Rick Popely: Ask.Cars.com
3:50 PM PST, February 4, 2013
I need something that isn't very expensive that I could buy, possibly used, within three years. I may buy new, but I want to stay below $40,000.
Most cars are loaded with safety technology these days, not just expensive luxury models, so we suggest that one of your first stops as you shop to be the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to see which models performed well in IIHS's stringent crash tests and are named Top Safety Picks.
Among current Top Safety Picks are the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion and Taurus, Hyundai Azera and Sonata, Kia Optima, Honda Accord, and Toyota Avalon and Camry, all of which fall under your price limit and should qualify as legitimate candidates. All of the above are midsize or larger sedans that should have sufficient room and, hopefully, be easy for you to get in and out of. That, however, is something you will need to find out in person.
You didn't say what you're driving now, but many current sedans have visibility issues, particularly to the rear and over the right shoulder, caused by wide roof pillars (to meet tougher roof-crush standards) and high trunk lids (for aerodynamics and trunk space). For that reason you should look for cars that offer backup cameras or parking sensors that make backing into or out of parking spaces easier. You also should look for features such as blind spot and lane departure warning systems, cross-traffic alert systems and an automated parking feature (available on the 2013 Fusion).