Mid-sized cars pricey to fix after crashes

Seems like drivers today just can't win.

We've been shamed out of our gas-guzzling Hummers, browbeaten for driving SUVs that flip over if a tire blows and resigned ourselves to sturdy, sensible sedans.

Now, a new study from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uncovered some troubling statistics. Those cars you thought were so economically sound in terms of gas mileage and insurance costs compared to their hulking brethren have one huge Achilles' Heel when it comes to their fiscal fitness: They're very expensive to repair if you get into an accident with them, even if it's only a light tap at literally a few miles per hour.

The average amount the Institute found repairs for damage sustained in a low-speed crash was $871. Think that's rough for a little fender-bender? Think again; it also found that prices could climb to nearly $3,000 -- an eye-popping amount -- on some models.

In a bit of good news, the Institute found that the Honda Accord, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda 6 and Nissan Maxima did better in this crash test than in previous years.

However, not a single one of the 17 models subjected to simulated crash conditions earned the agency's top ranking of "good" when damages and repair costs were analyzed. The Mazda 6 scored an "acceptable" rating, the only midsize car to do so.

In other categories, the Smart Fortwo, Scion xB and Ford Focus (a popular pick among Cash for Clunkers purchasers, according to recently released data) also scored "acceptable."

Eleven models in the midsize category alone were tagged with "poor" ratings. The other five only made it to "marginal." Oh, and that nearly three-grand repair bill? That dubious honor goes to the Pontiac G6 -- ouch.

If you don't want to be driven to distraction by a huge repair bill, what can you do besides driving defensively and trying to avoid that yahoo who's yapping on the phone and eating a doughnut while making an unannounced foray into your lane?

Consider shopping around for collision insurance on your ride, and if you're weighing a purchase in the near future, hit up the Institute's Web site, which features crash and repair data on numerous different models.

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