SUV vs Minivan: which is safer?

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learning_head
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SUV vs Minivan: which is safer?

Post by learning_head » Thu Feb 01, 2018 8:57 am

For someone looking for a larger car that can accommodate 2 car-seats + 3 adults or maybe even 4, safety-wise, would you go with an SUV or a Minivan?

When I look at safety ratings online, they only look at same-weight class vehicles. I did not find comparisons across weight classes. Any suggestions?

My understanding is that higher-weight vehicles are safer which might suggest a minivan, but SUVs tend to have more "junk" in front making them probably safer in frontal collisions. SUVs are also higher than Minivans which is safer in some respects (e.g. can better see ahead over other cars and collisions with "shorter" cars don't affect you as much); but make SUVs more prone to rollovers.

Another thought: cars that are larger by size are harder to "fit", making them more likely to be involved in accidents. So I guess the goal could be smaller size but larger weight? Am I thinking about this straight?
Last edited by learning_head on Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:15 am, edited 1 time in total.

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snackdog
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Re: SUV vs Minivan: which is safer?

Post by snackdog » Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:11 am

The lines are blurring between SUVs and Minivans now that many SUVs are car-based. However, typically SUVs are less safe due to their higher center of gravity which contributes to rollover accidents, which have a particular tendency to be fatal. I know at least three friends who have died in rollovers, two in Jeeps and one in a Suburban.

The last study I've seen documenting this was older -
https://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/0 ... -minivans/


learning_head
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Re: SUV vs Minivan: which is safer?

Post by learning_head » Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:18 am

@lthenderson, thanks but those other threads, while similar, often get into other topics. My question is specific to safety comparison.

MI_bogle
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Re: SUV vs Minivan: which is safer?

Post by MI_bogle » Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:23 am

https://www.cbsnews.com/htdocs/pdf/Driv ... 01_emb.pdf

https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Pu ... ion/812413



Some data here for you to peruse

In general, there's not a huge difference between SUVs and minivans anymore, as the SUV rollover risk that was prevalent during the 90s and early 2000s has been somewhat addressed

Keep in mind that there's probably inherent correlation to the types of people (and their driving styles) that might buy a particular car.

I'd worry more about your own personal driver behavior than whether you buy a SUV or minivan. A little bit more focus on defensive driving would go a lot further in reducing risk than putting in a lot of effort splitting hairs over which car to buy

Rupert
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Re: SUV vs Minivan: which is safer?

Post by Rupert » Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:40 am

If you avoid the body-on-frame SUVs (typically just the really big ones) and stick with a unibody SUV (e.g., the Honda Pilot, the Toyota Highlander), there probably isn't a significant difference in terms of safety today. It really comes down to which will most comfortably fit the people you routinely haul and which you prefer to drive. If you look at accident numbers, minivans win, but that likely has more to do with who drives minivans. Minivans are cheaper to insure for that reason and because they are less likely to be stolen.

caffeperfavore
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Re: SUV vs Minivan: which is safer?

Post by caffeperfavore » Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:46 am

Safety is a function of: how much you drive, where you drive, the conditions you drive in, your car's accident avoidance capabilities, your driving capabilities and alertness, and finally, what happens to your car in a crash, which is itself a function of how it was engineered, the safety mechanisms in place, and finally, mass. Yet, everyone seems to focus on the last thing.

When you plot the fatality rates by vehicles you find that the correlation between mass and safety has a lot of error. What's the error driven (ahem) by? All the other factors. Just a thought.

I would choose a minivan if concerned about safety as their lower center of gravity would make them handle better (YMMV depending on the particular model).

clutchied
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Re: SUV vs Minivan: which is safer?

Post by clutchied » Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:46 am

Last time I checked the Odyssey had zero driver fatalities per million miles driven.

http://www.iihs.org/iihs/sr/statusreport/article/50/1/1

aristotelian
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Re: SUV vs Minivan: which is safer?

Post by aristotelian » Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:51 am

Go with AWD SUV for sure if you live in an area with snow and ice (although be aware that AWD makes less of a difference with ice).

Atgard
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Re: SUV vs Minivan: which is safer?

Post by Atgard » Thu Feb 01, 2018 10:03 am

In general, vehicles on truck frames (many SUVs, especially larger ones) are heavier and have a higher center of gravity. While a heavier vehicle MAY offer some benefits in a crash (at the expense of the people in the other car), they take longer to stop, can't change direction or avoid accidents as well, accelerate slower, get worse gas mileage, and are more prone to roll over. On the other hand, they are better at going off-road and towing things.

Vehicles on car frames (minivans and some "crossover" SUVs) are lighter with lower centers of gravity, so they stop sooner, handle/change lanes better, avoid rollovers better, etc.

Personally, I would never buy a vehicle on a truck platform (unless I needed to go off-roading or tow something, neither of which I do), and I would not want my kids riding in one. I would far far rather have a better chance of avoiding an accident (by superior braking/handling/rollover resistance) than to get in an accident and hope the extra mass will help me (which it may or may not, it sure doesn't help in a rollover or driving into a creek).

Also, I know this is a tragedy of the commons thing, but do you think it's generally safer if EVERYONE rides higher, bigger, heavier vehicles? Or the opposite? (Note I'm not saying to get a SmartCar, I'm talking about minivans vs. SUVs. Generally minivans are better at hauling people in comfort and safety, assuming you're doing it on paved roads without towing a boat behind you.)

henry
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Re: SUV vs Minivan: which is safer?

Post by henry » Thu Feb 01, 2018 10:12 am

Basically a heavy car with a low center of gravity does well in crash testing and has less rollover risk. Many SUVs are "crossovers" and based on car or minivan platforms and these seem to be the safest SUVs.

Check out www.informedforlife.org and peruse their list of vehicles in the safest 1%. Several minivans (Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Pacifica) and crossover SUVs (Acura MDX, Acura RDX, Kia Sorrento) make their list of safest vehicles. No truck based SUVs make the cut.

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William4u
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Re: SUV vs Minivan: which is safer?

Post by William4u » Thu Feb 01, 2018 10:28 am

Minivan. And a minivan is much more family friendly. I have many family members who had Pilots and Highlanders who were much happier when they upgraded to Siennas and Odysseys.

scifilover
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Re: SUV vs Minivan: which is safer?

Post by scifilover » Thu Feb 01, 2018 10:31 am

Safety stats are misleading. We collect those stats on a vehicle model basis, but not on a driver basis. Minivans attract people who aren't as interested in performance, sporty appearance, what others think about them and their cars etc. This effect is most strongly apparent in sports cars, or very sporty cars such as Camaros and Mustangs. They attract drivers who want the kind of performance they offer. That performance, acceleration, cornering, etc. is often seen in aggressive driving virtually all of which is illegal. But, the affect is also seen to some degree in some SUV's. People who want a sporty ride may sometimes drive their ride in a sporty fashion.

Most people, given a chance to drive a car capable of 0-60 in 3 seconds, will at some point try it out. You won't find many Minivans out in a heavy snowfall. But you will see 4WD SUV's out there.

With the modern safety features that can help control car behavior in curves, following, lane departure, SUVs can be as safe as a minivan. At the end of the day, it is still up to the driver to operate safely.

MtnBiker
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Re: SUV vs Minivan: which is safer?

Post by MtnBiker » Thu Feb 01, 2018 10:45 am

clutchied wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:46 am
Last time I checked the Odyssey had zero driver fatalities per million miles driven.

http://www.iihs.org/iihs/sr/statusreport/article/50/1/1
Correction: According to the linked article, that is "zero driver fatalities per million registered vehicle years."

There are nine vehicles listed with the distinction of zero driver fatalities. One is a minivan (Honda Odyssey), two are cars, and six are SUVs of various sizes and types. One of the SUVs (Toyota Sequoia) is a large, heavy, body-on-frame type. Here is a quote from the article:
One striking thing about the group of zero-death vehicles — aside from the sheer number — is that two-thirds of them are SUVs.

A decade ago, SUVs had some of the highest rates, due to their propensity to roll over (see Status Report special issue: driver death rates, March 19, 2005). However, the spread of electronic stability control (ESC) through the fleet has dramatically lessened the risk of rollover crashes in these and all vehicles. The rollover death rate of 5 per million registered vehicle years for 2011 models is less than a quarter of what it was for 2004 models.

With ESC dramatically reducing rollover risk, the inherent advantages offered by SUVs' greater size, weight and height emerge more clearly. Today's SUVs have the lowest driver death rate of any vehicle type.

clutchied
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Re: SUV vs Minivan: which is safer?

Post by clutchied » Thu Feb 01, 2018 11:38 am

MtnBiker wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 10:45 am
clutchied wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:46 am
Last time I checked the Odyssey had zero driver fatalities per million miles driven.

http://www.iihs.org/iihs/sr/statusreport/article/50/1/1
Correction: According to the linked article, that is "zero driver fatalities per million registered vehicle years."

There are nine vehicles listed with the distinction of zero driver fatalities. One is a minivan (Honda Odyssey), two are cars, and six are SUVs of various sizes and types. One of the SUVs (Toyota Sequoia) is a large, heavy, body-on-frame type. Here is a quote from the article:
One striking thing about the group of zero-death vehicles — aside from the sheer number — is that two-thirds of them are SUVs.

A decade ago, SUVs had some of the highest rates, due to their propensity to roll over (see Status Report special issue: driver death rates, March 19, 2005). However, the spread of electronic stability control (ESC) through the fleet has dramatically lessened the risk of rollover crashes in these and all vehicles. The rollover death rate of 5 per million registered vehicle years for 2011 models is less than a quarter of what it was for 2004 models.

With ESC dramatically reducing rollover risk, the inherent advantages offered by SUVs' greater size, weight and height emerge more clearly. Today's SUVs have the lowest driver death rate of any vehicle type.
you're correct thx for the correction!

smackboy1
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Re: SUV vs Minivan: which is safer?

Post by smackboy1 » Thu Feb 01, 2018 11:41 am

learning_head wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 8:57 am
For someone looking for a larger car that can accommodate 2 car-seats + 3 adults or maybe even 4, safety-wise, would you go with an SUV or a Minivan?

When I look at safety ratings online, they only look at same-weight class vehicles. I did not find comparisons across weight classes. Any suggestions?

My understanding is that higher-weight vehicles are safer which might suggest a minivan, but SUVs tend to have more "junk" in front making them probably safer in frontal collisions. SUVs are also higher than Minivans which is safer in some respects (e.g. can better see ahead over other cars and collisions with "shorter" cars don't affect you as much); but make SUVs more prone to rollovers.

Another thought: cars that are larger by size are harder to "fit", making them more likely to be involved in accidents. So I guess the goal could be smaller size but larger weight? Am I thinking about this straight?
It's impossible to make any kind of useful generalization. Is there any strict definition of "SUV" or "minivan"? Even if you are comparing 2 specific car models, what do you mean by "safety-wise"? Frontal collision? Offset frontal collision? Frontal collision avoidance? Airbag performance? Headlight performance?

Also, there is a lot of "conventional wisdom" perpetuated out there that is simply incomplete or untrue. For example it's simply not true that a car's weight correlates with it's safety rating. For example, which is safer in January on a dry road: a smaller car with winter tires, FWD, radar front collision avoidance vs. bigger taller heavier car with all season tires, AWD, and a bigger bumper? Nobody can know. Accidents are very complicated systems involving many different factors and only some of them relate to your car.

The most recent safety changes have been the widespread availability of electronic safety aids in regular non-luxury cars e.g. frontal collision prevention, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, adaptive LED headlights, rear cross traffic collision prevention, lane departure prevention, night vision, etc.. Some manufacturers include such safety systems as standard, while others are optional add ons. Make sure to understand what you are buying (dealerships are almost always clueless). For example, some cars will automatically apply brakes at highway speeds and earn a "Superior" frontal collision rating only if the optional radar adaptive cruise control option is purchased. Without the option, the car may only automatically apply brakes at city speeds.

http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings

https://www.nhtsa.gov/ratings
Disclaimer: nothing written here should be taken as legal advice, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

ElwoodBlues
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Re: SUV vs Minivan: which is safer?

Post by ElwoodBlues » Thu Feb 01, 2018 11:57 am

With modern uni-body SUVs and vans being pretty similar (some are even built off of the same vehicle platform and assembled in the same plants), one differentiator is that most minivans should have a lower center of gravity than most SUVs. Crash-worthiness and survivability might be very similar, but a lower center of gravity (and different handling characteristics) should give the minivan the edge in accident avoidance in the first place.

Going slightly off topic (beyond safety):
Car seats? Two words: sliding doors. Do not underestimate the benefit of sliding doors when loading and unloading kids (with and without car seats) from ages 1 to 18. Especially in parking lots, frequently undersized residential garages, and school drop off and pickup lanes (power sliders help here).

Many people can not get over the supposed un-cool factor of a minivan versus an SUV, but if you look at it from a practicality standpoint, it seems like a no-brainer. It's hard to beat the actual usable cargo and people capacity and the ease of entry/exit with the minivan.

Also, for those considering SUVs being preferred in snowier climates: FWD minivan with decent tires and a competent driver beats an overconfident idiot in an 4WD/AWD SUV, at least in moderate snowfall. FYI, if you do need more capability, Toyota Sienna is available with AWD.

learning_head
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Re: SUV vs Minivan: which is safer?

Post by learning_head » Sat Mar 03, 2018 11:44 am

Thank you all! What a great set of replies!

grok87
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Re: SUV vs Minivan: which is safer?

Post by grok87 » Sat Mar 03, 2018 11:46 am

ElwoodBlues wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 11:57 am
With modern uni-body SUVs and vans being pretty similar (some are even built off of the same vehicle platform and assembled in the same plants), one differentiator is that most minivans should have a lower center of gravity than most SUVs. Crash-worthiness and survivability might be very similar, but a lower center of gravity (and different handling characteristics) should give the minivan the edge in accident avoidance in the first place.
agree
Keep calm and Boglehead on. KCBO.

ETadvisor
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Re: SUV vs Minivan: which is safer?

Post by ETadvisor » Sat Mar 03, 2018 11:54 am

William4u wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 10:28 am
Minivan. And a minivan is much more family friendly. I have many family members who had Pilots and Highlanders who were much happier when they upgraded to Siennas and Odysseys.
I currently have SUV and considering Minivan as replacement. Why is it an upgrade? When factoring overall cost (i.e. insurance), isn't the minivan less expensive. I assume upgrade is restricted to size difference.

tibbitts
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Re: SUV vs Minivan: which is safer?

Post by tibbitts » Sat Mar 03, 2018 12:13 pm

learning_head wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 8:57 am
Am I thinking about this straight?
You are overthinking this. The model-to-model variance will be there but overall vehicles have become much safer over the years. Having to reach a few more inches to get to a storage bin based on where you adjust your seat might have more effect on safety than the theoretical difference between the engineering of one crumple zone and another.

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Sandtrap
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Re: SUV vs Minivan: which is safer?

Post by Sandtrap » Sat Mar 03, 2018 12:44 pm

Toyota Four Runner
Toyota Sequoia

Ask a paramedic or a fireman what various types of vehicles look like under real life scenarios.
j :D

Nowizard
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Re: SUV vs Minivan: which is safer?

Post by Nowizard » Sat Mar 03, 2018 3:00 pm

Definitely, a minivan. We have an Odyssey and a 4-Runner. Odyssey easier to enter and exit, drives much smoother, holds more people. Larger size allows easier use of child seats, mileage better, insurance rating better. Of course the 4-Runner is on a truck base and rides rougher, but it is a very reliable vehicle.

Tim

JBTX
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Re: SUV vs Minivan: which is safer?

Post by JBTX » Sat Mar 03, 2018 3:36 pm

From what I’ve read a minivan is probably safer due to its lower center of gravity. SUVs
Tend to have more rollover risk due to sitting higher, although the amount of risk is highly dependent on the width of the SUV and how high it sits. The ones on a car frame are probably relatively safer.

When evaluating risk people tend to only evaluate risks they can’t control, like a head on collision, and thus tend to think big vehicles are safer. They don’t focus on how they will drive the vehicle and what that does to your risk, such as rollover risk. How many times have you seen people in SUVs or pickups tailgating you at 80mph. The fact that they are sitting higher and can see more of the road immediately in front of them gives them the illusion of more control and they drive more dangerously.

bob13bob
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Re: SUV vs Minivan: which is safer?

Post by bob13bob » Thu Jun 28, 2018 12:48 pm

cars are not randomly assigned. the type of people to drive suvs are way more likely to be reckless drivers vs minivans.

safety is categorized in weight classes. even mini cars get "good crash ratings", but look at these cars vs a mid size sedan. IHSS should be more honest about how risky these cars are, but i'm sure they are getting political pressure to mislead so drivers don't consume more gas. even the ihss crash tests are biased to make small cars look better. vehicles are driven in to immovable steel and concrete objects that do not give. In real crashes, vast majority don't involve driving in a concrete pillar. Smallers cars will rolled over and smashed out of the way (see video)

heavier = better. this is a tragedy of the commons situation, the huge disparity between weight classes is the problem. driving a big heavy truck bodied suv makes you safer at the risk of everyone else. I looked for articles, not too much except this magic bullet video which compares cars to truck body types. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExQUGk12S8U
my conclusion, the higher and heavier, the better. you can see how bumpers will bump the heads of the other's vehicle passenger!. the risk of a higher vehicle is rollover; but rollover is usually self inflicted by yahoo drivers (youtube suv rollovers). eg safety hierarchy: driving a Suv like a minivan driver > driving a minivan like a minivan driver > driving a suv like a suv driver.

for me.
truck body pros
+safest for me and my occupants assuming safe driving.
+ cooler. Some people won't get over the social stigma of a minivan. Being rich allows you to ignore most social norms.
cons
-more likely to injure people in the other car. high assets trigger more likely lawsuits going after my eggs. the more you have, the more insurance you need to provide and alternative target.
-you have to drive them slower because of poor handling
-inconvenience and headache, minivans are much better at saving time and being easy to use, more versatile.
-drive poorly for normal driving and eat gas, expensive tires. negligible to me compared the net worth of the occupants inside my vehicle

for me, my final fleet will probably be 2 minivans and maybe a big trucked bodied SUV for rush hour driving. As valuable as my occupants are vs the risks, the value of saving my time and convenience trumps this. in the Bay Area the cost of parking vehicles in desirable areas far exceeding the cost of the vehicles.

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