Safer Cars Equate to Savings On Auto Insurance
Selecting a safer vehicle is a lot easier than it used to be. And that means finding a car with safety features that save on auto insurance is easier, too!
Most new cars, minivans, pickups and SUVs earn good ratings in most crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Some models still need improvement when it comes to protecting people in rollovers, rear crashes and certain types of front crashes.
So how is a safety-conscious buyer to choose? Which ones might help you save on your auto insurance? The information below, along with vehicle ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, can help you identify the best picks for both safety and auto insurance savings.
Tips for Choosing a Safer Car and How It Saves on Auto Insurance
Vehicle Size and Weight Matter. Of course you want to save on auto insurance in general, but that shouldn’t be your only consideration when buying a car. Smaller, lighter vehicles generally offer less protection than larger, heavier ones. There is less structure to absorb crash energy, so deaths and injuries are more likely. People in lighter vehicles also experience higher crash forces when struck by heavier vehicles. If safety is a major consideration, pass up very small, light vehicles.
A Crashworthy Design Reduces Death and Injury Risk. Structure and restraints help determine crashworthiness. Good structure means a strong occupant compartment, crumple zones to absorb the force of a serious crash, side structure to manage the force of a striking vehicle or struck object and a strong roof that won’t collapse in a rollover. Safety belts keep people in their seats and spread crash forces across the upper body’s stronger bony parts. Airbags protect people from hitting things inside the vehicle or objects outside it. And the bonus of having a car with these features is that it enhances your chances of saving on auto insurance
Vehicle Ratings and Crash Tests
A good place to start your research is in IHS’ vehicle ratings section. Each year, the organization rates new models based on how well they protect people in front, side, rollover and rear crashes. IIHS also rates the performance of front crash prevention systems, including forward collision warning and automatic braking. Models with the highest ratings qualify for an IIHS safety accolade.
To earn a Top Safety Pick+ Award, models must achieve good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests; a good or acceptable rating in the small overlap front test; and an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.
Models that meet the crash test ratings criteria but have a basic-rated front crash prevention system or no system at all qualify for Top Safety Pick. Check with your agent to see which ones may also save you on auto insurance premiums.
Crash Avoidance Technologies
Protecting people in crashes is vital. Avoiding them altogether is ideal. Crash avoidance systems can help. Many automakers offer them on 2015 models. So far two features — front crash prevention and adaptive headlights — are reducing crashes, based on analysis of insurance losses by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), an affiliate of IIHS.
Front crash prevention systems fall into two categories: forward collision warning and autobrake. Warning systems alert you if you get too close to a car in front. Autobrake systems can brake if you don’t respond in time. Others brake without warning you first.
Adaptive headlights shift direction as you steer to help you see better on curves in the dark. Lane departure warning and blind spot detection are two other technologies intended to help drivers avoid crashes. So far, IIHS and HLDI haven’t been able to quantify their benefits.
Buying a Used Vehicle
IIHS has been awarding Top Safety Pick since 2006 and Top Safety Pick+ since 2012. Here are some things to help assess the crashworthiness of older models:
Frontal Crashworthiness: Look for good ratings in frontal tests. Most newer models earn top marks for frontal crashworthiness in NHTSA’ 35 mph test head-on into a rigid barrier and the IIHS 40 mph moderate overlap test into a deformable barrier. Drivers of vehicles rated good in the IIHS test are about 46 percent less likely to die in a serious frontal crash than drivers in poor-rated vehicles.
Side Crashworthiness: Choose a vehicle with good side ratings plus side airbags that protect your head. IIHS and NHTSA rate models based on tests that simulate front-into-side crashes. The tests represent different side impact dangers. Shoppers wanting the best protection should look for vehicles with the highest ratings in all conditions. Drivers of vehicles with good ratings in the IIHS side barrier test are 70 percent less likely to die in a driver-side crash compared with drivers in vehicles rated poor. Likewise, studies of real-world crashes indicate that side airbags substantially reduce fatality risk. Some side airbags also are designed to protect you in a rollover. The majority of 2008 and later models have side airbags as standard equipment.
Roof Strength: Look for a strong roof. IIHS rates roof strength to help consumers pick vehicles with roofs that will hold up in a rollover crash. Stronger roofs crush less. Ratings began with 2008-09 models.
Head Restraints: Pick a model with a good seat/head restraint rating to reduce whiplash injuries in a rear-end collision. Vehicles with seat/head restraint combinations rated good by IIHS have 15 percent fewer insurance claims for neck injuries than vehicles with poor ratings. You can help increase protection by remembering to adjust the head restraint to correctly fit behind your head.
Electronic Stability Control: Buy a vehicle with ESC. It’s standard on 2012 and later models and available on many earlier ones. An extension of antilock brake technology, ESC engages automatically to help drivers maintain control on curves and slippery roads. ESC lowers the risk of a fatal single-vehicle crash by about half and the risk of a fatal rollover by as much as 80 percent.
Just because you decide to buy an older model doesn’t mean you can’t save on auto insurance. Check with your agent to see which ones may also save you on auto insurance premiums.
- IIS: Crash Test Ratings Lookup
- NHTSA: Five Star Safety Ratings
- ESC and Side Airbag Availability by Make and Model
All of these safety features just might help you save on auto insurance. To learn more, call Snyder Insurance at (630) 960-4848.