How to Check Your Car Safety Ratings

How to Check Your Car Safety Ratings

August 14, 2019    Car Care

Knowing how to check your car safety ratings is important for your peace of mind. Learn how to check vehicle’s ratings and stay safe on the roads.


Whether you’re driving across town or across the country, you want to know that your vehicle is equipped to hold up in an accident. If you’re buying a new or used vehicle, taking a closer look at the car safety ratings is an important step in the purchase process.

Where can I check my car’s safety rating?

Checking your vehicle’s safety profile is relatively easy. There are two primary companies that offer car safety ratings in North America:

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Both agencies rate vehicles for safety and make those ratings available to the public. The easiest and fastest way to check a car’s safety rating is to search either agency’s database online. You can check the NHTSA’s safety ratings and compare those against the IIHS safety ratings for extra reassurance. The NHTSA also publishes safety ratings on new car window stickers.

Transport Canada is responsible for regulating motor vehicle safety for vehicles made and imported in Canada. Manufacturers are required to test vehicles for safety themselves in accordance with National Safety Mark guidelines.

What is a car safety rating?

Broadly speaking car safety ratings tell you how safe a vehicle is to drive. The NHTSA and the IIHS use different evaluation processes to create their vehicle safety rating guidelines but the goal is the same: to give drivers an idea of how likely a car is to withstand a crash.

With the NHTSA, the best safety rating a car can receive is 5 stars; 1 star is the lowest. The IIHS rates vehicles for safety using a letter scale ranging from G for Good to P for Poor, with a few other rating classes in-between.

How is your vehicle’s safety rating determined?

The NHTSA calculates vehicle safety ratings based on how different cars perform in crash tests. Specifically, safety ratings take into account how cars react in front-end and side collisions, as well as accidents involving rollovers.

The IIHS tests vehicles for two things: how well the car protects occupants in a crash and how well in-car technology helps to minimize or avoid accidents. Like the NHTSA, the IIHS focuses on frontal, side crashes and rollovers. The organization publishes a list of its top safety picks each year.

One thing to note is that not every vehicle undergoes crash testing. A select number of vehicle makes and models are put through the paces for car safety ratings tests annually. And neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS tests for safety ratings in rear-end collision scenarios.

Why your car safety rating matters

Car safety ratings can tell you a lot about how a vehicle you own or one you’re considering buying would fare in a crash. While things like sales price or fuel efficiency are important in your car-buying decision, knowing that you and your passengers will be safe on the roads may be your top priority.

That matters because there’s one thing safety tests can’t evaluate for and that’s human error. Misjudging the distance between your car and another vehicle or driving in hazardous conditions could still lead to an accident but a car with strong safety ratings can reduce the chances of serious damage or injuries.

Birchwood Credit Solutions takes your safety seriously and we also care about helping you find financing that fits your needs and budget. We offer financing options for virtually every credit background so you can make your next new or used vehicle purchase as smooth as possible.

At Birchwood Credit Solutions, we offer a broad variety of cars, trucks and SUVS for every type of driver. Take a look at our extensive inventory selection to browse vehicle choices or fill out our online financing application today.

Rebecca Lake
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