What does “Top Safety Pick” mean, and why does it change?

By Product Expert | Posted in Tips and Tricks on Wednesday, December 13th, 2017 at 6:38 pm
crash testing and crashed cars with the words "All About Top Safety Pick rating"

When buying a new or quality used car, it can be important to get one that offers valuable safety options. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has been doing evaluations on the safety of vehicles for years, including several different crash tests and even rating crash prevention technology and headlights. Ratings from the IIHS include “Top Safety Pick” and “Top Safety Pick Plus”. The criteria for these safety honors is slightly different almost every year, which means that a vehicle that won in one year may or may not the next. But why do IIHS safety ratings change every year? 

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Why do IIHS safety ratings change every year?

There are several reasons why the IIHS changes its rating system every year. Generally, if a vehicle wins a Top Safety Pick award, that means it has excelled in IIHS crash testing and will protect drivers very well in moderate overlap front collisions, driver-side small overlap collisions, side impacts, rollovers, and against whiplash (thanks to quality seating and heat restraints).

However, the IIHS is not content to let automakers rest on their laurels. By making the top ratings harder to reach each year, they push vehicle manufacturers to continue improving safety technology. Check out the video below to learn more about what changed this year.

Top Safety Pick vs Top Safety Pick Plus

What’s the difference between an IIHS Top Safety Pick and a Top Safety Pick Plus? While any Top Safety Pick is a great choice, the “Plus” designation shows vehicles that go the extra mile in crash prevention. For example, in 2017, the quality of a vehicle’s headlights changed whether or not a model could get the “Plus” designation. For 2018, automakers added a passenger-side small overlap crash test to see how well front passengers were protected in the event of an accident.

We’re not sure what will be the next step in IIHS safety technology. Maybe how easy it is to install a child seat (which is already something the IIHS evaluates) will come into play in future year, so some other aspect of vehicle safety that we haven’t considered yet. But we know that auto makers will rise to the challenge.