Are Crossovers Really Safer Than Sedans?

The crossover segment shows no sign of slowing down its success anytime soon. There are many reasons that a family might choose a crossover instead of a sedan. One of them is safety, but is it actually true that crossovers are safer than sedans?

Honda CR-V compact crossover SUV on display at Brussels Expo, IIHS bestowed the honor of top safety pick on this model
The 2020 Honda CR-V | Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images

Crossover safety

Crossovers offer a blend of car comfort and SUV utility. It’s really no wonder so many opt for a crossover rather than a sedan these days. Built on a unibody frame but with a larger SUV body style, crossovers are special. They offer handling and fuel economy more akin to that of a family sedan than a pickup truck. On the other hand, a crossover generally has more space for people and cargo.

Subaru Forester crossover is displayed during the second press day at the 89th Geneva International Motor Show on March 6, 2019, in Geneva, Switzerland.
Subaru Forester | Robert Hradil/Getty Images

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Take a look at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) website. There is a large number of crossovers that earned the title of either Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+. Models like the popular 2020 and 2021 Honda CR-V and 2020 Ford Escape have the honor of IIHS Top Safety Pick. The 2020 and 2021 Mazda CX-5, as well as the 2021 Subaru Forester, are named Top Safet Pick+ crossovers.

Are they actually safer?

In short, yes. There are many more crossovers that earned these titles in addition to the models mentioned above. So there are lots of safe crossovers to choose from. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are safer in a black and white sense.

A black 2021 Hyundai Palisade crossover SUV parked on display
The 2021 Hyundai Palisade on display | Photo via Hyundai

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The higher seat height does aid driver visibility. In addition, it’s easy to imagine a larger vehicle won’t take on as much damage in an accident with a smaller car. According to Car Connection, the larger and heavier a vehicle is the less likely a crash results in fatal injuries.

Today, however, crossovers aren’t necessarily that much heavier unless you go into extremes. For example, a 2021 Hyundai Palisade Top Safety Pick+ will protect better than a 2021 Subaru Legacy Top Safety Pick+. But while there are many crossovers rated for safety, we wouldn’t say that they are all innately safer.

Are sedans safer than crossovers?

On the other side of the coin, we take a look at the sedan segment. Cars generally reign supreme in terms of fuel economy. They are also smaller and easier to maneuver in parking lots and on city streets. But some may feel that going with a lower, smaller option could put passengers at higher risk.

the 2021 Honda Accord Touring at speed in the city at night
Gubagoo is helping dealerships streamline the car-buying experience. | Honda

However, another glance at the IIHS list of safety titles given to cars shows a nearly equal amount of awards were given to sedans. Popular family sedan models like the 2020 Toyota Corolla and the 2020 and 2021 Honda Civic are IIHS Top Safety Pick models. In addition, the 2021 Honda Accord and the 2021 Nissan Altima are Top Safety Pick+ models.

Which to buy: crossover or a sedan?

The list of awards goes on. In fact, one can presume that if there are more crossover models awarded these honors it is likely due to the fact that there are just more crossovers on the market. Making the choice to buy a crossover rather than a car based on safety alone doesn’t exactly make sense.

A silver 2021 Nissan Altima driving down a highway road exemplifies a top safety pick sedan
The 2021 Nissan Altima in action | Photo via Nissan

While crossovers surely have their safety benefits, sedans have high points as well. For example, sedans tend to have a lower center of gravity which makes them less likely to flip. This has become less of an issue due to the advanced electronic stability control on today’s vehicles. Still, it’s something worth mulling over. In addition, the enclosed trunk adds a security measure that any crossover without a tonneau cover won’t offer.

The choice mostly comes down to preference

So, ultimately the choice will come down to preference or priorities. If safety is one of the most important qualities in your next potential vehicle, then there are plenty of sedans and crossovers to choose from. While there are many good reasons to choose one rather than the other, safety isn’t necessarily one of them.

A blue 2021 Subaru Legacy sedan parked in a city shows a sedan that's ranked high for safety
The 2021 Subaru Legacy | Photo via Subaru

Of course, a large SUV or crossover will generally protect its passengers more in a real-world crash than a compact car. But this one statistic doesn’t mean that sedans are unsafe. Nor does it mean they are so much less safe than crossovers that it should be a deciding factor in the choice between sedan and crossover.