What are the safest cars in the US? | finder.com
best cars safest cars

Safest cars in the US

We value our editorial independence, basing our comparison results, content and reviews on objective analysis without bias. But we may receive compensation when you click links on our site. Learn more about how we make money from our partners.

Discover and compare the safest cars in the US.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), traffic deaths rose in 2016 for the second year in a row with a total of over 37,400 fatalities. It’s impossible to predict every change on the road, but driving a safe car can help you walk away in the event of an accident.

The NHTSA has a five-star rating system to help you identify just how safe your vehicle is. You can also supplement NHTSA ratings with information from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) to get a more-detailed look at different segments of safety, such as rear impact and roof strength.

How to use NHTSA and IIHS safety ratings

There are four points covered by NHTSA ratings and seven by IIHS. Knowing what those points are and how they’re evaluated can help you better compare how safe the cars you’re looking at are.

NHTSA safety ratings

  • Overall combines the frontal crash, side crash and rollover ratings into one, five-star rating. This rating was instated in 2011.
  • Frontal crash is a combination of the front driver and passenger ratings. The ratings are based off a head-on collision between two similar vehicles moving at 35 mph.
  • Side crash combines side barrier and side pole ratings. Side barrier ratings are based off a collision between the rated vehicle while it’s stationary and a barrier moving at 38.5 mph. Side pole ratings are based off a collision with objects such as a light pole or a tree.
  • Rollover measures the amount of resistance the vehicle has to rollover in a loss-of-control scenario.

IIHS safety ratings

IIHS uses a letter-system for all ratings except for front crash prevention: G for good, A for acceptable, M for marginal and P for poor. Front crash prevention is evaluated on a point system wherein one point is basic, two to four is advanced and five to six is superior.

  • Frontal crash ratings are based off of three tests. The moderate overlap frontal test involves a head-on collision simulation of two vehicles of similar size moving at slightly under 40 mph. The driver-side small overlap frontal test is a simulation of a head-on collision with objects such a light pole or tree on the driver side of the vehicle. The passenger-side small overlap frontal test simulates the same as the driver-side small overlap frontal test, but for the passenger side of the vehicle.
  • Side crash testing evaluates likelihood of injury, head protection and the structure and safety of the vehicle’s cage. The side-impact crash is simulated with a barrier ramming the side of the vehicle at 31 mph.
  • Roof strength is tested and measured in a strength-to-weight ratio. To earn a rating of good the roof must not be crushed more than five inches by four times the vehicle’s weight.
  • Head restraints and seats have geometric and dynamic ratings. In order to receive a good overall rating the vehicle must receive passing ratings from both portions.
  • Front crash prevention technology is ranked among three tiers. The lowest rank is basic, the second is advanced and the third is superior. Points are earned based on autobrake performance and if the vehicle has forward collision warning or not.
  • Headlights are evaluated based on the coverage of the beams on a straightaway, gradual left and right curves and sharp left and right curves.
  • Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) evaluation is a measurement of how easy it is to properly install a child-safety seat.

A selection of top-selling five-star-rated 2018 vehicles

Take a look at these top-selling 2018 models that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rated five stars.

  • Passenger cars. Honda Civic, Toyota Camry, Ford Focus, Kia Optima and Nissan Altima.
  • SUVs. Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Subaru Forester and Kia Sportage.
  • Pickup trucks. Ford F-150 Super Crew, Chevrolet Silverado 1500, GMC Sierra 1500 and Honda Ridgeline.
  • Vans. Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona, Chrysler Pacifica and Ford Transit Connect.

Tips for finding a safe car in the US

  • You would be hard pressed to find a reason to settle for a car with an NHTSA rating of three stars or less. Most manufacturers strive to make sure vehicles have at least a four-star safety rating.
  • NHTSA increases safety standards and will retroactively lower a car’s rating if it doesn’t meet those new standards. This means older models are being held to the most up-to-date ratings.
  • NHTSA indicates frontal crashes should only be compared against vehicles of the same type, but other ratings can be compared across classes. IIHS recommends not comparing any ratings across vehicle types.

Options abound in the four- and five-star range for all types of cars and budgets, so don’t worry about safety limiting your choices.

What car types are there to consider?

NHTSA divvys vehicles out into three different categories for you to consider. Passenger cars, sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pickup trucks and vans are the three classes, but passenger cars are broken down into several subcategories.

Figure out which type of car you want, and from there you can just compare the safety ratings of vehicles in the same class.

Passenger cars

Assistive technology and safety features have improved greatly over the years, so newer cars are likely to have an advantage when it comes to IIHS and NHTSA ratings. You can find well-rated vehicles of all price ranges in any of the subclasses.

A car falls into one of these subclasses based on its curb weight.

  • Mini. 1,500–1,999 lbs
  • Light. 2,000–2,499 lbs
  • Compact. 2,500–2,999 lbs
  • Medium. 3,000–3,499 lbs
  • Heavy. 3,500 lbs or more

Some popular overall five-star passenger cars include the Honda Civic, Toyota Camry, Ford Focus, Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Altima.


NHTSA doesn’t further subdivide SUVs into weight classes as it does with passenger cars, but you can usually find them labeled as compact, midsize and large.

The Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Kia Sportage are considered compact SUVs and are also five-star NHTSA rated and IIHS Top Safety Picks. In the midsize range the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander also hold a five-star rating and Top Safety Pick.

Pickup trucks and vans

With the Ford F-Series scooping up the award for top-selling vehicle in the US in 2017, there’s little surprise that the F-150 sports a five-star rating from NHTSA and held a 2017 Top Safety Pick from IIHS.

Other highly-rated and popular vehicles in the category include the Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey and Honda Ridgeline.

What financing option are available for a safe car in the US?

When you’re getting ready to invest in a new car remember that the safety of your vehicle potentially impacts more than just you in the event of a collision. With the staggering number of motor vehicle deaths every year, it’s crucial that each of us do our part to contribute to safer roads. You can improve your passengers’ and your own chances of survival by driving a car with a high safety rating.

Few of us can buy a car outright, even an unsafe one. Luckily whether you’re buying a used car, or you’re going all-out for a new one there are financing options available. Remember that just because a car is older doesn’t mean the standards to which its held are different. A five-star vehicle from 2011 meets the same qualifications as a five-star vehicle from 2018.

Once you’ve found your ideal safe car you can start comparing your financing options, and we’ve got just the tool to help you.

Compare a range of car loans

Rates last updated September 21st, 2018

Reveal your potential loan offers and rates

Answer two quick questions to filter the loan offers and get the best one for you.

Select your credit score range

I don't know my credit score

Finally, select where you live.

To get your credit score:

Experian logo

Experian is a leading provider of personal and business credit reporting. Find out your FICO score now for less than the cost of a cup of coffee.

Unfortunately, none of the personal loan providers offer loans for that credit score. If you are in urgent need of a small loan, you might want to consider a short term loan.
Name Product Product Description Minimum Credit Score Term of Loan Requirements
car.Loan.com Car Loans
Apply with a simple online application to get paired with a local auto lender. No credit and bad credit accepted.
Varies by lender
Must be a US citizen with a current US address and employed full-time or have guaranteed fixed income.
Auto Credit Express Car Loans
Get connected with an auto lender near you, even if you have bad credit.
Typically 3 to 6 years
Must be employed full-time or have guaranteed fixed income of at least $1,500/month and be a current resident of the US or Canada.
LendingClub Auto Refinancing
Lower your monthly car payments and save on interest through a fast and easy online application process.
Fair or poor credit
Minimum of 2 years
Car must be less than 10 years old with fewer than 120,000 miles. Current loan must have a balance between $5,000 and $55,000 and at least 24 months left in its term.
MotoRefi Car Loan Refinancing
A car loan connection service for borrowers looking to refinance.
1–6 years
Must have an income of at least $2,000/month and have a vehicle with less than 100,000 miles.
myAutoloan.com Car Loans
Get up to four offers in minutes through one simple application. Multiple financing types available including new cars, used cars and refinancing.
24 to 84 months
Must have a Social Security number; make $24,000+/year; have no open bankruptcies.
LendingTree Auto Loans
Compare multiple financing options for auto refinance, new car purchase, used car purchase and lease buy out.
Typically 1 to 7 years
Must be a US citizen and 18+ years old. Must have good to excellent credit.
Capital One Auto Financing
You could qualify for a car loan of up to 40000, but not all dealers accept this bank's financing.
Good to excellent credit
36 to 72 months
Valid street address; existing Capital One accounts in good standing. Car must be a 2006 model or newer with less than 120,000 miles.
Wells Fargo Auto Loans
Auto loans with high loan amounts to cover your car purchase or refinancing needs.
Good to excellent credit
1 to 6 years
Your income and assets must support your existing debt obligations and the desired loan amount.

Compare up to 4 providers

Image source: Shutterstock

Was this content helpful to you? No  Yes

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Privacy and Cookies Policy and Terms of Use.
Go to site