Which Segments Incur the Largest (or Smallest) Insurance Losses?

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Insurance may be one of the greatest scams ever pulled on the general public, but it’s a very necessary evil. Right around the time the automobile became popular, people starting crashing them into things. By the 1920s, individual states began requiring drivers to purchase insurance — creating a pooled solution that covered at-fault drivers for damages they might be unable to pay otherwise.

However, not all drivers crash and not all vehicles incur the same costs when they take or deliver a beating. Collision losses might be astronomical for high-end sports cars but comparably moderate for midsize pickup trucks. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute recently compiled the loss averages for hundreds of models, grouping them by segments, to establish how lightly-used autos stack up against each other.

The data, compiled for 2013-2015 models, separates losses by collision, property damage liability, and comprehensive (accounting for frequency of claims and the average loss payment per claim), and injuries — which only factor in frequency.

According to the IIHS, all results are adjusted to reduce possible distortions from non-vehicle factors, like operator age, gender, marital status, model year, sales density, and average risk. However, we noticed that both medical payments and bodily injury coverage was far lower on vehicles people tended to drive less often and less aggressively.

For example, the Chevrolet Corvette’s medical coverage losses were incredibly low while the Ford Mustang’s were abnormally high. As anyone who has ever watched a Mustang crash compilation video knows, this was to be expected. Stang owners are abundant and can’t leave a Cars & Coffee without hitting at least 10 objects, while Vette owners primarily rub their rides with a cleaning rag. That doesn’t mean the data is bunk, it just means frequency plays a major factor.

Size also had a role to play in terms of medical payments. For the most part, large trucks and SUVs had almost comically low loss averages on personal injury claims. Among the lowest were the Ford Expedition and Ford F-150, but even segment loss leaders like the Dodge Durango still incur significantly slimmer personal injury losses than most large sedans.

Getting into collision losses, SUVs and pickups had the edge once again. While the disparity between cars wasn’t nearly as obvious, larger vehicles still tended to do a little better. That logic flies out the window once you factor in vehicle price, however. Luxury SUVs cost a lot to fix and collision claims clearly represented that. One notable exception was Acura, which boasted impressively modest losses for both the RDX and MDX.

Collision expenditures could generally be tracked by how expensive or sporty a vehicle is, making luxury sedans among the biggest insurance risks for providers. For example, the BMW M6 saw collision losses 349-percent higher than average, while the all-wheel-drive Volvo XC70 stood at only at 69 percent of average. This was mirrored in mainstream sedans too — hybrid powertrains and high-performance engines tended to cost more than traditional internal-combustion units.

There were, of course, plenty of outliers. Mini and micro cars fared exceptionally well overall, possibly because of their low repair costs or likelihood of being involved in lower-speed accidents. Meanwhile, minivans acted as a sort of happy medium between trucks and cars — providing a baseline without obvious highs or lows.

There were also a couple of brands that appeared to outperform the competition. In most cases, Subaru and Volvo seemed less apt to incur sizable losses, regardless of segment. It wasn’t a catch-all, however. Sporting models like the WRX were still higher than average, while the Legacy was among the lowest in terms of midsize sedan losses.

Clearly, there is a lot to unpack here and a truly comprehensive analysis would take another two thousand words. Since the research is bound by collected insurance data, the results stop at 2015 but stretch back as far as 1989.

If you’re interested, we’d recommend you visit the IIHS website and peck around, looking at the segments and models which intrigue you most — and using this article as an initial point of reference. It should be interesting to read your takeaways in the comment section.

[Images: IIHS.org]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Stingray65 Stingray65 on Nov 14, 2017

    If you look at the cars with the highest personal injury and medical payout claims they are almost all either cars purchased heavily by poor credit risk types (Chrysler 200, Kias, Nissans, Hyundai) and/or cars heavily in rental fleets (add Camry, Malibu, Mustang). Could be those are just the vehicle choices of lots of bad drivers, but it also smells a bit like insurance scam material - I bet there are lots of back and neck injuries and headaches that don't show up on x-rays but "disable" the person from work and require compensation.

  • DenverMike DenverMike on Nov 14, 2017

    I'd have to say the F-150 incures the least losses since it's 5-Star rated and good-size dents done by the owner or friend/family are left on to give them character, and don't really affect resale. A Tahoe, Expedition, Escalade, etc, with the same damage, you have to race to the body shop.

  • Rando [h2]Coincidentally, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is more than $41k as well -.-[/h2]
  • Ajla "Gee, wonder why car (as well as home) insurance rates are much higher in places like Florida..." Severe weather is on the list but even if a benevolent genie reverted the climate to circa 1724 I think FL would still have high cost. Our home insurance rates have increased 102% since 2021 and I don't think weather models account for that much of a change in that period. Florida's insurance assignment of benefit regulation meant that it had ~80% of the country's of the insurance lawsuits on ~12% of the nation's claims and litigated claims can be expensive to insurance companies. The state altered some regulations and is having some success on getting more companies back, even with the severe weather risks, through relatively bipartisan efforts. With car insurance just beyond the basic "Florida" stuff, the population increase of the past few years is overwhelming the roads. But, I think the biggest thing is we have very low mandated car insurance levels. Only $10K personal injury and $10K property damage. No injury liability needed. And 20% of the state has no insurance. So people that actually want insurance pay out the nose. Like I commented above my under/uninsured coverage alone is 2.5x my comprehensive & collision.
  • Juan Let's do an 1000 mile drive and see who gets there first.
  • Eliyahu CVT needed for MPG. Outback is indeed the legacy of, err, the Legacy.
  • Gayneu I can comment on these. My wife always thought the Minis were "cute" so I bought her a used 2005 (non-S, 5 speed) for one of her "special" birthdays. She loved it and I kinda did too. Somehow a hole developed in the transmission case and the fluid drained out, ruining the car (too expensive to fix). A local mechanic bought it for $800.We then bought a used 2015 S (6 speed) which we still have today (80k miles). Her sister just bought a used S as well (also manual). It has been a dependable car but BMW-priced maintenance and premium gas hurts for sure. I think the earlier generation (like in the article) were better looking with cleaner lines. The 2015 S rides too stiff for me (Chicago roads) but is a hoot on smooth ones. It does seem to shift weird - its hard to describe but it shifts differently from every other manual I have driven. No matter how hard I try, so won't let go of her Mini.
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