While it's still early for 2013 model year cars to go on sale, a dozen cars and SUVs have already been designated as Top Safety Picks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, or IIHS.
In the sedan segment, the IIHS has awarded the designation to the 2013 model year versions of the Chevrolet Malibu Eco hybrid, Ford Taurus, Lexus GS, Lincoln MKT, Lincoln MKS, Lincoln MKX and the Volkswagen CC (except the all-wheel drive V-6 model).
For crossovers and SUVs, the Ford Edge, Ford Explorer, Ford Flex, Kia Sorento and the all-new Mazda CX-5 have been designated Top Safety Picks for the 2013 model year.
The Top Safety Pick designation is awarded to vehicles with high levels of crash protection in the four most common types of crashes -- front, side, rear and rollover -- after undergoing a series of crash tests conducted by the IIHS. Cars that receive the highest score of "good" in each crash test receive the designation. The crash test scores are useful for consumers who are interested in buying a safer car and can also be an indicator of lower auto insurance rates (compared with a lower-scoring competitor) because how well a car performs in a crash correlates to the amount of the insurance claim.
Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.