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Are Large Cars Safer Than Smaller Ones?

When we’re out to buy a car, the first thing we would probably have in mind is the price. While smaller cars may be well within our budget, is it a wise choice? Remember, you can’t put a price on safety.

Despite the efforts of manufacturers to make all vehicles safe, statistics show that driver deaths are higher in small cars. Large cars are generally safer, with death rates five times lower than that of smaller vehicles.

The Statistics in the United States

According to the most recent driver death rates calculated by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety or the IIHS, the smallest late-model cars are the most dangerous to drive despite the measures taken by the manufacturers. Small cars and mini cars accounted for the 15 out of 20 models that rated with the highest death rates in 2017. The lowest death rates in the same year were recorded for luxury SUVs, and even larger SUVs had only 15 fatalities per million.

On average, the driver death rate for 2017 car models has increased by 36. The rise in number is directly proportionate to the number of small cars used and bought. (Source: Insurance Institute of Highway Safety)

How are Larger Cars Safer?

While newer small cars have been remodeled to be the safest they have ever been, larger and heavier vehicles are exponentially safer than smaller ones. The reason behind this is simple; physics. Bigger and heavier cars are safer than smaller and lighter ones.

Large vehicles that weigh more would have longer hoods and bigger crush zones which gives you a bigger cushion in the event of a frontal crash. In studies done by the IIHS, larger cars would typically push a lighter car backward upon impact. This means that there is a lesser force on the people inside the vehicle. (Source: Edmunds)

Are Older Large Cars Safer than Newer Ones?

We’ve all heard how older cars were built like tanks, and they are seemingly safer to drive than newer smaller cars, but this is simply not true. The advancements in technology, especially in automobile safety have come a long way. Larger but older vehicles will not be equipped with those safety features.

A large 10-year-old vehicle that does not have side airbags or electronic stability control or ESC would not fare as well in an accident as a small vehicle from today equipped with modern safety equipment and collision avoidance technology. SC greatly reduces the chance of a vehicle rollover, which is particularly important for top-heavy trucks and SUVs. That said, not everyone is able to buy new. So if you’re shopping for a used car, make sure it has side airbags and ESC. In many cases, these were optional features on smaller and non-luxury vehicles.

Becky Mueller, Senior Research Engineer for IIHS

(Source: Edmunds)

Are Crash Test Scores Accurate?

If you’re searching for a new car, one thing that may confuse you are the crash test scores. Here’s the thing, the scores can not be compared across size classes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the NHTSA has its own rating system and does its own crash tests. These ratings are only helpful when comparing cars to the same size class. This means if a small car has registered with a 5-star rating with the NHTSA, it doesn’t mean it will have the same benefits as a 5-star rating SUV.

The ratings are meant to be used to compare crashes with vehicles of similar size. You can’t really go between the segments with these ratings.

Adrian Lund, IIHS Pressident

(Source: Edmunds)

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