We don't exactly buy cars by the pound, but can a vehicle's weight factor into its price tag? The short answer is yes. Here's how a heavy car may end up costing you more, and all the factors you should consider before opting for the lightest (or heaviest) car on the market.
Why Do Heavier Cars Cost More?
Typically, the cheapest car a car brand produces will also be its lightest. The simple explanation is one you can probably guess yourself: The lightest cars require the least raw materials, making them cheaper to produce. Of course, light cars have their downsides. While they may not cost you much up-front, heavier cars exist for a reason.
Heavier cars are generally safer because all of that extra weight comes from the features more consumers expect, like safety add-ons. Curb weight and overall weight in themselves also make a car safer, as heavier cars are generally less likely to flip in an accident. In fact, some personal injury lawyers say a car is up to 19% safer when 1,000 pounds are added. Of course, that's not a fully qualified statement.
There are plenty of old model cars that weigh a ton, but only because the materials we used to use to make vehicles (e.g., steel bumpers) have since been switched out for much lighter materials (like molded plastic bumpers). These swaps didn't necessarily make cars less safe, although they did take away extra weight.
On the new car market, though, a heavier car will have more than its weight going for it. The reason heavier cars are generally regarded as safer goes back to the materials used in the car's production.
A heavy modern car doesn't have a steel bumper, but it will have weight added by various components — including safety features and electronics — that light, low-budget cars simply don't have. Of course, extra features might put you in the shop more, which is why a bumper-to-bumper warranty may be worthwhile.
Are Heavier Cars Safer?
If you're trying to narrow down your car options based on safety alone, don't be misled into thinking that always choosing the heavier car of two models will keep you safer. Size does matter, but the equation isn't linear and car safety is complex. Adding weight will generally make a car safer on the road, but only if it's done right.
For instance, a heavy, oversized SUV will be less safe than a well-designed sedan if the SUV has a high center of gravity and, therefore, a greater risk of flipping. However, when comparing a well-designed heavy car to a well-designed light car, most experts would agree that opting for the former will keep you safer if you're destined to have a collision.
With that said, heavier cars have their downsides when it comes to safety. For instance, while they'll generally keep you safer in a crash, a lighter car may be more nimble and make it easier for you to avoid a crash safely. Of course, these factors go beyond weight. A car's agility will factor into all sorts of aspects that rely on not just its weight, but its steering capabilities, braking capabilities, and so on.
Choosing the Right Car
Now that you know why heavier cars are generally regarded as safer, does that mean you should buy one? Ultimately, rather than focusing on weight, you should focus on a car's make and model. Research the safety findings of that specific vehicle and the general reliability ratings of the manufacturer. That information will help you make the best decision possible. Also read the car buying checklist to ensure you make an informed decision.
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