Do SUVs Flip Over More Easily Than Cars? (We Checked)

In recent years, SUVs have flooded the market based on the increased demand for them.

People prefer them today because they’re more comfortable and give a sense of safety absent in sedans.

Nevertheless, their rigid, massive, and high build makes them more vulnerable to flipping over.

Stay with us as we explain whether SUVs flip over more easily than cars.

Here’s the answer to whether SUVs flip over more easily than cars:

It’s widely agreed that SUVs are more prone to flipping over in an accident than sedans or compact cars. This is mainly because of their body structure and because they have a higher center of gravity. Bigger and higher cars roll over more easily than sedans which hug the ground.

Do SUVs or Regular Cars Flip Over More Often?

SUVs flip over more often than regular cars.

This is a very important question because it allows us to emphasize the fact that any car can flip over. Irrespective of the design, build or type, no vehicle is completely immune to rolling over.

However, the bigger point is that SUVs flip over more often, and the evidence backs up this claim. Surprisingly, they last longer than cars.

According to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), SUVs perform poorly in rollover tests. Also, trucks and vans are also more likely to roll over because of their high and narrow designs.

Think of school buses and how difficult it is for their drivers to turn at corners or high speeds. However, we’d keep our focus on SUVs because they’re the main rivals to sedans, so they must perform well.

We mentioned speed because it plays an important role in flip-over rates. It’s more likely for any car at all to roll over at high speeds. Also, not everyone can drive SUVs well, so a mistake from an amateur driver can cause a rollover as well.

These factors can be the difference between stability and somersaulting. The ‘boxed’ design of SUVs also means they have less efficient aerodynamics and worse handling on roads. While better designs come up each year for better SUV aerodynamics, we aren’t where we need to be yet.

Ultimately, excess roof load on SUVs makes them less stable. Note that the NHTSA uses data from different models, so some SUVs are more prone to flipping over than others. We’d explain more about that soon.

Do SUVs Have a Higher Center of Gravity?

SUVs have a higher center of gravity than low-riding cars and that’s because of a fundamental design in automobiles.

Cars normally have two types of frames which are body-on-frame and unibody frames. From the names of both frame types, you may already know what they’ll look like.

The higher center of gravity in SUVs is owed to the fact that most SUVs have a body-on-frame design. This means the frame is designed as a separate structure to which all other components are attached. This design makes way for a higher ground clearance (which makes SUVs good for off-road driving).

However, body-on-frame cars suffer from a high center of gravity, which means most of the weight is way above ground. That’s why SUVs do not fully grip the road like sedans that use unibody frames.

In unibody frames, the car’s frame is built as a merged component with its body.

In case you’re wondering, of course, automakers can make SUVs on unibody frames as well. This is what you’d call a crossover SUV, and it solves the problem of an extremely high center of gravity.

However, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. So in crossover SUVs, the off-road advantage is reduced, and what’s an SUV without off-road capabilities?

What Causes SUVs to Flip Over?

There are many reasons SUVs flip over, so we’d look at the major ones. We’ve already established that their high center of gravity does not allow them to have much-needed stability.

Other than their high center of gravity (a problem from below), they have much higher roofs (a disadvantage from above).

For them to remain as stable as sedans, their higher roofs must be complemented with increased width. However, since this is not the case, it means SUVs are narrower.

This design is why SUVs, vans, trucks, and buses are narrower than sedans or hatchbacks. Thus, their heights betray them and cause them to have extra weight up there. Since they’re more top-heavy, it’s easier for them to flip over, especially in corners and at high speeds.

If you still don’t get it, allow us to paint a picture for you. Imagine a special train that is four times the height of a regular train but maintains the same rail width. Chances are it’ll crash at some point.

Now, imagine the train’s frame is farther up from the ground than a regular train’s frame. Agreed, SUVs aren’t as unsafe as our imaginary train, but you get the point.

Make sure to also read our article about SUV maintenance and inspection costs.

What About Electric SUVs?

We know electric cars have a low center of gravity because of their heavy batteries. However, that’s just one part of the story. Their batteries are placed beneath the car floor between the two sets of wheels.

Nothing gives a car a more fixed stance on the ground than a heavy component very close to its wheels. Therefore, EVs are less likely to roll over than regular gas-powered ones with engines in front.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, electric sedans have two obvious advantages: they’re EVs and they’re sedans. Also, they are probably the most rollover-proof cars on the planet. Electric hatchbacks would have a similar advantage.

However, our focus again draws us back to SUVs. Are electric SUVs still prone to rolling over? The fact remains that any car can roll over “given the right circumstances”.

However, electric SUVs are less prone to flipping over than gas-powered ones, all thanks to their heavy batteries.

Also, the conventional “boxed” design of SUVs isn’t strictly followed anymore. Some SUVs have gotten smoother, which makes room for superb aerodynamics.

Good examples are Tesla’s SUVs (Model X and Y) which can pass for sedans based on their sedan-like designs.

What’s more, these models are also crossover SUVs. With such designs and batteries, such types of electric SUVs may be the most ideal choices moving forward.

Here, we talk about electric SUVs with a long range.

What SUVs Have the Highest Rollover Rate?

These cars listed below are pretty notorious for their high tendency to roll over. Based on the NHTSA’s rollover tests, some of these vehicles have more than a 20% chance of flipping over.

With odds like that, it’s no wonder we’re so cautious.

  • Cadillac Escalade
  • Chevy Tahoe
  • Ford Explorer
  • Toyota 4Runner
  • Dodge Nitro
  • Jeep Renegade

Nevertheless, drivers who take necessary precautions may use the above cars without ever having to worry about rolling over.

You might also be interested in our article about the disadvantages of SUVs.

What SUVs Are Least Likely to Roll Over?

Recall we said crossover SUVs are now pretty common. If any SUVs are stable against rollovers, many of them are bound to be crossovers.

However, they’d have reduced towing capabilities and off-road abilities. Also, they’d still be plagued with SUV disadvantages like high and narrow builds. With that in mind, even crossover SUVs aren’t as rollover-resistant as sedans.

Here are some SUVs that are least likely to roll over.

  • Toyota Rav4
  • Tesla Model X
  • Tesla Model Y
  • Porsche Macan
  • Kia Sorento
  • Mazda CX-5

After all that we’ve explained, it’ll be a surprise if some electric SUVs aren’t members of the pack. So, we expect the Kia EV6 to perform great in rollover avoidance tests as well.

Please also read our article about whether SUVs need premium gas.

Final Thoughts

You may wonder why we’re making a big deal out of cars flipping over. This is because they’re one of the most dangerous types of road accidents.

If you aren’t an expert driver, it’s best to take it slow, especially if you’ve got heavy loads in your car. A high percentage of rollovers are because of overspeeding.

Also, although rollovers account for less than 5% of total accidents, they cause about 30% of deaths in passenger vehicles.

If you must drive fast, make sure you have the needed skills to avoid rolling over in an accident. Also, paying attention to the road can help you spot potential accidents and prevent them. Hence, slow down whenever you approach sharp corners.

You also want to ensure your tire pressure is always on point, to reduce the risk of a rollover. Lastly, don’t forget your seat belts, they can save your life in a crash.


Car Rollover 101 | Consumer Reports

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