Home > Ask Gary > How do you evaluate the safety ratings of a vehicle, other than what the manufacturer tells you?

How do you evaluate the safety ratings of a vehicle, other than what the manufacturer tells you?

Volvo-XC90A woman recently came in to the showroom and mentioned she had been car-shopping and checked out one of the lowest priced manufacturer’s cars and believed it was the safest car on the road. Though she was leaning toward buying that vehicle because of the low price and belief in its safety, she still wanted to check out the Toyota Corolla.

I was surprised she thought this manufacturer had the safest vehicle. So I thought it was important to look at objective sources. In general, I’m happy to say that the Volvo has the highest safety ratings by far. However, I also recognize that not everyone is in the market to purchase a Volvo.

So where do you look for objective data on safety ratings? Two of the best sources are the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Consumer Reports, which never accepts advertising. The IIHS “is an independent, nonprofit scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing the losses — deaths, injuries and property damage — from crashes on the nation’s roads.” They conduct crash tests on a regular basis.

According to the IIHS, their “tests evaluate two aspects of safety: crashworthiness — how well a vehicle protects its occupants in a crash — and crash avoidance and mitigation — technology that can prevent a crash or lessen its severity.” There are two categories of vehicles that make the top safety picks: 2014 Top Safety Pick, for vehicles must earn good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, as well as a good or acceptable rating in the small overlap front test. To qualify for 2014 Top Safety Pick+, a vehicle must meet the Top Safety Pick criteria, plus earn a basic, advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.

On the Honor roll for Top Safety Picks for 2014:

• Mid-size luxury or near-luxury cars: Volvo S60Scion

• Large luxury cars: Volvo S80

• Luxury SUVs: Volvo XC 60 and XC 90

• Mid-size SUVs: Toyota Highlander (Plus rating)

• Small cars: Toyota Scion FR-S and tC and Toyota Prius

• Mid-size cars: Toyota Camry.

To learn about used cars for your teen or yourself, go to safecar.gov. For example, they rated the 2010 Toyota Corolla, Prius and Matrix with 4-5 stars (out of 5) for safety in all categories. They rank vehicles beginning with 1990 to present specifically based on front-end crash ratings. Motor Trend has an online service to look up safety ratings by vehicle as well.

My best advice, use the internet to research highway safety and crash test ratings and focus on the above two objective sources:  IIHS and Consumer Reports.  Unfortunately, other sources can be misleading and when it comes to safety, be sure you are using a good source.

Drive safely and enjoy this last “unofficial” week of summer. Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Ask Gary Jaffarian

Categories: Ask Gary
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