A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products, including home, life, auto, and commercial, and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, mainly in the insuranc...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers Insurance CSR 4 Years

UPDATED: Oct 18, 2021

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Vehicle size has a huge affect on the car’s performance in crash tests
  • The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has found that passengers of small cars are more at-risk in head-on collisions, you may pay higher rates for some coverage options
  • Insurance companies use several rating factors to calculate policy rates
  • While vehicle size isn’t a specific factor that’s used, it is considered when the vehicle’s ISO classification codes are assigned
  • It’s very important to shop around for affordable small car insurance

Just a decade ago, large SUV’s and trucks were preferred by a majority of American drivers. Now, with unpredictable gas prices that can climb and fall in the blink of an eye, buying a small car makes more sense for most commuters.

Unfortunately, owning the same small cars that cost very little to fuel can come with same unique risks.

The way small cars are designed and engineered has improved over time, but there are still some areas where there is room for improvement.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, occupant protection is a huge cause for concern. Safety ratings and risks create a need for a comprehensive auto insurance policy.

Here’s a buyer’s guide on buying insurance on small cars so that you understand how rates are developed and how to choose coverage options.

Compare car insurance quotes today and see how much you could save!

What is the importance of vehicle safety ratings?

Whenever you’re shopping for a vehicle, whether it be a compact model or a sedan one, you need to consider the car’s safety rating. A number of different organizations do safety tests on vehicles to see how they perform in front-end, side, and rear-end accidents.

One agency that publishes a long list of ratings on all cars is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The purpose of safety tests is to determine how great of an impact the car can take and whether or not occupants will walk away unharmed when they are wearing a seat belt.

Some tests are even conducted to determined if the vehicle is capable of causing greater bodily harm to another vehicle’s occupants than the average car.

Because small cars have less interior space, the IIHS has determined that passengers of small cars are more at risk of suffering injury when they are in a crash.  Two concerns that owners should be aware of are:

This is why it’s so important for compact car buyers to do their homework before they choose just any model.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducts five tests to see how all private passenger cars perform:

  • moderate overlap front
  • small overlap front
  • roof strength
  • side
  • head restraints

Out of these tests, small cars tend to perform well on side tests but not on small overlap front tests, which puts occupants at risk of suffering injury. It’s best to choose a small car with a good safety rating.

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How do the safety ratings affect car insurance premiums for small models?

Insurance companies look at more than just your driving record when they are calculating your rates. It’s easy to assume that you’ll pay less money to insure less car, but that’s not the way that insurance works.

Companies are most concerned about risk and how likely you are to file a claim. In some instances, you’re more at risk when you own a small car.

Insurance pricing for vehicle models is determined by looking at the car’s crashworthiness, vehicle structural design, size, weight, restraint systems, and other safety features.

If a car’s design puts you or your passengers at risk, your rates for first-party medical payment coverage options will be higher than they would for the average car.

If you buy a car that doesn’t have the best small overlap protection, you could pay more than expected to insurance your new fuel efficient vehicle. It all depends on the type of coverage that you purchase and how high your limits are.

For cars with a poor design for occupant protection, you won’t pay more for a basic policy, but you will pay more for:

Insurance providers look at Highway Loss Data Institute reports seeing how much it costs carriers to insure a specific vehicle. Since more and more drivers are driving smaller cars, the accident trends are higher in compact cars.

This, combined with the fact that smaller cars are used during peak commuter times, creates the need for companies to charge expensive premiums.

How to Mitigate the Risks When You Own a Small Car

Owning a small car does pose a risk, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to mitigate this risk. One of the most effective ways to mitigate risk is to drive safe and always use your restraints, but this isn’t all that you should do.

In addition to being safe, you should also buy the right insurance so that you are not left in financial turmoil if you do have a loss. First-party coverage isn’t required but it’s recommended for the smaller electric and compact models.

Any time you’re buying a new car you need to consider how much car insurance premiums will cost you. If you’re on a mission to get quotes, you should set aside time to compare the rates for optional coverage that you don’t have to carry.

Use an online rate quote tool for quick comparisons, and see if you can afford to insure a small car. Try ours today be entering your zip code below!