Vehicle Safety Ratings: What They Mean & Why They Are Important

As you do your research on new vehicles, you will probably notice safety ratings coming up over and over again. While you understand that you want your new car to be as safe as possible, you might not be sure which tests were actually performed on the makes and models you are considering and what these tests even mean.

Fortunately, there are many online resources that help explain the various safety tests, ratings and awards.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Before you narrow down your new car choices too much, you should definitely check out the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety website and read about the different tests that they perform on various vehicles. The tests that IIHS focuses on looks at two key aspects of car safety. The crashworthiness, or how well a vehicle will protect the people riding in it during an accident and crash avoidance and mitigation, which refers to the technology a vehicle has that will help to prevent a car crash or make an accident less serious.

In order to determine how crashworthy a vehicle is, the IIHS puts the vehicle trough five major tests called moderate overlap front, small overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints and seats. The moderate overlap frontal test involves having the vehicle go 40 mph into a barrier made up of aluminum honeycomb.

The IIHS awards the top performing vehicles with either the 2015 Top Safety Pick or 2015 Top Safety Pick Plus rating and the website includes a full list of current winners in all types of vehicle classes


Kelley Blue Book is another useful resource that you should check out prior to buying a new vehicle. The site includes a Safety Center, where you can find the most current information on various crash test results, vehicle features that help to prevent accidents and other safety technology.

To learn more about a specific type of vehicle, simply select the make and model from a pulldown menu. You can see a general review of the vehicle and its safety features as well as the KBB safety rating., a website created by the U.S. Department of Transportation, offers unbiased and helpful information on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 5-Star Safety Ratings. You can search by make, model or class to compare the safety ratings on a huge variety of vehicles.

The NHTSA New Car Assessment Program offers helpful information about the rollover safety of vehicles that extends beyond what is required by law. In general, the more stars a vehicle has, the safer it is.