Crash Safety Ratings – What’s the Deal?

There are two main organizations that offer crash testing data and ratings for new cars. You have likely heard of both of them, but what is the difference between the two and which is better? The IIHS or Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the NHTSA or National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are the two most commonly referenced organizations which rate vehicles based on how they perform in a collision. You are likely used to hearing the names of these outfits referenced in car commercials. But, what do they do and why should you care?

The NHTSA is a government agency which offers its ratings in a star system (1 being the worst, 5 being the best) whereas the IIHS is a non-profit organization which gets its operating costs from the insurance companies. Its ratings range from Poor to Good. Though their methods of testing differ, there is value in what both have to offer.

The NHTSA’s ratings and tests center around ratings for results of front impact and side impact testing as well as a mathematical formula which predicts the likelihood of a rollover (which the NHTSA also translates into a rating up to 5 stars). The IIHS small overlap, moderate overlap, side impact, roof strength as well as front-crash prevention, which evaluates newer systems that, as you might guess, help to prevent a front end collision. The IIHS names Top Safety Picks as those vehicles that perform well above average as well as the coveted Top Safety Pick + which is reserved for the cream of the crop.

So, which one should you look at when purchasing a car? Both of them. Why not? These two organizations combine to offer the majority of new vehicle safety testing available in the marketplace. You can certainly assume that if a vehicle gets poor marks from both entities, it is probably a bad bet for you and your family. Conversely, if a car, truck or SUV tests off the charts with both the NHTSA and IIHS, it should be among your top choices if you are a safety conscious buyer.




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