct the problem.

There’s nothing you have to do to achieve this; the car does it for you.

What All These Mean


While it’s known that fast sports cars are expensive and result in higher premiums, it’s not common knowledge that safety features can actually lower the cost of insuring your car, not matter what type it is.

When car insurance companies look at safety features like these, they see features that can greatly reduce the amount or severity of injuries that you and your family might receive when driving your car.

Since medical expenses are by far the most expensive part of an accident settlement, insurance companies want to encourage you to buy cars with these safety features.

To do this, they offer discounts on major safety devices on your car. 

While some of the features are indicated by certain digits in the car’s VIN, you can help yourself by making sure you know them all and that the insurance company gives you credit for each one.

These discounts can greatly reduce the cost of your car insurance. For other suggestions on ways to cut down your car insurance bill, visit the Insurance Information Institute’s website.

Since these safety features can save you money as well as save your life or the lives of your family, they should be high on the list of must-haves any time you go car shopping.

If you’re shopping for car insurance, start here for FREE by entering your zip code below into the box on this page!