Will buying one of the safest cars of 2018 save you money?



Myles Ma

Myles Ma

Senior Reporter

Myles Ma is a senior reporter at Policygenius, where he covers personal finance and insurance and writes the Easy Money newsletter. His expertise has been featured in The Washington Post, PBS, CNBC, CBS News, USA Today, HuffPost, Salon, Inc. Magazine, MarketWatch, and elsewhere.

Published December 11, 2017 | 2 min read

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An auto insurance industry group gave 15 cars its highest safety rating for 2018. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety puts vehicles through various crash tests and — starting this year — rates headlights to select the recipients of its Top Safety Pick+ awards.

The 15 Top Safety Pick+ winners include four small cars, three midsize cars, five large luxury cars, two midsize nonluxury SUVs and one midsize luxury SUV. Forty-seven other vehicles received the less stringent Top Safety Pick awards. The manufacturer with the biggest haul was Hyundai, with six models winning Top Safety Pick+ awards under its Hyundai, Kia and Genesis brands.

The winners:

Small cars: Kia Forte sedan, Kia Soul, Subaru Impreza, Subaru WRX Midsize cars: Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback, Toyota Camry Large luxury cars: BMW 5 series, Genesis G80, Genesis G90, Lincoln Continental, Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan Midsize SUVs: Hyundai Santa Fe, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Midsize luxury SUV: Mercedes-Benz GLC

Most of the winners only qualify when they include options for bolstered front crash protection and headlights. These safety features, like automatic braking, aren't usually part of a base trim, IIHS said.

IIHS has been recognizing Top Safety Picks since 2006 and added the Top Safety Pick+ category for the 2013 model year.

Will buying these cars save money?

You might think owning one of these cars would lead to lower auto insurance premiums. I did, anyway. But there's no direct relationship, said Russ Rader, a spokesman for IIHS.

Most auto insurance claims are for less severe, low-impact crashes. The cost of your insurance is largely determined by the cost of repairing vehicles that get into these kind of crashes. The Top Safety Picks focus on how well cars protect drivers and passengers in serious crashes and prevent crashes altogether, Rader said.

"It's not directly tied to what you would pay for insurance," he said.

Insurance rates have more to do with how other people who have the same car drive, said Jason Lancaster, founder and editor of AccurateAutoAdvice.com. For example, big luxury sedans are safe on paper, but because their owners tend to drive aggressively, insurance rates for these cars are higher. That's partly why Teslas, even loaded with safety features, can be costly to insure, he said.

"It's less to do with the IIHS and more to do with who else is buying this car, and then your age and your situation," Lancaster said.

Your auto insurance rates could vary depending on where live, too. If there are lots of accidents or bad weather in your area, your rates will be higher than less sparsely populated places. (You can learn more about what determines car insurance rates here.)

"The best reason to get a safe car is because you want to be safe, not because you want to save money on insurance," Lancaster said.

Image: digitalskillet