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Some people want to buy a small SUV because they think it will be easy to handle and therefore safer than vehicles. However, that may not actually be true, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Here’s what the IIHS has to say about the size of a vehicle and how safe it is.

A black 2022 Mini Countryman on a racetrakc.
2022 Mini Cooper Countryman | Mini

Larger SUVs are safer than smaller vehicles

There are a lot of reasons why small sport utility vehicles are attractive, yet safety may not be one of them. According to the IIHS, “A bigger, heavier vehicle provides better crash protection than a smaller, lighter one, assuming no other differences.” That’s because larger SUVs have more space around the passengers, allowing other vehicles in a collision more crush distance before reaching people. “The part of the vehicle between the front bumper and the occupant compartment absorbs energy from crashes by crumpling.”

In addition, small SUVs are lighter than larger sport utility vehicles. “Heavier vehicles also tend to continue moving forward in crashes with lighter vehicles and other obstacles, so the people inside them are subject to less force.” Being in a small SUV in an accident with a larger SUV means passengers are more at risk.

Older larger SUVs are safer than new, small SUVs for teens

A lot of people buy old, small cars for teen drivers, thinking that they’ll be easier to handle. Perhaps surprisingly, that isn’t always the case. The IIHS says that bigger, heavier vehicles are safer than small ones – even when the larger vehicle is used and the small vehicle is new.

You can use the list put out by the IIHS and Consumer Report which details the safest cars, SUVs, and minivans to buy teen drivers. This list is a great starting point for shopping for a teen because it takes into account all of the risk factors that make teenage drivers at higher risk for an accident.

Only 1 small SUV is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ winner – and a good updated side crash test

The 2022 Mazda CX-5 is a Top Safety Pick+. This is the IIHS’ top safety award, and it means that an SUV meets a whole bunch of stringent criteria. To win the coveted Top Safety Pick+ award, a vehicle must have good crash test ratings in all major categories. It also has to have superior or advanced safety systems and acceptable or good headlights standard on all models.  

If you’re shopping for a new sport utility vehicle, it may be wise to choose the biggest, heaviest, safest one that you can. Hopefully, you’ll then be better protected in a car accident.


Large SUVs Can Be Dangerous for a Surprising Reason