The Safest Cars for $30,000 or Less

You want to put yourself (and your loved ones) in the safest vehicle possible, right?

(Image credit: Courtesy Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)

You want to put yourself (and your loved ones) in the safest vehicle possible, right? Here’s the hitch: The absolute safest vehicle is almost always a brand-new model, which may cost more than you can afford.

Each year, new models boast more-effective active safety systems (such as automatic braking) as carmakers look to match the evolving testing standards of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Newer models also often have invisible structural improvements that help them perform better in tests meant to more closely simulate real-world collisions (such as hitting a utility pole). Headlight technology is advancing as well. Newer models often have LEDs, which are proving more effective than traditional halogen bulbs, as well as systems that steer the light to match the direction you move the wheel. So newer, and thus more expensive, generally means safer.

But what if you need wheels, you care deeply about safety, but you aren’t made of money? We worked with annual rankings from the IIHS and price data from to identify the safest vehicles you can buy for $20,000 to $30,000. All but one of these vehicles got the IIHS’s highest safety ranking available when tested: Top Safety Pick Plus (TSP+). However, our quest was safety first; it was not safety only. So we sought out cars that also enjoy good reputations for reliability and are popular choices in their segments. Take a look.

David Muhlbaum
Former Senior Online Editor

In his former role as Senior Online Editor, David edited and wrote a wide range of content for With more than 20 years of experience with Kiplinger, David worked on numerous Kiplinger publications, including The Kiplinger Letter and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. He co-hosted  Your Money's Worth, Kiplinger's podcast and helped develop the Economic Forecasts feature.