America’s Safest Cars – Which Ones Are the Best?

October 5, 2011

By Terry Smiljanich:

Safety is one of the major concerns for anyone considering the purchase of a car. But how do you go about rating a car’s safety? Based purely on the laws of physics, size matters.  A 5694 pound Cadillac Escalade in a collision with a 2668 pound Mini Cooper is no contest. As Sancho Panza says in Man of La Mancha: “Whether the stone hits the pitcher or the pitcher hits the stone, it’s going to be bad for the pitcher.” In the long run, however, big is not always safer. The Hummer H3, for example, was big and heavy, but had a mediocre safety record.

Different Ratings

There are many ways to rate a car’s safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), for example, takes many factors into consideration, including roof strength, secondary protections, and actual safety record. The resulting ratings by the IIHS for 2011 cars list eleven large cars, eleven small cars, twelve midsize cars, and 12 midsize SUV’s as the “Top Safety Picks” for 2011, but doesn’t rank the cars within each category.  Just about every car manufacturer has at least one, and often several, models in the “Top Safety Picks.”

For the new 2012 models, however, the IIHS has listed the top five models on its “Top Safety Pick.”  They are:

  1. Chevrolet Sonic;
  2. Ford Focus;
  3. Honda Civic;
  4. Audi A6;
  5. Volkswagen Passat.

Forbes Magazine, using its own criteria, ranked the BMW 5 Series, the Cadillac CTS, the Subaru Legacy, and the Hyundai Sonata as the safest cars on the road.

CWN Safety Picks

Consumer Warning Network decided to take a simpler approach. We looked at the IIHS information, compiled by its Highway Loss Data Institute. We reviewed the data to find out which cars came out on top, regardless of size or cost, based on actual insurance claims for personal injury, collision and medical payments.

We looked at average claims instead of total claims. By using this approach, we were able to even the playing field between cars that sell in high volume– which would be expected to have higher total insurance claims– and those that sell in low volume.

Between the years 2008-2010, the answers are somewhat surprising.

Bodily Injury

Between 2008 and 2010, the five cars with the lowest average bodily injury insurance claims, as compared to all other cars, are in order:

  1. Chevrolet Corvette;
  2. Subaru Outback;
  3. Volkswagen Jetta;
  4. Chevrolet Equinox 4DR;
  5. Acura TSX.

Yes, the light, fast Corvette actually has, on average, lower insurance claims for bodily injury. This means that Corvette owners present lower average claims to their insurance companies for bodily injury. There is most probably a good reason for why this is so. Corvette owners are more likely to “baby” their special car, and less likely to drive their Corvette on long trips or in heavy commuter traffic. As for the others on the list, a combination of safety features results in lower average bodily injury claims.

During that same period, the most dangerous cars when it comes to bodily injury claims are in order:

  1. Dodge Avenger;
  2. Mitsubishi Galant;
  3. Mitsubishi Eclipse;
  4. Chrysler Sebring;
  5. Ford Mustang.

Each of these cars is more than twice as dangerous as any of the cars in the top list in terms of bodily injury claims. Again, driving habits of typical owners may play a part in some of these results.

Overall Safety

Looking at all aspects of insurance claims, from personal injury to vehicle damage, how do cars stack up during the 2008-2010 period?  The top five cars overall are as follows:

  1. Chevrolet Corvette;
  2. Chevrolet Equinox;
  3. Ford Edge 4DR 4WD;
  4. Dodge Nitro 4DR 4WD;
  5. Ford Explorer 4DR 4WD.

Coming in close behind these leaders are the Honda Accord and the Acura TL 4DR.

Conclusion

There’s no sure fire way to come to a final answer on car safety, with so many variables to consider. Regardless of safety features, size, interior reinforcement, and strength of materials, however, when it comes to which cars are resulting in fewer average claims for actual bodily injury and damage to a vehicle, insurance statistics provide one good way of coming up with an objective standard.

The Safest Cars For 2009 and Guess Which One is the Top Pick

January 28, 2009

Drum-roll please … FORD TAURUS!

Yes, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) just released its annual list of Top Safety Picks. To earn a Top Safety Pick award, a car has to receive the highest rating in front, side, and rear protection along with the highest rating in head restraint and offer electronic stability control.

In the Large Car category 8 automobiles received Top Safety Ratings. However, the Ford Taurus is by far the best buy. A 2009 Ford Taurus has a MSRP of $23,485. By contrast, other cars in the Large Car category list for over $55,000 such as the Cadillac CTS and the Audi A6.

It is worth mentioning that the Ford Fusion also earned a Top Safety Pick in midsize cars.

So just when you think American manufacturing can’t compete in the world market, we build a better and less expensive car than both Japan and Germany.

Congratulations to FORD!

Buick LaCrosse Tops IIHS Safest Car List

August 6, 2010

The number of vehicles designated as Top Picks by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) dropped by a third in 2010, largely because of tougher testing standards, including a newly instituted roof-crush test. In conjunction with the roof test, the IIHS conducts high-speed front and side crash tests, a rollover test, and test of seat/head restraints to protect against neck injuries such as whiplash.

For 2010, Subaru, Volkswagen and Volvo make strong crashworthiness showings, whereas Audi, traditionally a high performer across the board, appears only in the midsize category. Several automakers that earned a Top Safety Pick rating last year do not have a winning vehicle for 2010, including BMW, Mazda, and Saab.

More information on vehicle safety can be found in Edmunds Car Safety Guide.

Check out the complete list of 2010 Top Safety Picks chosen by the IIHS at Edmunds.com

Safest Car? Ford Wins Again in 2009

November 25, 2009

Safest CarsThe safety ratings are in for the 2009 cars, and Ford came out a big winner. The Consumer Warning Network reported earlier this year that Ford made the safest cars in 2008, so that’s two years in a row on top. Although Ford (and Volvo, owned by Ford) did well in the IIHS ratings (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety), however, the Ford Fusion slipped off the list completely.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

The IIHS rates cars based on safety in front, side, and rear collisions and on rollover safety. The Institute also looks at factors such as electronic stability controls in cars.

Ford/Volvo had six winners in the four classes of automobiles (large, midsize, small and SUV’s), the Ford Taurus, Lincoln MKS, Volvo S80, Volvo C30, Volvo XC60, and Volvo XC90. Obviously, when Ford acquired the Swedish Volvo company, it bought itself a new safety reputation.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

A federal agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, released its own 2009 ratings based on highway crash tests. Of the top 5 “safe” vehicles, Volvo’s XC90 made the list, as did the Audi Q7, Mitsubishi Outlander, Saturn Vue and Mercedes-Benz M-Class.

There is, however, one curious thing about these N.H.T.S. ratings. Every one of them is an SUV. None of them are noted for having good gas mileage. Indeed, some (the Audi Q7 and the Mercedes M-Class) are downright gas guzzlers. SUV’s are usually built on truck frames and are heavier than other vehicles, so it should not be surprising that they do better in crash tests (except rollovers).

There’s more to safety than just a heavy frame. Using that standard alone, the safest vehicle on the road should be the M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank. With 70 tons of steel, its crash tests would be over the top with hardly a dent after even a head-on collision. Of course, your M1A2 will only get you 2 gallons per mile on its 500 gallon gas tank, so you’ll spend a lot of time and money at the pump! It does, however, go from zero to 20 mph in only 7.2 seconds, so buckle up.

This illustrates the problem with using safety tests as the most important factor in buying a car. Heavier is safer, but you have to strike a balance between what constitutes perfect safety and what is good for your pocketbook and the environment. Look for extra safety features like bracing at key points in the car, anti-sway devices in vehicles that are used for towing, anti-lock brakes, and other similar devices that help increase safety without simply putting you behind a truck that looks like a car.

Guess Who Saved the Buick?–China

August 24, 2010

By John Newcomer:

When GM filed for bankruptcy last year it agreed that in exchange for federal bailout money it would eliminate half of its brands. The Buick seemed like an obvious choice to move to the salvage yard.  After all, how many Buicks do you see on the roads here in America? But go to China, and it is a different story.

The last emperor of China –Henry P’uYi was a great fan of the Buick.  In China, the Buick is looked upon as an upscale auto and a favorite of the upper middle class of China. Demand is so strong in China that GM sells 4 times more Buicks in China than it does here in the U.S.  What??? Yes, in 2009 Buick sold only 102,300 cars in the U.S. compared to 447,000 Buicks sold  in China.

So what do the Chinese know that we don’t? Well for one, the Buick Lacrosse was voted most dependable car for 2009 and safest for 2010. But alas, apparently Buick suffers an image problem in the United States that it does not have in China.  Here we look at the Buick as an “old person’s” car.  Well, it’s not your grandmother’s Buick anymore.  In China, it is an upscale sedan to be looked upon in awe.

A tip of the hat to the Chinese for saving a great American automobile.