In the early days of the automotive industry, the safety rating was something that not many people or manufacturers cared about. The cars were slow, and the technology wasn't as advanced to improve the safety of the passengers.
In recent decades, as cars became faster and more dangerous, manufacturers started to test them to see what kind of damage would happen to the occupants in case of a crash. To determine how safe or unsafe a car is, there are two ratings that you should look at NHTSA and IIHS.
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Both of these provide an excellent insight into how safe a car may be, and both use different types of tests and rating system. NHTSA does a series of crash tests, including front and side-impact, as well as rollover tests. Their rating consists of stars, and the safest car will get a five-star rating.
IIHS does more detailed tests in multiple scenarios and rates the cars in four levels: poor, marginal, acceptable, and good. In other words, if you want a car that is safe, you should be looking at one with a five-star NHTSA rating and IIHS's good rating.
One thing to keep in mind is that the ratings don't tell the whole story. Even though a five-star rating from NHTSA and a good rating from IIHS is great, to get into the details of how the car performed in certain test specifically, you will need to look at the reports.
Manufacturers provide all the necessary information about their model's safety rating. If you are looking to buy a car, the dealership will provide you with this information. If you already own a car and want to know the safety rating, you should check your user manual or check if the car still has the original stickers.
If by any chance, none of the above is doable for you, then both NHTSA and IIHS both have a database of the safety ratings of the cars that they certified. Head over to their websites and check the database to get the rating of the model you have in mind. Make sure that the information is entered correctly to get the correct rating.
Manufacturers are aware that in these modern times, cars with good safety ratings sell better than others, so today, there are quite a lot of models with the highest rating possible. Most luxury sedans like the Lexus ES, Audi A6, or Genesis G80 have five-star ratings. There are even compact sedans like the Honda Insight or a hatchback like the Mazda 3 that also have a five-star rating.
Recent developments have put a surprisingly unexpected brand on the top of the list. Hyundai's luxury division Genesis is rated as the safest car brand on the market. The tested models G70, G80, and G90 performed admirably and got the highest ratings possible.