When out shopping for a car, there are a lot of things to consider. Some people would look out for the latest tech from the most reliable car brands, others may simply want a vehicle they can drive safely without having to worry about their ‘death will’.

SUVs and Sedans are one of the most favorites for the purpose they serve – convenient features and comfort. But often, new buyers are not sure which is safer.

According to IIHS; if all things being equal, a larger, heavier vehicle offers superior crash protection than a smaller, lighter one. As such, a bigger, heavier SUV is safer than a smaller, lighter Sedan and vice-versa. But it is much safer to compare particular SUV and Sedan models rather than the category.

Sedan vs SUV difference

I hate to assume that everyone knows what an SUV stands for. But if you do then that’s great! You should definitely check out the first SUV.

Traditional Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) are box-like, designed like a station wagon with the chassis of light trucks. SUVs are bigger, tougher, and more powerful than the usual vehicles.

So what’s the difference between Sedan and SUV?

hyundai sedan in korea

Without going into too much detail, SUVs have a separate engine compartment and a combined passenger and cargo compartment, whereas sedans (also known as saloons) have three separate compartments for the engine, passenger, and cargo.

Popular Misconceptions

Let’s clear the air on some common misconceptions about SUVs.

1. SUVs are heavier, so stopping takes longer – Not True

Here is a 60 mph to 0 stopping distance pulled from Motor Trend test reports

  • Small crossover test (Ford Escape, Jeep Cherokee, Honda CR-V, etc.) – 112 to 122 ft
  • Compact car test (VW Jetta, Chevy Cruze, Nissan Sentra) – 117 to 122ft
  • Ford Expedition large SUV – 129ft
  • Nissan Armada large SUV – 122ft
  • Audi A6 Quattro (all wheel drive) – 109 ft

As you can see, the range is roughly 110 to 120 feet, implying that the differences in stopping distance are minor (under 10 percent ).

2. A taller vehicle is more likely to roll over – Often Not True

Cars with a greater center of gravity would be more prone to roll over – this is logical as SUVs were significantly more likely to roll over in the past.

But this belief can now be debunked as car manufacturers have been busy focusing on two things lately – reducing the center of gravity and adding ESC. With the latest generations of automobiles, we can see a significant difference.

Electronic Stability Control (ESC) actively monitors driving conditions for traction loss and uses selective braking to keep the vehicle moving in the direction indicated by the driver.

This technology has made a significant difference in terms of safety, effectively eliminating sedans’ rollover advantage. Since 2012, Stability control is mandatory on all automobiles.

Can you compare different class of vehicles?

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), side crash and rollover tests can be compared among classes of vehicles. With that, we discovered that when small SUVs are compared to compact automobiles, the ratings differ.

Is a Sedan safer than an SUV?

Many families prefer SUVs to sedans because they believe they are safer while driving higher off the ground. However, they’re not far from the truth, recent studies have shown that SUVs are safer than sedans.

In fact, an SUV driver or passenger is at least 50% more likely to survive a car accident without serious injuries than a sedan passenger.

What does the Data actually say?

Looking at the stats collected and analyzed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for every crash in the US, there is quite an interesting conclusion.

Taken as overall classes, the IIHS says minivans were safest (25 fatalities per million registered vehicle years), followed by SUVs (28 per million), then pickup trucks (52 per million), with the broad “cars” class rated most deadly (56 deaths per million.)

It’s worth mentioning that the “car” category as described in their conclusion is broad, implying that not all cars are created equal. Hence a further look into this data revealed the variation from car to car, as well as SUV to SUV.

In the chart below, you can see that SUVs are generally safer than cars  (sedans) in terms of deaths per vehicle. That does not however mean that all SUVs are safer than all cars.

car driver deaths per mi 1

According to studies, sedans are the safest in a collision when two vehicles of similar size collide. However, this does not appear to be the case with SUVs. Unfortunately, if a sedan driver is involved in a crash with an SUV driver, the sedan driver is unlikely to survive.

In fact, University of Buffalo researchers recently studied a series of head-on collisions between a single vehicle and an SUV. They discovered that the driver of a sedan was roughly 8% more likely to die in a crash than an SUV driver.

But what about rollovers? SUV drivers, on the other hand, are at a far higher risk of sustaining injuries in rollover incidents. SUVs are also more likely to be involved in accidents caused by wind or weather because of their greater center of gravity.

How size and weight affect safety

The forces that passengers within a car feel after a crash are affected by their size and weight. The size of the forces is proportional to the likelihood of injury.

Larger automobiles have a longer distance between the front of the vehicle and the occupant compartment, which provides better protection in frontal collisions.

The distance between the front of the vehicle and the occupant compartment is longer with larger autos, which provides better protection in frontal crashes.

When heavier vehicles collide with lighter vehicles or other obstacles, they tend to continue going forward, exposing the passengers to less impact.

Weight is also crucial when two vehicles crash. During the collision, the heavier vehicle will force the smaller one backward. People in the heavier vehicle are subjected to less force, while those in the lighter vehicle are subjected to more.

Big car vs small car crash test

IIHS highlighted the role of size and weight in a series of crash tests in 2019 by crashing a midsize SUV and a small car made by Kia and a large car and minicar made by Toyota.

auto accident involving two cars

Both of the smaller vehicles, the 2018 Kia Forte and the 2018 Toyota Yaris iA got excellent ratings in the five IIHS driver-protection tests, but they scored badly in collisions with the larger vehicles.

SUVs and pickup trucks have always posed a greater risk to individuals in cars due to their higher bumpers and other energy-absorbing elements than smaller vehicles. This meant that in crashes, higher, larger vehicles would effectively climb up the hoods of small vehicles, increasing the risk of injury and death for people inside.

More recently, auto manufacturers have made design adjustments to align the energy-absorbing structures of modern SUVs and pickup trucks with those of cars. In 2013 – 2016, car passengers were only 28% more likely to die in incidents involving SUVs, compared to 59% in 2009 – 2012.

Improvements in crash protection have made vehicles of all sizes safer, yet even with those improvements, larger vehicles are still safer than smaller ones. 

Is suv safer than sedan in snow

If you’re going off-road, leave the job to an SUV. Sport Utility vehicles have increased traction and stability which makes them better at handling bad weather conditions. With a 4×4 SUV, you’ll have a much easier time in rain, snow, or ice.

Wrapping up….

As to the question Is SUV Safer than Sedan? You should consider individual car ratings, not category ratings. To put it another way, the car you buy (and the year model) is more important than the category it belongs to ( whether SUV or sedan).

For instance, the IIHS death rate for the Aura TSX is 10 which is 10 times lower than that of the Hyundai Accent at 104, despite the fact that both cars are in the same category.

One more thing! Any automobile from 2021 is likely to be safer than any SUV from 2015, and vice versa. But, the newer the better. This is owing to technological advancements, millions of people have been saved by airbags and Electronic stability control. Other crash avoidance features in newer cars, such as forward collision warning and auto braking, can save your life.

SUV

About the Author

Larry Cruise

Editor

I know a lot about cars, man. I can look at any car's headlights and tell you exactly which way it's coming.

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