We put our lives in the hands of our vehicles daily for a variety of reasons; keeping us safe, getting to work on time, and taking us places that we haven’t seen before. As one of the greatest inventions in human history, it’s natural to wonder just what makes it all go.

The most important aspect of a car in terms of safety is its body, as it is the thing that keeps us alive in the event of an accident. So, what exactly goes into a car body? That’s a good question and one that doesn’t have a singular answer.

There are four main materials that make up a car’s body, and they can vary for a variety of reasons. The first and most prominent one is steel. Cars have had steel in their frames even when Karl Benz produced the first-ever stationary gasoline-powered car in 1879 and most cars on the road have continue to feature it today. There’s good reason for this as steel is an incredibly strong metal that is relatively cheap to produce. Hence, cars that are made from it are able to be more affordable.

The next material on our list is plastic, which shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise given how prominently we use it in other aspects of our life. About 50% of new cars produced today consist of plastic materials, mostly contained in the interior. Things like your dashboard, gauges, door handles, seat belts and air bags all come from plastic, but an increasing number of manufacturers, most notably Chrysler, are starting to include plastic in the body.

This may make you a tad skeptical, but if you’ve ever accidentally sat on a piece of high-end Tupperware, you’d know how surprisingly strong plastic can be. There are other benefits to using plastic in the body as well, particularly regarding fuel economy. Plastic is lighter, so there’s less weight that your engine needs to pull on the road. At the end of the car’s life, the plastic in its frame is a lot easier to recycle than steel. Plastic is also cheaper to repair, so there are lower maintenance costs in there as well.

The third material that can be used in car bodies is aluminum. Aluminum is gradually growing in popularity for a variety of reasons. Back in 2015, Ford made the decision to have their F-150 lineup feature aluminum frames thanks to its lightweight nature and durability. Aluminum allows cars to be lighter, so they get better gas mileage and what’s even better is that it doesn’t rust. As a result, aluminum-based frames are more expensive than steel frames, so they are typically used for high-end vehicles.

The final material on our list is harder to come by than the others, carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is both very light and incredibly strong, which makes it quite expensive. It’s mostly used in the construction of high-end sports cars due to its price point and that it allows cars to get the best possible power out of their engines. Hence, the entire point of a sports car.

And there it is, a look at the materials that go into the car you put your life and livelihood into on a daily basis. It’s knowledge worth having, especially since knowing what goes into the making of a car, could save you a few bucks or headaches sometime down the line.

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