What You Should Know About Car Crash Test Ratings, Pt. 1

You may have seen the auto commercials depicting crash tests. The slowed reel of the car, dummy inside, smashing into a solid wall, the dummy lurching forward. It’s a common image designed to give you peace of mind about the car advertised, but what do you really know about these crash tests? When you’re ready to purchase a car, those images might not mean much. What you really want to know is what the crash test results mean. We’ve come up with a quick guide about the meaning of frontal crash test results to help you make a more informed decision.

Thousands of auto accidents occur in the United States every day, and many of them result in serious injuries. So when you’re purchasing a car, you want to buy something that won’t crunch you and your family in such an event. Crash tests are designed to give you an idea about how a car performs in a crash. There are a couple kinds of tests including frontal crash tests and side crash tests. For now, we’ll only discuss frontal crashes because these account for half of the 30,000 traffic deaths in the United States each year.

We’ll also look at two different kinds of ratings, one from the NHTSA and one from the IIHS. The NHSTA

In an NHSTA frontal crash test, the entire width of the front-end of a car hits a barrier traveling at 35-miles-per-hour. That’s right, they are testing results of impact at 35 mph. That might be a little different from what those crash-test commercials have led you to believe.

The crash test results in a starred rating. One star means a 46 percent or greater chance of serious injury in a crash exists. For two stars, the chance is between 36 and 45 percent. Three stars means a 21 to 35 percent chance of serious injury in the event of a crash. Four stars means an 11 to 20 percent chance of serious injury, and five stars means a 10 percent or lower chance of serious injury.

The IIHS test is a little different. This test is “offset” that means they do not crash the entire front of the car, but only a portion of it. They crash this portion into a barrier at 40 miles per hour. It is worth noting that the barrier is “deformable,” which means damage can occur to the barrier as well as the car.

The IIHS utilizes a different rating scale from the NHSTA. Instead of stars, they give a grade. These are divided up into Good, Acceptable, Marginal, and Poor.

What determines which rating a system receives is based upon the damage to the car and the damage to the dummies. There is no “percentage” system to determine rating like the NHSTA test.

When considering both these tests and their results, you should note the IIHS test is more stringent due to the speed of the car.

These are just a couple of the crash test types and the rating systems that accompany them. If you familiarize yourself with the standards, you’ll be able to make a better decision about the safety of a vehicle.