Each year for the past two decades, collision loss data compiled by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) has landed on the doorstep of every auto dealer in the country. The booklet, titled "Relative collision insurance cost information," is distributed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and has a complicated history.
In 1972, the U.S. Congress passed legislation requiring insurance cost information to be provided to prospective vehicle buyers. The provision was never carried out, so Consumers Union sued NHTSA. In a 1991 settlement, the agency agreed to fulfill the requirement by distributing HLDI's collision loss data to auto dealers (see "NHTSA: Dealers should provide car buyers with HLDI brochure," Nov. 30, 1991). This was considered a practical solution because HLDI was already compiling this information and was more than willing to provide it to the government.
Following the settlement, NHTSA issued a rule in 1993. It spelled out that dealers are responsible for copying the booklets and having them available on request.
The idea behind the booklets is to allow shoppers to compare models on the basis of their susceptibility to damage and to show how the choice of a vehicle can affect insurance premiums. But few consumers are aware that they can request the publication, and dealers have come to view the requirement as an unnecessary hassle.
This summer the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to repeal the requirement. It is now pending in the Senate.
"While the information in these booklets is important for consumers, there are easier ways to get it in the Internet age," says HLDI Senior Vice President Kim Hazelbaker. "Anybody can go to our website to find collision loss information, along with data on other types of insurance claims."
HLDI publishes loss results by model under collision, property damage liability, comprehensive, personal injury protection, medical payment and bodily injury coverages in what is known as the HLDI composite.
Results are based on the loss experience of the past three model years. This year's composite includes losses for 2009-11 models from their first sales through May 2012. Results are stated in relative terms, with 100 representing the average for all vehicles under a given coverage type. For example, a result of 122 is 22 percent worse than average, and 96 is 4 percent better than average.
Results for collision, property damage liability and comprehensive represent overall losses, which reflect both the frequency of claims and the average loss payment per claim. Results for injury coverages represent claim frequency only. HLDI controls for factors such as driver age and gender, deductible, and the number of registered vehicles per square mile at the garaging location.
Results are grouped according to vehicle class and size to provide the most useful comparison. If a vehicle's results differ greatly from others in the same category, that suggests there is something about the vehicle other than its size and usage pattern that produces either higher or lower insurance losses.
The composite also shows broad trends among vehicle types. For example, the vehicle types with higher than average collision losses include small and midsize two-door cars; small, midsize and large sports cars; all luxury cars; and large luxury SUVs. Comprehensive losses, usually for theft, are highest for all luxury cars, large two-door cars, large and very large luxury SUVs and very large pickups. Injury losses, as measured by PIP, are highest for mini, small and midsize four-door cars, and small and midsize two-door cars.
Insurance losses by vehicle size and body style, 2009-11 models
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