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2021 Vehicle Collision Safety Ratings: The Winners

No doubt you’ve heard car advertisements on the radio or television talking about vehicle collision safety ratings. 

Crash-test data is mentioned along with the ratings—what does it mean for the consumer?

An understanding of what advertisers, auto dealerships, and car salespersons mean when they talk about vehicle collision safety ratings not only gives you an advantage when shopping for a car, but it can help you lower your risk of having an automobile accident and save you money on auto insurance.

What’s Involved in Vehicle Collision Safety Ratings?

The safety rating given to your car is based on a series of crash tests performed on the vehicle as well as the model’s included safety features. 

These ratings are carried out by two main organizations in the US and North America: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

NHTSA Safety Ratings

NHTSA Safety Ratings

The NHTSA bases its safety ratings on your likelihood of being injured in a crash, giving a 5-star rating to those cars that demonstrate a lower rate of injury during crash testing. 

If your vehicle is rated as safe, it scored “good” on three to four tests (depending on the build of your vehicle), including:

  • Frontal crash tests
  • Side barrier tests
  • Side pole tests
  • Rollover test

IIHS Safety Ratings

Because it’s not dependent on government funding, the IIHS conducts more strenuous tests on vehicles, putting them through several scenarios and giving them a rating of poor, marginal, acceptable or good. 

Similar to NHTSA testing, a car that limits injury and protects the people inside is given a “good” rating. In contrast to NHTSA testing, IIHS conducts seven tests to ensure a car is safe to drive, including:

  • Frontal crash tests
  • Side crash tests
  • Roof strength tests
  • Head restraint and seat tests
  • Front crash prevention tests
  • Headlight evaluation
  • LATCH evaluation

According to the IIHS, the driver of a vehicle rated as “good” is 70% less likely to die in a left-side collision than the driver in a vehicle rated as “poor.” 

Consequently, knowing your car ranks well with both can give you some added peace of mind when you are considering your purchase.

How do you check the safety rating for your vehicle?

Keep in mind that neither organization tests all cars on the market, since such a feat would be impossible, but they do test the ones people buy most. 

For perspective, NHTSA crash-tested 43 vehicles from the 2019 model year as well as conducted verification testing of the advanced crash avoidance technology systems featured in 41 vehicles. 

The NHTSA recently announced the 32 cars that were selected for 2022 five-star crash testing and 18 selected for advanced driver assistance verification testing.

In addition to information published by the manufacturer, you can search for safety rating and testing data for your vehicle on the NHTSA site, the IIHS site or car review sites like Edmunds, US News Cars, Car and Driver, Motor Trend, Kelley Blue Book, and others.

Automakers That Make Safety a Top Priority

In addition to building their cars in a way that prevents injuries during collisions in various directions or rollovers, the NHTSA considers standard safety equipment like airbags, seat belts and a tire pressure monitoring system as three additional features that help achieve a higher level of safety. 

According to Extreme Tech, driver assistance technology, which includes forward collision warning, lane departure warning, rearview cameras and automatic emergency braking are additional features that are standard safety features included in NHTSA testing under its New Car Assessment Program.

The Safest Car Brands in 2021

Cars are usually ranked by individual models and not all vehicles are tested every year, making it difficult to nail down which automakers make the safest cars. 

However, those with cars that consistently rank well demonstrate that they make safety a top priority.

Torque News notes that the 2021 rankings showed Subaru, Hyundai, and Volvo with nine models in their lineup earning IIHS top safety scores. 

According to US News Cars, the top five automakers with the safest cars in 2020 were Genesis, Volvo, Tesla, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz with Subaru and Hyundai further down the list.

Top 5 Cars With The Highest Vehicle Collision Safety Ratings

Top Five Cars With the Highest Collision Safety Ratings

US News provides a safety ranking for the top-selling vehicles each year. They provide a safety score which combines crash testing and safety data from both the NHTSA and the IIHS. 

Ranking 22 cars for 2021, they came up with the following top five safety picks:

1. 2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid

The Camry Hybrid was named a 2021 Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS, topping the charts in all testing areas while also receiving a five-star overall safety rating from NHTSA.

2. 2021 Honda Insight

The Honda Insight hybrid was also named an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ for 2021 and received a NHTSA overall five-star rating.

3. 2021 Volkswagen Passat

IIHS gave the Passat the top rating of Good in all six crash test areas and a marginal rating for its standard headlights (rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control are standard safety features).

4. 2021 Honda Accord

The Accord was named a 2021 Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS and earned the top rating in every area except for the effectiveness of its standard headlights, while receiving a NHTSA five-star overall safety rating.

5. 2021 Toyota Camry

The Camry comes standard with forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, automatic high beams, road sign recognition, and a rearview camera, earning a NHTSA five-star overall safety rating and a IIHS 2021 Top Safety Pick+.

Among the top ten finishers on the US News safety list for 2021 were Mazda3, Nissan Maxima, Mazda6, Subaru Legacy, Subaru Impreza.

Highest Collision Safety Ratings in Each Automotive Class or Sector

Your car or a model you are looking to purchase might not show up on the US News ranking list, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a safe vehicle. 

The NHTSA does not have a ranking system for vehicles, but IIHS presents awards for cars in two safety pick categories in their ranking system: Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+.

IIHS Top Safety Pick+ By Class

  • Small Cars
    • Honda Insight
    • Mazda 3 Sedan/Hatchback
    • Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid
  • Midsize Cars
    • Honda Accord
    • Kia K5 built after November 2020
    • Mazda 6
    • Nissan Altima
    • Nissan Maxima built after November 2020
    • Subaru Legacy
    • Subaru Outback
    • Toyota Camry
  • Midsize Luxury Cars
    • Acura TLX
    • Lexus ES 350/IS
    • Tesla Model 3
    • Volvo S60/S60 Recharge/V60/V60 Recharge
  • Large Luxury Cars
    • Audi A6/A6 allroad/A7
    • Genesis G70/G90
  • Small SUVs
    • Mazda CX-3/CX-5/CX-30 built after September 2020
    • Nissan Rogue
    • Subaru Forester
    • Volvo XC40
  • Midsize SUVs
    • Ford Explorer
    • Hyundai Palisade
    • Mazda CX-9
    • Subaru Ascent
    • Toyota Highlander
  • Midsize Luxury SUVs
    • Acura RDX
    • Cadillac XT6
    • Hyundai Nexo
    • Lexus NX
    • Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class with optional front crash prevention
    • Volvo XC60/XC60 Recharge/XC90/XC90 Recharge
  • Large SUVs 
    • Audi e-tron/e-tron Sportback
  • Minivans 
    • Honda Odyssey
    • Toyota Sienna

No trucks were awarded Top Safety Picks+, because trucks tend to fail side collision tests, but three trucks earned the Top Safety Pick award: 

  • 2021 Ford F-150 Crew Cab/Extended Cab pickups
  • 2021 Ram 1500 Crew Cab pickup.

Get Your Car Back on the Road After a Collision

A higher overall safety rating means that you are at a lower risk of being in an accident, while a higher collision safety rating provides assurance that you are less likely to be injured in a crash or rollover. 

Selecting a car with a higher safety rating saves you money when you purchase car insurance, but it can also help you save on repair costs. However, if your car has been involved in a fender bender or a collision, contact CSN JD Collision to help you get your car back on the road.