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December 2011

Smaller, safer cars can mean big savings

Traditionally, car buyers have had to decide between a safer (usually larger) car and one that is more fuel efficient (and usually smaller). The tradeoff was something many buyers would struggle with. With advances in auto safety, however, this is no longer an issue, as some of the safest cars are also some of the smallest.

Smaller safer cars can mean big savings

Fuel economy vs. Safety - You no longer have to make a choice
Vehicle weight is the biggest determinant of fuel economy, as a heavy vehicle will require more power to produce comparable acceleration to a lighter one. This is usually achieved by a larger engine being used, which drives down fuel economy. Often, people were willing to trade off lowered fuel efficiency for a vehicle offering better protection to occupants, which typically meant a large vehicle. When faced with rising gas prices, however, many Americans have begun to trend away from larger cars towards smaller cars. These aren't the economy cars of the past: today's safety innovations have provided an added bonus of increased safety along with more miles per gallon.

Top safety ratings
An example of this new trend is the brand-new 2012 Chevrolet Sonic, which recently went on sale and was just named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Other smaller cars that rank high in safety tests include the Ford Focus, Honda Civic and the Kia Forte. In addition to being safer, these cars feature increased horsepower along with decreased fuel consumption, with most averaging about 40 miles per gallon. With many new, safe cars coming out, it looks like this trend towards smaller, more fuel-efficient cars will continue. For example, new cars like the Fiat 500 will come equipped with 7 airbags, scored well on crash tests and measure just over 11 feet long. One final note: smaller cars usually cost less too, which, along with saving on fuel, can ease some of the burden on your finances.

While a small car may not be feasible for everyone, for those that can utilize one the savings opportunities are great, and won't require you to trade off safety for fuel economy.

Sources: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), Forbes.com, Edmunds.com

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