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Status Report, Vol. 47, No. 7 | September 20, 2012 Subscribe

By the numbersClaims information by make and model helps consumers choose safer vehicles

Minicars and cars with powerful engines have the most frequent insurance claims for injuries to their occupants, while high-end sports cars and luxury vehicles rack up the most expensive claims for damage.

These are just a couple of the insights that can be gleaned from the latest claims information published by the Highway Loss Data Institute. HLDI has been gathering claims data — and making it available to consumers — since shortly after it was formed in 1972. Today, HLDI collects data from companies representing about 80 percent of the market for private passenger vehicle insurance.

Alongside crash tests and ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, HLDI claims information is another valuable tool for consumers shopping for a vehicle. Collision claims data can provide a sense of how expensive it is to repair a vehicle, while injury data help fill out the safety picture. HLDI also analyzes claims under comprehensive coverage, which covers theft and damage not caused by a crash, and property damage liability insurance, which pays for damage that an at-fault driver causes to another vehicle. Loss information reflects both a vehicle's attributes and how it is driven. HLDI controls for factors such as driver age and gender, deductible, and the number of registered vehicles per square mile at the garaging location.

Despite its usefulness, HLDI's information trove is not well-known. Not that there haven't been attempts to disseminate the data more widely. In fact, the federal government distributes HLDI's collision loss data to auto dealerships, which, under a 1993 rule, are required to have copies available for any consumer who requests it. However, this fact is not well-publicized, so people rarely ask for the booklet.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would repeal the requirement for dealers to keep collision loss data on hand. Regardless of whether the requirement stays or goes, consumers still will be able to access complete information on collision and other types of losses online.

"For consumers concerned about insurance premiums, this information is key," says Kim Hazelbaker, HLDI senior vice president. "A lot of things go into your premium — your age, place of residence, driving record, sometimes even your credit history. The kind of vehicle you buy is the one factor that a consumer can control in the short term."

Claims data also are important from a safety perspective. Crash test ratings tell a lot, but they reflect how a vehicle's occupants are likely to fare in severe crashes that could cause serious injury or death. Such crashes account for a small fraction of total claims for injury or damage. Insurance data reflect a much wider variety of crash severities and make it possible to compare vehicles of different types in a way that can’t be done with crash test information.

Collision losses

When it comes to collision coverage, high-end sports cars, luxury vehicles and less expensive cars with powerful engines have higher than average collision claims.

"Naturally, expensive cars cost more to fix, which is why they have such high collision losses," Hazelbaker says. "Meanwhile, cars marketed for their powerful engines tend to crash more often, a phenomenon partly explained by the type of drivers they attract and by the style of driving they lend themselves to."

Overall insurance losses are the result of claim frequency, or how often claims are made, and claim severity, or how much money is paid out on each claim. Overall losses are measured as the amount paid out per insured vehicle year. An insured vehicle year is one vehicle insured for one year, two for six months each, etc.

Among 2009-11 models, the $196,000 Ferrari California convertible tops the list for highest overall collision losses, with an average loss of $2,132 per insured vehicle year, more than 7 times the average for all vehicles. Those high losses are driven entirely by the Ferrari's high average cost per claim of $82,112, as claims are rare events. In fact, in a ranking of the vehicles with the lowest claim frequency, the Ferrari comes in second after the Chevrolet Corvette Z06.

"A car like the Ferrari tends to stay in the garage most of the time. That looks like a smart decision when you consider how expensive it is to repair crash damage on one of these," Hazelbaker says.

One car that gets driven — and crashed — more often is the Mitsubishi Lancer. The four-wheel-drive version tops the list for the highest overall collision losses for vehicles priced under $30,000. Its losses average $707 per insured vehicle year. The Lancer is a good example of what the HLDI data can reveal to consumers: Its high relative losses make it an outlier among small four-door cars.

The Lancer is a small sporty sedan, and its powerful engine and fun-to-drive image attract drivers who like to go fast. The Hyundai Genesis coupe and the four-wheel-drive Suzuki Kizashi, which, like the Lancer, are marketed for performance, rank second and third on the list of less-expensive vehicles with high losses.

"Once you take out the luxury models, the list of vehicles with the highest collision losses is dominated by high-performance cars and small cars," Hazelbaker says.

The list of passenger vehicles with the lowest losses is dominated by SUVs and pickups, with the Chevrolet Tahoe hybrid SUV coming out on top. The Smart ForTwo microcar also makes the 10 best list in both regular and convertible versions.

Highest and lowest collision claims among 2009-11 models,
ranked by overall losses

  Vehicle size/type Claim frequency Claim severity Overall loss
Highest overall losses
Ferrari California midsize sports convertible 2.6 $82,112 $2,132
Maserati Granturismo large sports car 7.7 $16,150 $1,245
Porsche Panamera turbo 4WD (2010-11) large sports car 7 $16,027 $1,134
Mercedes-Benz S-Class hybrid (2010-11) very large luxury car 11.2 $8,528 $955
Maserati Quattroporte very large luxury car 8.1 $11,454 $935
Nissan GT-R midsize sports car 6.1 $15,285 $926
BMW M3 midsize luxury car 8.4 $10,259 $866
Porsche 911 turbo convertible 4WD midsize sports convertible 3.5 $24,679 $855
Lexus IS-F midsize luxury car 10 $8,487 $852
BMW 7 series 4WD long-wheelbase (2010-11) very large luxury car 9.7 $7,828 $755
Lowest overall losses
Chevrolet Tahoe hybrid large SUV 6.6 $2,019 $134
Jeep Wrangler 2-door 4WD small SUV 2.8 $4,862 $134
Toyota FJ Cruiser midsize SUV 4 $3,667 $148
GMC Canyon extended cab small pickup 3.5 $4,367 $154
GMC Canyon small pickup 3.6 $4,326 $154
Jeep Wrangler 4-door 4WD midsize SUV 3.2 $4,862 $157
Smart ForTwo microcar 2-door 3.7 $4,285 $160
Smart ForTwo convertible microconvertible 2-door 3.6 $4,450 $162
Chevrolet Colorado 4WD small pickup 4.1 $3,955 $162
Chrysler 200 (2011) midsize car 4.8 $3,378 $162
Average all passenger vehicles 6.9 $4,120 $285

Highest and lowest collision claims among 2009-11 models
priced under $30,000, ranked by overall losses

  Vehicle size/type Claim frequency Claim severity Overall loss
Highest overall losses
Mitsubishi Lancer 4WD small car 11.3 $6,221 $707
Hyundai Genesis (2010-11) midsize 2-door car 10.8 $4,779 $516
Suzuki Kizashi 4WD (2010-11) midsize car 9.5 $5,191 $493
Mitsubishi Lancer small car 10.2 $4,697 $485
Subaru Impreza WRX small car 9.9 $4,820 $479
Mazda RX-8 midsize sports car 9.6 $4,820 $465
Honda Civic Si 2-door small 2-door car 9.3 $4,738 $442
Nissan Altima 2-door midsize 2-door car 9.8 $4,367 $430
Honda Civic 2-door small 2-door car 9.1 $4,408 $405
Honda Civic Si 4-door small car 8.8 $4,573 $402
Lowest overall losses
Jeep Wrangler 2-door 4WD small SUV 2.8 $4,862 $134
Toyota FJ Cruiser 4-door midsize SUV 4 $3,667 $148
GMC Canyon extended cab small pickup 3.5 $4,367 $154
GMC Canyon small pickup 3.6 $4,326 $154
Jeep Wrangler 4-door 4WD midsize SUV 3.2 $4,862 $157
Smart ForTwo microcar 2-door 3.7 $4,285 $160
Smart ForTwo convertible microconvertible 2-door 3.6 $4,450 $162
Chevrolet Colorado 4WD small pickup 4.1 $3,955 $162
Chrysler 200 (2011) midsize car 4.8 $3,378 $162
Ford F-150 large pickup 4.1 $3,955 $165
Average all passenger vehicles
priced under $30,000
6.9 $3,949 $271
Note: Claim frequencies are per 100 insured vehicle years. Claim severity is average loss payment per claim.
Overall losses are average payments per insured vehicle year. Vehicles are 2009-11 models unless otherwise noted.

Injury losses

When it comes to injuries in crashes, medical payment insurance pays for injuries to an at-fault driver or passengers in that driver's vehicle, while bodily injury liability insurance pays for injuries that an at-fault driver causes to occupants of another vehicle. A third type of injury coverage is personal injury protection (PIP), which is used in the 17 states with no-fault insurance systems. This coverage pays for injuries to occupants of the insured vehicle, no matter who is at fault.

Losses for both medical payment coverage and PIP reflect in part how well a vehicle protects its occupants. Consumers can compare injury losses based on what type of coverage they need.

Looking at PIP, the Toyota Yaris, a minicar, has the highest frequency among 2009-11 models — 28.5 claims per 1,000 insured vehicle years, or about twice the average. The Suzuki SX4, a small sedan, comes in second with 26.6 claims per 1,000 insured vehicle years. Most of the vehicles with the highest PIP frequencies are minicars or small cars.

"Injury claims data show something that crash test results can't, and that's the role that vehicle size plays," Hazelbaker says. "In most crash tests, the advantage of greater size and weight is masked by using a fixed barrier. As a result, crash test results are comparable only among similar vehicles.

"We know that in the real world, if all else is equal, a larger, heavier vehicle does a better job protecting occupants than a smaller, lighter one. These claim frequencies demonstrate that clearly."

In addition to small vehicles, the list of high injury claim frequencies also includes models known for their powerful engines. As with the high collision losses for these vehicles, these high injury frequencies are likely a result of the way they are driven.

Personal injury protection claims among 2009-11 passenger vehicles

  Vehicle size/type Claim frequency
Highest claim frequency
Toyota Yaris minicar 28.5
Suzuki SX4 small car 26.6
Chevrolet Aveo minicar 26
Mitsubishi Galant midsize car 25.4
Kia Rio minicar 24.9
Nissan Versa small car 24.6
Hyundai Accent minicar 24.6
Dodge Avenger midsize car 23.7
Nissan Sentra small car 23
Chevrolet Aveo wagon mini station wagon 22.3
Lowest claim frequency
Porsche 911 midsize sports car 4.5
Chevrolet Corvette midsize sports car 5.4
Chevrolet Silverado 2500 crew 4WD (2011) very large pickup 5.5
Jeep Grand Cherokee (2011) midsize SUV 6
Lexus LX 570 4WD large luxury SUV 6
Mercedes-Benz SL-Class convertible midsize sports car 6
Chevrolet Silverado 1500 4WD large pickup 6.2
Ford F-150 4WD large pickup 6.2
Land Rover Range Rover 4WD large luxury SUV 6.2
Cadillac Escalade ESV 4WD very large luxury SUV 6.4
Note: Claim frequencies are per 1,000 insured vehicle years;
vehicles are 2009-11 models unless otherwise noted.
HLDI data at the dealership

Collision loss data from the Highway Loss Data Institute has been available at auto dealers for decades, but Congress is considering repealing the requirement. The good news is all that information and more can be accessed at online.

©1996-2018, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute | www.iihs.org