Smaller car? Bigger insurance claim.

Even with the vast improvements in auto safety over the past few decades, smaller cars still lead to significantly more insurance payouts than their larger counterparts.

Lee Jae-Won/Reuters/File
A worker is seen at an assembly line at a main factory of Hyundai Motor in Ulsan, about 410 km (256 miles) southeast of Seoul, in this July 2012 file photo. The Hyundai Accent is among hte vehicles with the highest rate of insurance claims, along with the Kia Rio and the Toyota Yaris

Car safety has improved in leaps and bounds over the last few decades, with several technological advancements helping not only to protect you in an accident, but also prevent them in the first place.

Even so, statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) shows some stark differences in insurance loss data.

Some trends emerge from the data, one of which shows that personal injury, medical payment and bodily injury payouts are significantly higher for small cars than some other vehicle classes.

Among the worst vehicles for personal injury are the Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio and Toyota Yaris, while Chevrolet's Aveo scores particularly badly on medical payment loss. Moving up a class, the Nissan Versa also scores poorly, while the Mitsubishi Lancer is "substantially worse" than average in every insurance loss area--collision, property damage, comprehensive, plus the injury categories.

All the data compiled by the HLDI refers to 2009-2011 model year vehicles, and has been adjusted to reduce differences from non-vehicle factors such as operator age, calendar year, density, gender and other factors.

Generally, small, four-door cars rate substantially worse than any other vehicle class for injury claims, while expensive cars like sports cars and large SUVs have higher collision losses--since they cost more to fix.

Some cars do show lower than average insurance losses for their category, however--smart's tiny fortwo minicar is substantially better than average for collision damage claims, but no worse than average for medical payment losses.

The MINI range also scores average or better than average in most areas, while small sports cars like the Mazda MX-5 Miata also do well. Green favorite, Toyota's Prius, scores average in every category.

Speaking with The Detroit News, HLDI's Kim Hazelbaker explains some of the trends.

"Expensive cars cost more to fix, which is why they have such high collision losses... Meanwhile, cars marketed for their powerful engines tend to crash more often... partly explained by the type of drivers they attract and by the style of driving they lend themselves to."

As for small cars, the bare numbers show that you're still more likely to be injured in an accident--though you can mitigate it by picking the right model, it seems.

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