Overview of Car Safety Ratings

Insurance companies will review your car’s safety ratings when calculating your insurance premium. If you purchase a vehicle with a low crash test score and low overall safety rating, you could end up paying a higher than average insurance premium. Car safety ratings are designed to measure the rollover safety of a vehicle and crash-worthiness. The U.S. Department of Transportation has developed a five-star rating system for all vehicles, with five stars being the highest and one being the lowest. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety produces a “Top Safety Picks” report each year to determine crash-worthiness of various makes and models.

Finding out what your car’s safety rating is before you purchase a vehicle can help you choose a vehicle that will command lower insurance rates. Here’s an overview of car safety ratings and some of the Top Safety Picks for 2011 from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety:

Factors that Affect Car Safety Ratings

Car safety and reliability ratings are calculated based on a number of factors. Some research centers use data such as consumer reviews, frontal and side impact crash test results, rollover test results and stability testing information to rate each vehicle. Others use crash test reports from the manufacturer and data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA works with the Vehicle Research and Test Center (VRTC), a federal research facility, to conduct extensive research and vehicle testing and determine the crash-worthiness of various vehicles. This facility conducts test to determine vehicle structural integrity, occupant protection and also conducts automotive defect investigations.

When you’re buying a used car or a new car, take some time to learn about your make and model’s safety ratings and crash-worthiness data from multiple sources. Compare test results with several similar models in the same class so that you can choose a vehicle that offers the highest level of safety.

IIHS Top Safety Picks for 2011

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has rated over 70 vehicles as its Top Safety Picks for 2011. These include:

– Ford Fiesta (2010 and later models)

– Chevrolet Cruze

– Chevrolet Volt

– Ford Focus 40door (2012 models)

– Honda Civic 4-door (except Si)

– Honda Civic-40 door (2012 models)

– Audi A3

– Chevrolet Malibu

– Hyundai Sonata

– Subaru Legacy

– Volkswagen Jetta

– Lincoln MKZ

– Buick Regal

– Toyota Avalon

– Audi A6

– Cadillac CTS

– Mercedes E class 2-door and 4-door

– Jeep Patriot

– Chevrolet Equinox

– Jeep Grand Cherokee

– Cadillac SRX

– Volvo XC60

– Chevrolet Traverse

– Honda Odyssey


U.S. Department of Transportation – 5-Star Safety Ratings

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety – Top safety Picks 2011

Motor Trend – Car Safety Ratings & Reports

Consumer Reports – Guide to car reliability

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