If you’re thinking of buying a car, you probably want to know how safe it is before you close the deal. To help, we’ve highlighted which cars are the best and worst at protecting you and your passengers in a crash, based on an analysis of personal injury claims.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has determined which 2012-2014 vehicles have the highest and lowest injury rates. It did this by researching the frequency of personal injury protection (PIP) claims. These claims pay for medical expenses for those injured in an accident, regardless of who is at fault. PIP claim numbers are a good indicator of how well cars protect occupants in real-world crashes, according to the IIHS. A bonus is that buying a safer car may mean lower car insurance rates. That’s because insurers factor in your car model’s claims history when calculating how much you pay for coverage.
The Porsche 911 Carrera took the first spot for fewest PIP claims. Porsche had three models in the top 10. Tesla, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Ford and Chevrolet were also in the group.
Cars on the top 10 list for fewest claims tend to be luxury models that aren’t driven as frequently and typically are owned by experienced drivers, which results in fewer claims. Sports cars are usually equipped with the most advanced safety technology, so they are generally ranked well for preventing injuries.
On the downside, the Mitsubishi Mirage was judged the worst, with the highest PIP claim frequency. Also in the bottom 10 were vehicles from Nissan (with four models), Dodge, Kia and Chrysler, according to the IIHS. These cars are mostly smaller, budget models and are generally more expensive to insure than other models in their class with fewer claims.
The IIHS says its analysis for 2012 to 2014 vehicles reflects the most recent data available from insurance companies. The institute adds that its study remains a good predictor of the basic safety of newer models, unless they’ve undergone a drastic redesign.
Claim rates are related to the number of insured cars of that particular model to avoid weighting claims that are based upon the popularity of that vehicle.
Rankings for best and worst were based on how often vehicle owners filed PIP claims. “All results are stated in relative terms, with 100 representing the average for all vehicles under a given coverage type,” the IIHS explains. “For example, a result of 122 is 22 percent worse than average, and 96 is 4 percent better than average.”
Here are the 10 vehicles with the lowest PIP claim frequency, according to the IIHS:
|Vehicle||Vehicle Size and Class||Claim Frequency|
|Porsche 911 Carrera 2dr||Midsize sports car||25|
|Land Rover Range Rover 4dr 4WD||Large luxury SUV||32|
|Porsche Boxster convertible||Small sports car||33|
|Tesla Model S 4dr electric||Large luxury car||34|
|Porsche 911 Carrera convertible||Midsize sports car||34|
|Mercedes-Benz SL class convertible||Midsize sports car||37|
|Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 2dr||Midsize sports car||39|
|Land Rover Range Rover Sport 4dr 4WD||Large luxury SUV||40|
|Ford F-250 crew cab 4WD||Very large pickup||41|
|Chevrolet Corvette 2dr||Midsize sports car||42|
You’ll see that luxury cars and sports cars comprise the list of vehicles with the least PIP claims. This is due, in part, to the fact that they are typically driven less by their owners, so it makes sense that they are in fewer accidents. Another reason that’s often overlooked is driver demographics. For example, the average age of a Porsche 911 buyer in the U.S. is 52, and the typical Boxster buyer is 47, according to the car maker. Marketing research firm Strategic Vision says the average Mustang buyer is 51.That skews a bit older than the driver ages for many models that have more PIP claims. Thirty-one percent of Nissan’s buyers and 38 percent of Mitsubishi’s buyers are younger than 34, according to Strategic Vision. More experienced drivers, overall, get into fewer accidents, so file fewer claims.
Here are the 10 with the highest PIP claim frequency:
|Vehicle||Vehicle Size and Class||Claim Frequency|
|Mitsubishi Mirage||Micro four-door car||213|
|Dodge Avenger||Midsize four-door car||184|
|Nissan Versa||Small four-door car||178|
|Nissan Versa Note||Small station wagons/minivan||178|
|Kia Forte||Small four-door car||176|
|Mitsubishi Lancer 2WD||Small four-door car||176|
|Nissan Rogue Select 4dr 2WD||Small SUV||171|
|Chrysler 200||Midsize four-door car||168|
|Nissan Cube||Small station wagons/minivan||165|
|Kia Rio||Mini four-door car||164|
Car Safety and Insurance
Loretta Worters, vice president of communications for the Insurance Information Institute (III), says consumers should pay attention to a car’s general safety history — including information gathered by the IIHS — because it’s a significant element that insurers use when underwriting policies and deciding what we pay for coverage.
“There are many factors that go into auto rates, including the cost to repair a car, its overall safety record and the likelihood of theft,” she says. “How much damage a car receives in an accident has an impact on how badly injured a person can be as well. With rising medical costs, in connection with personal injury protection coverage, it can have a huge bearing” on a policy’s cost.
Penny Gusner, the consumer analyst for Insure.com, notes that insurers look closely at injury claims, including PIP claims, when deciding how much risk they want to take on.
“If your car shows to have more injury claims, or injury claims that were paid out had higher than average payouts, then in their risk assessment it means that insuring your car could make it pay out more,” she says.
“The opposite is also true,” Gusner adds. “If your car shows to have fewer injury claims, or the injury claims payouts are less than average, your car poses less of a risk and so your car insurance rates should be cheaper than average for your PIP and other injury coverage portions.”
PIP and medical payment (sometimes called MedPay) coverages help pay medical bills resulting from auto accidents. They’re similar, but PIP also covers lost wages and rehabilitation costs in addition to medical expenses.
PIP is optional in most states. Several, however, require it as part of a car insurance policy. They are: Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Utah. MedPay is required in Maine and New Hampshire.
Gusner points out that motorists who already have comprehensive health insurance for themselves and their family may not need to buy PIP in states where it’s optional. “PIP may then be redundant,” she says, pointing out that PIP, in general, will add “anywhere from $5 to $50 a month” to your premiums.
Safer Vehicles Can also Mean Car Insurance Discounts
Insurers often provide discounts for cars with proven safety features. Here are the more common ones:
- Air bags — Insurers embrace them, and the more the better. You’ll get a discount if your car has front air bags, but you’ll get a bigger rate cut if it has both dual front air bags and side air bags. Gusner says that the discount is usually seen under your policy’s PIP and medical payments section, and that some insurers will also discount liability coverages.
- Anti-lock brakes — A few states, including Florida, New Jersey and New York, require an insurer to provide a discount. But many insurers will reward one anyway if your vehicle has them. The discount, typically about 5 percent, may be applied to your liability, PIP, medical payments and collision coverages.
- Seat belts — A discount may be available if the car has automatic seat belts.
- Crash-resistant doors — Some insurers provide a 5 percent or less discount if your car has this feature. The reason, Gusner says, is that crash-resistant doors can lower the number of claims insurers have to pay.
- Electronic stability control (ESC) — A few insurers have added a discount of about 5 percent when a vehicle comes with a factory-installed ESC system.
- Daytime running lights — A 5 percent discount off your liability, PIP, medical payments and collision coverage may be offered.
- Lane departure warning and collision preparation systems – These innovative safety features will get you a discount with a few insurers. Gusner says that if these features show to bring down claims, more car insurance providers should begin to offer discounts in the next few years.
If you are shopping for a car, find out how to insure a new car to make sure you have sufficient coverage to protect your purchase. Once you’ve bought your new ride, you’ll need to get car insurance — start now by finding car insurance quotes in your area .