If you’re wondering how to survive a car accident, the best way is to buy a car that provides the best possible crash protection in a collision. Naturally, then, the question you want answered is this: What are the safest cars?
On the pages that follow, we’re going to tell you which models are the safest cars to buy* in order to survive an accident. The list is based on three primary factors:
#1 The safest cars feature underlying structural and interior safety systems designed to successfully absorb and deflect crash energy away from the driver and any passengers along for the ride.
As the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) explains: “A crashworthy design reduces death and injury risk. Good structure means a strong occupant compartment, crumple zones to absorb the force of a serious crash, side structure to manage the force of a striking vehicle or struck object, and a strong roof that won’t collapse in a rollover.”
To measure effectiveness in this regard, we looked to crash-test ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Each of the models on our final list earn an overall rating of 5-stars with a minimum of a 4-star rollover resistance rating from the NHTSA, combined with a “Top Safety Pick” rating from the IIHS.
#2 The safest cars typically weigh between 3,500 lbs. and 4,500 lbs.**, the range in which a vehicle remains safe in collisions with larger vehicles such as full-size SUVs while limiting additional threat to drivers of smaller, lighter vehicles such as compact cars.
“Vehicle size and weight matter,” says the IIHS. “Smaller, lighter vehicles generally offer less protection than larger, heavier ones. People in lighter vehicles also experience higher crash forces when struck by heavier vehicles.”
#3 Each of the vehicles on our list of the safest cars has a base price of $40,000 or less. The only model that would otherwise be included but which exceeds that price cap is the 2014 Acura MDX, seen in the photo above.
Now let’s take a look at the 5 best cars for surviving an accident, listed in alphabetical order.
* Vehicles listed were crash-tested and on sale by July 15, 2014. Since that date, additional models may be eligible for the list based on our criteria.
** A study originally published by the IIHS in June of 2011 (“Dying in a Crash”) found that SUVs weighing more than 4,500 lbs. demonstrate slightly lower death rates than SUVs weighing between 3,501 lbs. and 4,000 lbs.
5 Best Cars for Surviving an Accident: 2014 Honda Odyssey
With a base curb weight of 4,396 pounds, the 2014 Honda Odyssey is a minivan designed to seat up to eight passengers. Rated a “Top Safety Pick” by the IIHS, the Odyssey earns an overall NHTSA crash-test rating of 5 stars, with a 5-star performance in each individual assessment except for rollover resistance, for which the minivan gets a 4-star rating.
Honda is not expected to make significant changes to the Odyssey for the 2015 model year.
5 Best Cars for Surviving an Accident: 2015 Hyundai Genesis Sedan
The redesigned 2015 Hyundai Genesis Sedan starts at less than $40,000, is an IIHS “Top Safety Pick,” and gets 5-star ratings in every single NHTSA test including rollover resistance. This 4-door luxury sedan weighs a minimum of 4,138 lbs.
5 Best Cars for Surviving an Accident: 2014 Toyota Highlander
A midsize crossover SUV designed to carry up to eight people, the redesigned 2014 Toyota Highlander is one of the safest cars you can buy. Rated as a “Top Safety Pick” by the IIHS, the 4,134-lb. Highlander earns a 5-star overall crash-test rating from the NHTSA combined with a 4-star rollover resistance rating. Note, however, that in the NHTSA’s frontal-impact test, the driver protection rating is 4 stars rather than 5 stars.
Toyota is not expected to make significant changes to the Highlander for the 2015 model year.
5 Best Cars for Surviving an Accident: 2015 Volvo S60
Volvos have long been associated with safety, and the current crop of them is no different. This is the 2015 Volvo S60, an entry-level luxury sedan weighing a minimum of 3,528 lbs. It gets a “Top Safety Pick” rating from the IIHS, and gets 5-star NHTSA ratings across the board, including for rollover resistance.
5 Best Cars for Surviving an Accident: 2015 Volvo XC60
Sharing its platform with the S60 sedan, the 2015 Volvo XC60 crossover SUV weighs 4,012 lbs. at a minimum, and shares the S60 sedan’s crash-test ratings with a single exception. The XC60 gets a 4-star rather than a 5-star rollover resistance rating, which is common among crossovers.
Original photography for this article taken by Christian Wardlaw