I always tell my clients whose vehicles have been totaled to buy the biggest truck or SUV they can. That’s because over half of the vehicles on the road are pickup trucks or SUVs in Texas.
And that’s not counting all the 18 wheelers and other commercial trucks racing around making deliveries.
When a collision happens between a large vehicle and a smaller one, the occupants of the larger one almost always suffer fewer, if any, personal injuries.
So which vehicle should you buy?
Exterior styling, gas mileage, price and payment options are top reasons why we choose vehicles. Volvo used to brag about its safety ratings. Not any more. Safety is usually a secondary concern for car buyers. But we should all focus on how our vehicles will hold up against much larger, heavier SUVs or trucks.
Even if safety is at the top on your list, how can you tell which vehicles are the safest? Generalities like big cars are safer don’t always hold up. And a vehicle that looks safe may have serious flaws in its design and manufacturing.
Here’s a list of the 12 most dangerous vehicles in the U.S. Predictably, small sedans most often received failing grades. But even some SUVs, minivans and pick-up trucks were substandard. Some of the models have fortunately been discontinued, probably due to safety concerns.
What about the best vehicles? If you are buying a new car or truck or an older model, research is the only way you can truly know how safe a vehicle is. A good place to look is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash test ratings, a list of winners released every year. Here’s the latest compilation of Top Safety Picks and Top Safety Picks+ between 2006 and 2017.
The non-profit safety organization evaluates crash avoidance and crashworthiness. In other words, how well the vehicle’s technology prevents accidents from occurring in the first place, and how well its safety features mitigate injuries when accidents do occur.
For each model, the IIHS conducts the same tests on five major crashworthiness issues: moderate overlap front, small overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints. The IIHS judges crash avoidance based upon track test performance, safety system technology and headlights.
Look for vehicles that the IIHS rated as “good” or at least “acceptable” and stay clear of vehicles rated as “marginal” or “poor.” Also look for an overall crash avoidance rating of “advanced” or “superior.” Vehicles that have not yet adopted new safety technology are likely to fall in the less safe “basic” category.
As you can see by the IIHS results, even minicars can win top ratings and SUVs and large pickup trucks can show poor results.
But during the 37 years in which I have represented car crash victims, I have watched vehicles grow ever larger and heavier — and personal injuries get worse and worse. Driving a large car or truck is a matter of survival here in Texas, for better or for worse.