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Old Car, New Tricks: Adding Safety Tech to an Older Car

Old cars can learn new tricks. For a few hundred dollars, drivers can add new safety technology — like forward collision warning systems or backup cameras — to older cars.

Cars are lasting longer than ever thanks to improving quality. The average U.S. vehicle is now 11.6 years old, according to the consulting firm IHS Markit.

But that means millions of car owners are missing out on technology that could potentially save their lives. Forward collision warning systems, for example, can reduce the risk of a crash by 27 percent, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Consumers have to do the math to decide whether it’s better to add aftermarket systems to an older car or save up for a new one. Balance the cost of new safety — which can be hefty — with the increased maintenance older cars usually need. If you don’t want an extra camera cluttering up your dashboard, you may want to save up for a new car with built-in systems.

To get blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning and lane departure warning on a new, 2017 Altima SL, you have to spend $28,570 for the car and add $3,000 in options.

For a fraction of that amount — $500 — you could add an aftermarket forward collision system, backup camera and blind spot detection monitors to an older car. You could also consider a late-model used car. A 2015 Nissan Altima SL with blind spot monitoring, a rearview camera and lane departure warning can be found for less than $20,000, for example.

Buyers may want to wait on a new car because the cost of safety tech is coming down. Toyota is now offering a $300 package on some vehicles that includes forward collision warning and lane departure warning. Starting with the 2018 model year, all vehicles sold…

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