2009 Mitsubishi LancerEnlarge Photo
2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1Enlarge Photo
Yet the Lancer, from the 2007 through 2009 model years, has the highest insurance losses, or claims, of any model, according to an annual update of insurance loss information released this week from the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI).
Adding one more point of potential confusion, the Lancer has been named a repeat Top Safety Pick—signifying top-tier occupant protection—from the HLDI's companion group, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
It's a safe car, with much higher-than-average insurance costs, most likely, for you. And that's even if, by all indications, you're a safe driver.
This emphasizes an important point: The annual numbers are a little hard to interpret, and speak more for the types of drivers attracted to a particular model than to the model's protection or accident-avoidance ability. So don't assume that high insurance claims—even when it comes to medical payments—for a particular model means that it's less safe than another model with low claims.
Corvette and Miata lowest among all models in claims
Among sporty coupes, for instance, the Ford Mustang has 'substantially worse than average' losses in most categories, while the Chevrolet Corvette and Mazda Miata are among those with the lowest losses of any vehicles, standing out as 'substantially better than average' in most. The Ferrari F430, Maserati GranTurismo, Aston Martin Vantage V8, and Porsche 911 Turbo (though not the standard 911 Carrera) meanwhile have very high collision losses.
The latest ratings released include losses for 2007 through 2009 model years
In the Institute's 'Mini' category, all the models included—the Chevrolet Aveo, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, and Toyota Yaris—are all worse than average, especially in the injury-related categories; that's likely because these smaller, cheaper models are favored by both relatively new drivers and those in congested cities.
To its credit, the Smart Fortwo has substantially better than average numbers in most claim categories, with fewer injury-related and collision payments. This is perhaps linked to the idea that the Fortwo has been attracting older and more experienced drivers.
Safe vehicle, safe drivers?
Among small cars, the Mitsubishi Lancer, Chevrolet Cobalt, and Kia Spectra rank at the bottom, while the Volkswagen Rabbit ranks at the top, with average ratings in most categories and a 'substantially better than average' rating with respect to comprehensive claims. Among small and mid-size coupes, the same holds true, with the Cobalt and nearly identical G5 among the lowest, joined by the Scion tC and Mitsubishi Eclipse. The VW New Beetle ranks highest, with a 'substantially better than average' score overall; again, at least by this editor's observation, the New Beetle tends to attract older drivers, and among younger drivers, more women than risk-prone young men.
Looking at mid-size, four-door sedans, the results are more in line with crash-test ratings. The Kia Optima, Mitsubishi Galant, Pontiac G6, and Dodge Avenger rank at the bottom, with the highest insurance losses in all categories—though the Nissan Maxima ranks exceptionally high in comprehensive claims, perhaps an indication that higher-risk drivers are drawn to this model. The Honda Accord, Acura TSX, Saturn Aura, Subaru Legacy, Volkswagen Passat, and Volvo S40 all rank in the top tier here, though overall they all fall in the 'average' range.