Is it worth spending more for extra safety features?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Sep 01, 1989

Dear Tom and Ray:

After years of buying "dogs," I had an old Chevy Nova and a Vega, I am ready to move up. Is the 1990 All-trac Camry safer to drive in the snow and rain, and is it worth the cost? Do you recommend the anti-lock brakes for the money? How about air bags for the money?

TOM: Let's start by getting a few things on the table, Paul. First of all, there's nowhere to go but "up" from a Chevy Vega. A riding lawnmower would be a step up for you A Camry would be a monumental step up. Second, you've obviously got cheapskate blood in you, which makes questions about the cost of safety difficult to answer because they defy standard cost/benefit analysis. All of the options you mention do make the car safer, but how much is your life worth to you?

RAY: For the benefit of other cheapskates or their relatives who might be reading today, let's go through a cheapskate-safety analysis. Let's say you spring for the All-Trac Camry with the anti-lock brakes and the airbag. The four wheel drive might keep you on the road in a snowstorm some dark winter night, and prevent you from wrapping yourself around a tree. But then you're going to be miffed that you paid all that money for those anti-lock brakes that you didn't have to use. Aren't you?

TOM: And if the four wheel drive didn't keep you on the road, but you slammed on the anti-lock brakes and they stopped you six inches from the tree, you're probably going to curse that Toyota salesman in the polyester leisure suit who talked you into the optional airbag that you didn't need to save your life. Am I right?

RAY: Since you're asking us whether you should spring for these features, we'll assume you can afford them. Given that, you have a couple of choices here. You can get the all-trac, the anti-locks, and the airbag and hope that you never need them. That may be asking too much of a cheapskate like you. So your other option is to get the all-trac, the anti-locks, and the airbag, then set out to wrap yourself around a tree to be sure to get your money's worth. Seriously, Paul, all of these will increase safety...particularly the anti-lock brakes and the air bag. And the Camry is an excellent car to get them in.

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