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Hooniverse Asks – Would you reject buying a car solely on Crash Test Data?

Jim Brennan December 24, 2012 Hooniverse Asks 39 Comments

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The Insurance Institute for highway Safety released a report last week with their findings on how well mid-sized cars performed with their rigorous new crash test. Some of the findings were unsettling to the average car buyer because one of the most highly regarded brands, Toyota, seem to have failed miserably in this particular test. Not only did the new Toyota Camry receive a “poor” rating for the Frontal Small Overlap Crash Test, the Toyota Prius V also received a “poor” rating, according to the institute.

This test is designed to see how cars would react in the event of a crash this test is designed to simulate; collisions into light poles, trees, and abutments. Cars have been getting better with the moderate overlap tests, but there have been some trends in which cars involved in these types of accidents have resulted from severe injury. The collision seems to “bypass” the safety structure built into the front end, with the passenger cell being subject to greater crash forces because of it.

So far, the institute has tested a group of mid-sized moderately priced vehicles (Accord, Camry, Sonata, etc), and mid-sized near luxury vehicles (Infiniti G Series, Lexus IS Series, and the outgoing Lincoln MK-Z), and come March, they will release their findings on several CUVs. When purchasing a family vehicle, car buyers are not only comparing price, features, and reliability, but are now looking at the crash test scores before they purchase. The question is this; Would you reject a car make solely on a poor crash test rating?

  • B72

    It depends. If the car is intended to be a kid ferry, it's definitely a factor. If it's a toy for me, less so.

  • At this point in my life, no. But if I have kids, it may be something to consider, although it would not be at the top of my shopping list.

    • Vavon

      I'm 100% with you on this point.

  • Ott

    Yes I would purchase the safest vehicle I could afford.

  • Metric Wrench

    Depends on the risk level. My daily commute is through rural, low traffic areas. I just nip into town to the office. So, I have no problem driving me old Mercs and Bimmers.

    Now, when we venture onto the interstate or gather up the childrens for a road trip, it's the boring minivan with the 5 star rating. It's not like I'm going to enjoy driving in that case anyway.

  • Van_Sarockin

    Crash test results would be one factor to weigh when making a decision. It would have to be a very poor performer for me to reject it just on the basis of crash performance. And at the same time, good crash performance is a plus, and says something about how generally well designed the vehicle is.

    If you don't have an accident, it doesn't matter how badly the car would perform. So driving well, and having a vehicle that helps me to avoid being in an accident are much more important to me. Besides, I used to drive vans without seatbelts where my knees were the crumple zone. I giggle a little inside when I hear people comparing airbag counts.

  • After it's been crash tested I probably wouldn't want it, regardless of the score.

    • MVEilenstein

      I'm glad I'm not the only one thinking straight!

    • jeepjeff

      Isn't there another line where if it's in so many pieces you can't tell if it's ever been in a crash, you might still buy it? Didn't you make a purchase like this recently?

      • At the right price, anything is worth buying. If anyone has a wrecked top of the line 2005 Dodge Caravan, late model Dodge Ram or Bosch Spider, I'm your huckleberry.

        Merry Christmas, or your family's equivalent, Hoons.

  • buzzboy7

    My first car was a VW Beetle. I was scared driving it sometimes knowing what would happen if I got into even a small accident. At this point, I want a car with modern safety features, but I don't necessarily need it to be top of the line safe. My 04 Subi is plenty peace of mind for me.

  • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

    [youtube Y5vbNbxD6bw http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5vbNbxD6bw youtube] Oh sure, it pretty much was, illustrated to me that there are no winners. Also I was a few sheets to the wind when I boasted I would buy a 960 one night, there was that too. Have a very merry hoonimas friends! <img src="https://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash4/281277_932616821280_1459923123_n.jpg&quot; width="650"> Safe one too 😉

    • Vavon

      This one shows the enormous improvement in modern safe cars vs older safe cars… Happy holidays!!!
      [youtube emtLLvXrrFs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emtLLvXrrFs youtube]

      • FuzzyPlushroom

        I'd still take the Volvo below 20 MPH, for sure, but at highway speed, any less-than-15-year-old First World car with airbags and crumple zones is gonna do better. Fortunately, I'm not all that worried for myself, and I rarely have to shuttle anyone's kid around.

  • topdeadcentre

    As others have said, it depends on what the car's use and purpose is. For daily driving and cargo duties, I love me some Volvo wagon. If I bought a Model A or something, then of course it has zero crash protection, but I'd probably be driving it only in ideal weather and driving conditions, and very carefully at that.

    The problem comes when contemplating a sport or toy car or motorcycle. Any motorcycle has elevated risk. An awesome 50's cruise vessel or classic BMW, Benz or British sports car is going to have less crash protection. These are the times to read up on Hunter S. Thompson ("Song of the Sausage Creature") or P.J. O'Rourke's automotive articles. Driving beautiful, fast, and dangerous machines certainly involves elevated personal risk, but I'd prefer to enjoy some of life.

    • hwyengr

      I'm not sure that enjoying life and reading P.J. O'Rourke articles fit in the same sentence. That man thinks he's waaay funnier than he actually is.

      • topdeadcentre

        I don't share his political outlook, but I do find his car articles entertaining..

  • It's not necessarily a deal-killer, but yes, if a car is new enough to have done well in crash-testing, that's a strike against it.

    • Vairship

      Of course your vehicles have another way to protect you: they're so small it's impossible to hit them!

  • Maymar

    I've owned an old Ford Escort, a Chevy Cavalier, a couple Hyundai Accents, and put about 30k on a series of decrepit Chevettes. More importantly, I'm hoping to have a motorcycle in the new year – it can only go uphill from here.

    Besides, it'll be quite some time before I have to worry about poor offset impact scores affecting my hypothetical children (what, two years until I have kids, and 12 years after that until they should be riding up front?).

  • PotbellyJoe

    There are two sides to crash protection.

    1.) What happens if I'm in a wreck?
    2.) What can the car do to keep me out of one?

    Since kids, I have only bought cars with overall ratings of mostly 5-star/Good ratings. BUT, I also made sure to get a car that can handle, has 4-wheel disc brakes, has good visibility and strong headlights.

    I think the headlights, suspension and 4-wheel disc brakes are a bigger deal-breaker for me than its IIHS score…

    • FuzzyPlushroom

      Agreed. I'll take a car that I can drive over some squishy, vague modern plastic creation, at least for myself.

  • Mad_Hungarian

    As I sit here, I can look out the window to my garage that has a '64 Corvair sitting in it. So perhaps I am the wrong person to be responding to this question. On the other hand, no, it's not my only car (the other one is a 2005 Town Car). We have all seen those horrifying videos of a couple of Chinese cars from a few years back that folded up like so much tinfoil. I'd rather have my Corvair than one of those; it isn't any safer but at least I would enjoy the experience before getting killed.

    The other considerations are: (a) a lot of 21st century safety-oriented design tends to compromise visibility, roominess and aesthetics of the car, all of which are also factors that would go into my buying decision at some level, and (b) as noted in the discussion at the end of the video posted by mr. mzs. . . . , even in the last 10 years there has ben a lot of overall improvement in how cars fare in these extreme tests, so when you are looking at the best versus the worst 2013 models, even the worst is safer than many 2003 cars and nearly all 1993 cars, which themselves were considered amazing achievements in safety at the time compared to, say, the aforementioned Corvair.

  • Scandinavian Flick

    If I'm shopping for a Camry, then my life has probably gotten to the point that I would rather die in the accident anyway…

  • jeepjeff

    Honestly? I don't really look at safety ratings. I sometimes glance at them in CR, but the safety standards on modern vehicles are high enough that I'm not worried about the safety of new cars. Even that Camry being rated "poor" by current standards is probably well above my risk tolerance levels. About the only thing below safety rating on my list is NVH.

    That said, I do care about having a car that can get out of the way and there is also the consideration of the purpose of the machine. I have two vehicles. One with a pretty good set of safety features. Too many airbags, electronic nannies, carefully designed crumple zones and all that. Decent handling, but lacking in power. The other grudgingly has two airbags, plenty of power, but questionable handling and it's top heavy.

    My wife and I went on a road trip this past weekend. Which vehicle was the safer one to take? The latter. My Jeep. Why? We raced a storm into the Sierra Nevada on Friday morning and drove out Sunday morning into the face of the worst of it. Getting the truck out of its parking space Sunday morning involved bumper-deep snow drifts. The highway was barely plowed and we were driving in white-out conditions. In this case, the not-getting-into-a-wreck features were way more important than crash worthiness.

    So, I guess that's a long way of saying, count me in with PotbellyJoe. I care more about not crashing. That said, my main worry on the road yesterday wasn't Mother Nature. it was the other idiots out there (a good third of the cars up there didn't have their lights on. In a blizzard that was regularly blotting out all visibility. I will never understand.)

  • wisc47

    I'm pretty young still and a bit of a risk taker so, no. However, there will be a day when I have kids and they will be able to drive. I can tell you now they'll be getting a Volvo.

  • dukeisduke

    For me, crash test results are only one factor.

    Old vs. new? Let's get even more extreme – a 1959 Chevy Bel Air vs. a 2009 Chevy Malibu:

    [youtube xtxd27jlZ_g http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtxd27jlZ_g youtube]

    Watch for the air cleaner from the Bel Air.

    • MVEilenstein

      I'd rather die in an old Bel Air than break my neck in a new Malibu.

    • Joe Dunlap

      This one got tons of hate on youtube. Everything from crying foul about crushing a classic to claims of rigging by cutting structure to having no engine, to being a total rustbucket. Too many people with too little understanding of engineering principles. I'll take the Malibu over the Impala any day. I enjoy living too much not to, and not just for the safety aspect.

  • Sjalabais

    …not if it's a Volvo.

    • FuzzyPlushroom

      This is about where I come from. I don't like new cars. They look awful with blemishes, they're harder to work on, they're built to be disposable. If I'm going to own an old car, then, I want a car that was safe at the time… so Volvos it is.

  • wunno sev

    i don't consider safety when buying

    it's a failure on my part, and something i should think about. the only person to whom it matters is me as i'm not married and have no kids. but it's an important consideration that i don't make.

    we can talk handling and braking and avoiding the accident, but when it comes down to it, the most violent crashes – the ones that'll kill you – happen in the blink of an eye, and don't give you an opportunity to avoid them. if you have time to a) register that a crash is going to happen and b) slam on the brakes or swerve out of the way, it probably wasn't the kind of crash that was going to threaten your life like the unforeseen ones do.

    the old cars i like driving are just not as good as new ones, no matter how solid they feel. that's an uncomfortable reality. i don't know how i'll deal with it when i "grow up."

  • Vavon

    Very interesting to see the Insurance Institute for highway Safety doing these tests.
    But where are the Buicks, Chevrolets, Chryslers, Dodges and Fords to name just a few American brands?
    Why haven't they been tested at the same time?

    • UDman

      They have been tested… The group of moderately priced Mid-Size sedans tested with the Camry is the:
      – 2013 Honda Accord (New One)
      – 2012 Chrysler 200/Dodge Avenger
      – 2013 Ford Fusion (New One)
      – 2013 Honda Accord Two-Door Coupe
      – 2013 Kia Optima
      – 2013 Nissan Altima (New One)
      – 2013 Subaru Legacy
      – 2013 Suzuki Kizashi
      – 2013 Volkswagen Passat
      – 2013 Chevrolet Malibu (New One)
      – 2013 Hyundai Sonata
      – 2013 Volkswagen Jetta (With a Big Problem)
      – 2013 Mazda 6 (About to be replaced in January)
      – 2013 Nissan Maxima

      The Accord and the Kizashi were the only two cars that received a good rating in this crash. The Older than dirt Dodge performed very well in this crash.

      • Vavon

        Thanks, as everytime I only heard stuff about the Toyotas, the Honda and the Suzuki I thought they hadn't tested others.

  • smokyburnout

    I was totally considering a Ford Aspire, but now I'm not so sure…
    [youtube BPEAWY8AEX8 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPEAWY8AEX8 youtube]

  • SSurfer321

    When I bought the F150 I wanted the safest truck available, as I knew the wife would ne driving it across country without and wanted her as safe as I could get her.
    So yes crash ratings play an important role in car purchase decisions.

  • Joe Dunlap

    I almost have to call foul on this particular test, and not because its a Camry. Here's my reasoning. The offset , to me, is unreasonable in the extreme. In this test, it is the equivalent of hitting the corner of a concrete building and every bit of the energy is being dissipated through what, the headlight bucket and the fender sheet metal and the sliver of the bumper structure outside of the gas strut that supports it? The only structure of any substance it hits is the Mac. strut and the wheel/tire assembly, and very little energy has been vented by the time it hits them. As you would expect, they get driven into the firewall/footwell area. To me, this is not representative of a real world collision. The vast majority of offset collisions involve other vehicles, which, because of the combined crush of materials of both cars would create some lateral forces that would tend to push the cars apart, creating more of a glancing blow. Not to say there wouldn't still be a lot of damage and probably injury to the occupants, but it would certainly have to be reduced from what you see here. Its really no surprise very few of the vehicles tested fared well. I give the test itself a C-/D+.

  • I wouldn't, but the data does factor into the equation. You can't really discount how sturdy the metal used to make the chassis is, not to mention how well-designed it actually is.