Manufacturers are building safer and better cars than ever before, thanks to a little help from agencies and organizations dedicated to testing and publishing results on most of the new car models produced today. You can get simple ratings, or you can search in-depth reports about the crash worthiness and safety of your car. Also, several international organizations operate websites that make it easy to get information about cars from across the globe.
Some cars are not tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Although specific safety information may be available for your particular model, all cars sold in the United States are required to adhere to federally mandated guidelines that specify safety requirements.
- Safercar.gov. Sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), this excellent website is loaded with information on tons of cars. You can find safety test information about a great many cars sold in the US since 1990. This user-friendly website provides excellent information that is easy to interpret. You can also compare safety ratings of similar vehicles.
The NHTSA buys vehicles from dealers, then tests and collects data on full frontal crashes and side impact crashes. They also collect rollover data on trucks and SUVs.
To illustrate how it works, I directed my browser to safercar.gov. I entered that I was searching for information on a 2004 Ford Freestar Van. The website directed me to a page that showed 4 and 5 stars across the board. You can get the safety ratings on almost every car sold in large numbers in the United States since 1990.
Learn about the meaning of the stars in each crash test and more at the Safercar.gov frequently asked questions.
- If you're interested, you can obtain high-speed footage and the full NCAP rating report from George Washington University's National Crash Analysis Center Library.
- The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is a non-profit organization sponsored by a consortium of auto insurance companies dedicated to reducing loss of property and life on America's highways.
The IIHS publishes the results of their independent crash tests on their website.
The tests conducted by the IIHS are similar, but not identical to those performed by the NHTSA. For instance, the NHTSA does not perform rear impact tests, but the IIHS does. Also, the IIHS conducts more rigorous offset frontal crash tests instead of full frontal crash tests.
The combined information provided by both the NHTSA and the IIHS can paint an excellent picture of how well a particular car protects the occupants in a variety of accident scenarios.
- Informed For Life. This website publishes National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) information and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety data side-by-side in order to give more comprehensive crash test information. They also publish a risk index SCORE, which they claim provides an accurate picture of how safe a vehicle's occupants will be. Informedforlife.com takes the position that vehicle safety isn't limited to crash worthiness, but that accident avoidance and vehicle weight have a lot to do with how safe your car is. Learn more at their website.
- International Crash ratings. Are you looking for information about a car not sold or tested in the United States? Other nations also conduct new car impact studies. Here's a list of websites that prove useful for many familiar cars.
- Japan's National Agency for Automotive Safety & Victims' Aid website offers car safety test results as well as child car seat safety ratings in English.
- Australasian New Car Assessment Program. Sponsored by a variety of government and non-governmental organizations, this website publishes car safety ratings on locally available vehicles. It also provides a pedestrian score.
- European New Car Assessment Programme. European crash tests include both pedestrian impact and pole tests, in addition to many of the tests performed in the United States. The website uses easy-to-understand graphics depicting damage to various parts of occupant bodies. It's an excellent website that provides a lot of useful information on many cars. It also provides a "child protection rating" for each vehicle.