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Can your older car learn new safety tricks?

Yes, your older car can have some of the latest and greatest safety technology, provided you're willing to spend the time and money. Today's cars have some truly amazing tech that can save lives -- but only as long as it is installed in your vehicle.

In fact, some of these technologies are so helpful that the National Transportation Safety Board wants to see items like backup cameras, blind spot detection, emergency assistance calls, lane departure warnings, and forward collision avoidance systems to be standard on all cars, not just high-end vehicles. It's happening, too. As of now, all 2018 vehicles sold in the United States will have standard backup cameras, and most new vehicles will have automatic braking systems by 2022.

What are the most important safety features to consider adding? Only $500 worth

Claims Journal interviewed an automotive engineer who works for Consumer Reports magazine. He thinks forward collision warning is the feature to start with. This is not the feature that will automatically stop your car before it hits something or someone. That feature, automatic braking, isn't currently available on an aftermarket basis.

What a forward collision warning system does is continually scan the environment ahead of the car and chime a warning if the car is headed for trouble. A similar system handles its cousin, the lane departure system.

The Consumer Reports engineer also recommends blind spot detection and rear-facing cameras. To get those features on a new Nissan Altima SL, it would cost you at least $3,000 in addition to the purchase price. The good news is that on an aftermarket basis, a forward collision system, blind spot detection system and backup cameras only costs about $500.

Keep in mind that the quality of the aftermarket systems varies. Ask your mechanic, read reviews or, if you're a member, check Consumer Reports.

If you'd rather have the items as original equipment, consider buying a late-market used vehicle. Many cars about two years old are far less expensive than new but come with the equipment already installed.

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