Professional car-buying consultant. Contributing writer for Jalopnik.
Professional car-buying consultant. Contributing writer for Jalopnik.
Illustration for article titled Flawed Insurance Study Perpetuates Myth that Bigger is Safer

Parents ask me all the time to recommend a vehicle for their 1st time driver. I try to steer them in the way of a mid-size sedan, something along the lines of an Accord or Malibu. However, many parents are stuck in the mindset that they want their son or daughter driving the largest tank possible, because it is "safer." A recent study conducted by and published on Yahoo Autos analyzed the 10 best and worst vehicles for preventing passenger injuries. Unsurprisingly, passengers that were involved in collisions were less likely to be injured in very large vehicles and more likely to be injured in smaller cars. The issue is not with the findings but rather the implications and commentary. Here are some of the highlights from the study:

Not only should you buy big...but it should also be expensive-

" ….higher-priced luxury cars offer the most protection to the passengers riding inside them, according to Pete Leiss, head of the crash practice at Lancaster, Pa.-based Robson Forensic. "We see a lot fewer injuries when you start talking about European luxury cars," he says."


In regards to small and midsize cars-

"...there's a lot more pressure on price, and thinner profit margins," Leiss says. "Unfortunately, the result is it becomes more difficult to make the business case that they will have the side airbags you see in larger vehicles. Safety takes a backseat to profits."


Here are the best vehicles for protecting passengers from injuries:

1. Ford F-350

2. GMC Sierra 2500

3. Porsche Cayenne

4. Ford F-250

5. GMC Yukon

6. Volvo XC90

7. Ram 1500

8. Chevrolet Silverado

9. Cadillac Escalade

10. BMW X1

The worst vehicles for protecting passengers from injuries:

1. Toyota Yaris

2. Fiat 500

3. Toyota Corolla

4. Mitsubishi Lancer

5. Nissan Versa

6. Kia Forte

7. Nissan Altima

8. Ford Focus

9. Chevrolet Spark

10. Toyota Camry

I am not disputing the physics that dictates that vehicles of larger mass will have a greater protection for occupants in a collision. But to imply automakers of small and midsize cars forgoing safety features in the name of profits is inaccurate and misleading.


Of course this survey only takes a limited look at vehicle safety by narrowly focusing in passenger injuries after a crash. It makes no mention of vehicle dynamics especially in regards to avoiding collisions in the first place. If a consumer chooses to purchase a large truck or SUV because they need the capacity to haul people or things that is fine. But to purchase such a vehicle in lieu of a more "sensible" choice because an "insurance" organization planted the seed of "safety" is foolish. It also should be noted that the X1 is one of the smallest vehicles that BMW makes, yet it made the list as one of the "safest" but the larger and more expensive X5 did not. So perhaps there is more to passenger safety than just size and price tag.

@AutomatchTom is a professional car buying consultant, lover of all things automotive and a bit wagon obsessed. You can find more ramblings and plenty of carporn here.


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