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What Is Considered the Safest Car in 2023?

Finance | 06/10/2023 17:52

Car safety is at the top of many people’s list when they decide to buy a new car, especially if you are looking for a family vehicle. Car accidents are unfortunately a part of our lives, with about 0.7% of accidents resulting in fatalities. In 2021 alone there were 42,939 deaths caused by car accidents. Because of this, we need to be careful when selecting a car so that we can minimize the chances of serious harm in the case of a car accident. So how exactly do they determine which cars are safest? And which cars are at the top of list when it comes to safety?

Here are the safest cars in 2023 (and why they earned that title).

What determines the safety of a car?

There are two major organizations in the United States that rank the safety of cars: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). These organizations gather data and analyze vehicles to make the highways safer for all of us. Part of this analysis involves testing cars in crash scenarios to determine which cars are the safest and which are the least safe.

While these organizations both test the safety of cars and use crash scenarios they have different ranking systems and operate independently of each other. This means that you should take both ratings into consideration when looking to buy a new car. The NHTSA uses a 5-Star Safety Ratings Program while the IHS uses a Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ as a ratings system.

What are NHTSA safety ratings?

The NHTSA uses a  5-star rating system to measure the safety of a vehicle. Five stars are awarded to the safest cars while one star is awarded to the least safe cars. Their ratings are strongly based on four crash test scenarios that they run.


  • A Frontal Crash Test Scenario. This measures how safe a car is in a head to head collision. They assume that an average-sized male is in the driver seat and a small-sized female is in the passenger seat, both wearing seatbelts. The crash is between two vehicles with the same weight. After the crash they analyze the injuries to the head, neck, chest, and leg. Frontal crash ratings are only compared between vehicles from the same weight class, plus or minus 250 lbs.

  • Side Barrier Crash Test Scenario. This measures how safe a car is if it gets hit from the side, as if there were a four-way intersection where a car did not stop and hit a car on the driver side. They assume that an average-sized male is in the driver seat and a small-sized female is in the back seat on the driver side, both wearing seatbelts. The test measures a 3,015 lb moving barrier that crashes at 38.5 mph into a vehicle that is not moving. After the crash they analyze the injuries to the head, abdomen, chest, and pelvis. Side crash ratings can be compared across all weight classes.

  • Side Pole Crash Test Scenario: This measures how safe a car is if it were to slide off of the road and hit a telephone pole on the driver’s side. They assume there is a small sized female in the driver’s seat with a seat belt fastened. The test measures how a car responds when it hits a pole with a 25 cm diameter at 20 mph. Side pole crash tests can be compared across all weight classes and vehicle types. 

  • Rollover Resistance Test Scenario: This measures how a car responds if there is a sharp curve that you try to navigate but end up rolling the car off of the road. This measures the “static-stability factor” of an SUV, which is essentially how top heavy an SUV is.

All of these tests are a critical component of a car’s safety rating, although other components are taken into account. 


What Are the IIHS Safety Ratings?

The IIHS runs different tests than the NHTSA that tend to measure the safety features of cars more than the construction of the car. Because of this they can be seen as complementary to the NHTSA tests (which is why you should consider both rankings). The IIHS uses the following test scenarios to determine a car's safety.

  • Small Overlap Front Crash Scenario, Driver Side: This measures how safe a car is if it were to hit a barrier on the front left of the car. It assumes the car is traveling at 40 mph and measures the impact to a driver’s head, neck, chest, hip, thigh, lower leg, and foot.

  • Small Overlap Front Crash Scenario, Passenger Side:  This measures how safe a car is if it were to hit a barrier on the front right of the car. It assumes the car is traveling at 40 mph and measures the impact to the head, neck, chest, hip, thigh, lower leg, and foot of both the driver and the passenger. 

  • Moderate Overlap Front Crash Scenario: This measures how safe a car is if there is a frontal crash between two cars. It assumes a car is traveling at 40 mph and there is an average sized adult in the driver’s seat and a child seated behind the driver. They evaluate the impact to both the drivers and the child.

  • Side Crash Scenario: This side crash test is currently replacing an older test and measures how safe a car is when there is side impact. A 4,200 pound vehicle crashes into the driver’s side of a car at 37 mph and the impact to the driver and a driver side rear passenger are measured. They evaluate the head, neck, torso, and pelvis. 

The IIHS runs other test scenarios that involve a car's ability to avoid hitting a pedestrian. They also look at other components, such as headlights, LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) systems, and seat belt reminders. 

The IIHS gives each car a score for each test. These scores are broken down as Good, Acceptable, Marginal, and Poor. Scores are kept individual and a car is not awarded an overall safety score. 

What other safety features should you look for?

There is a lot of safety technology out on the market today. And in general many of these technologies will work to keep you safer. A lot of it will come down to your budget and what you can afford. The NHTSA recommends looking for the following technology: 

  • Forward collision warning 

  • Lane-departure warning

  • Automatic emergency braking

  • Rearview camera system

Which cars are the safest in 2023?

According to the IIHS, the following cars are the safest in 2023 and were named as the Top Safety+ Award winners. In order to be named Top Safety+ Award winner the vehicles needed to have Good ratings (the top raing) in all of the crash tests, have Acceptable or Good ratings for headlights, have an Advanced or Superior rating for both daytime and nighttime vehicle-to-pedestrian front crash prevention.

  • Small Car: Acura Integra

  • Midsized Cars: Subaru Outback, Toyota Camry 

  • Large Luxury Car: Genesis G90

  • Small SUVs: Honda CR-V, Honda HR-V, Lexus UX, Subaru Solterra 

  • Midsized SUVs: Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Ascent, Toyota Highlander, Volkswagen ID.4

  • Midsized Luxury SUVs: Acura MDX, Acura RDX, Infiniti QX60, Lexus NX and NX Plug-in Hybrid, Lexus RX, Tesla Model Y, Volvo XC90 and XC90 Recharge

  • Minivans: Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna

  • Large Pickups: Rivian R1T, Toyota Tundra crew cab and extended cab

According to the NHTSA, the following cars were awarded 5 star safety ratings. 

  • Audi Q7 

  • Audi Q8 

  • BMW X1 

  • Chevrolet Colorado 

  • Chevrolet Malibu 

  • Ford Explorer Gas 

  • Genesis GV70 

  • Honda Accord Sedan 

  • Honda CR-V 

  • Honda HR-V 

  • Honda Pilot 

  • Hyundai Santa Cruz 

  • Jeep Grand Cherokee 

  • Jeep Grand Cherokee PHEV 

  • Jeep Wagoneer 

  • Jeep Wrangler Unlimited PHEV 

  • Kia Niro 

  • Kia Sportage 

  • Kia Telluride 

  • Lexus GX 460 

  • Lexus RX 350 

  • Mazda CX-30 

  • Mazda CX-50 

  • Mazda3 

  • Mini Countryman 

  • Mitsubishi Outlander 

  • Nissan Ariya  

  • Nissan Armada 

  • Rivian R1S 

  • Subaru Solterra 

  • Toyota Prius 

  • Volkswagen Tiguan 

There is some overlap between the winners, such as Honda CR-V, Honda HR-V, and Lexus RX. But you can search for each vehicles ranking directly on the IIHS and NHTSA website. 

There is a lot of information out there when it comes to car safety, but these agencies are designed to help cut through the noise and give you honest feedback about the safety of a car. It’s a great idea to take all of these factors and ratings into consideration when you start your search to buy a new car.

Those are the safest cars in 2023. 

Safety should always be a top priority when searching for a car, but your other needs and your budget will undoubtedly play a large part in your decision as well. Taking this information into account and balancing your needs and wants will help you to decide which car is practical, affordable, and safe for you and your family.


If you already found your car but need to find a new car loan, Auto Approve can help! Contact us today to find out how refinancing your car loan can save you a lot of money.


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