Research has shown that driver deaths are extremely high among those who drive mini cars or extremely small, compact cars. While they are economical, these small vehicles are no match to bigger, heavier cars in the event of an auto accident.

Explore the Facts Surrounding Auto Accidents and Vehicle Size

If you have had the opportunity to travel in some parts of Europe, you probably have seen some of the tiniest cars around. Europeans turned to these small vehicles following World War II when fuel prices soared. There is much history behind the European mini car, but it wasn’t until the early 2000s that the small car concept hit the United States. Today, thousands of mini cars travel along U.S. roads, and while owners can save thousands of dollars due to their efficiency and lower price points, the question that must be asked and answered before purchasing one is, are mini cars safe? As with all vehicles, safety depends on vehicle-specific features and the circumstances surrounding any particular auto accident.

Mini Cars Are Not Too Popular in the United States

A popular automotive blogger noted that U.S. mini car sales seem to fluctuate between 40 and 65 thousand vehicles a year, a consistent trend since 2006. A closer look at sales though does show that since 2014, mini car sales have decreased across all models. One website dedicated to reviewing mini cars has noted several reasons for the decrease in sales, which includes everything from few available low-cost car leases to an ongoing issue of reliability when parts need to be replaced. One thing that seems to be missing from many mini car reviews is actual safety information. For those details, you need to turn to research organizations like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

A few years ago, IIHS noted that when it comes to a mini car, meaning one that weighs between 2000-2500 pounds, only one of 11 of those tested achieved an acceptable rating if the vehicle was involved in an overlap front crash, where the initial accident impact occurs on the front corners of the car on either the driver’s side or passenger side. When it comes to a full head-on collision, IIHS noted that the results were even worse because it showed that the occupant compartment can easily collapse as a result of a head-on collision. As IIHS Senior Vice President of Vehicle Research Joe Nolan said:

“Small, lightweight vehicles have an inherent safety disadvantage. That’s why it’s even more important to choose one with the best occupant protection. Unfortunately, as a group, minicars aren’t performing as well as other vehicle categories in the small overlap crash.”

What’s also important to understand, and something leading automotive researcher Edmunds points out, is that when cars are rated for safety, crash ratings only apply to cars of similar sizes. As Edmunds notes, “If a small car has a five-star rating from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, that doesn’t mean it will protect you as well as a five-star-rated large sedan.”

Research Mini Cars Before You Decide to Buy

As the year comes to a close, many people will begin shopping for a new car, looking to take advantage of New Year’s sales. In Colorado, new vehicle registrations remained active, with reports noting that in 2018, registrations increased 10 percent among certain vehicles; mini-type cars were among those with increased registrations. IIHS has researched and rated several small cars, including minis, and is a good source for buyers everywhere. Just be aware that IIHS noted between 2012 and 2015, small vehicles are no match to larger, heavier vehicles if involved in an auto accident. IIHS says that this type of car does have the highest number of driver deaths than other types of vehicles. You may decide it’s not worth the risk, or you may decide it’s the best vehicle for your lifestyle, but at least you will go in armed with information before your next vehicle purchase.

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