IIHS shows how cars stack up on insurance losses

(October 21, 2010) In addition to choosing a car based on price, features and the ineffable cool factor, there's another set of data you might want to factor into your calculations: Insurance loss history.

 The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) just released insurance loss data for hundreds of passenger cars in the 2007-2009 model years, showing losses under six insurance coverage categories: collision, property damage liability, comprehensive, personal injury protection, medical payment and bodily injury. The reports show how well a car performs compared to the average for that coverage. A result of 122 is 22 percent worse than average, and 96 is 4 percent better than average.

 IIHS says that losses vary widely among vehicles under all six coverages — even for vehicles that are similar in size and type. And so while you might expect that a sports car would have higher losses than a family sedan, it's not so.

The car with the lowest losses was the Chevrolet Corvette convertible, with a loss "score" of 53 (its losses are 47 percent better than average). The car with the highest loss was the Mitsubishi Lancer, a small four-door car, which has an overall score of 163. That's 63 percent worse than average. This chart lays out the lowest-loss and highest loss cars.

Auto insurance covers damage to vehicles and property in crashes plus injuries to the people involved in the crashes. Different insurance coverages pay for vehicle damage versus injuries. Different insurance coverages also may apply depending on who's at fault — first-party insurance pays for your own losses, while third-party pays for losses to other people and property for which you're liable.

These insurance loss results generally are good predictors of the experience of current versions of the same vehicle models. But when automakers substantially redesign their passenger vehicles, the experience of an earlier model with the same name (but not same design) may not predict the experience of the newer design.