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Vehicle Safety Testing Programs

Vehicle safety testing programs are in place to help consumers see which brands are the safest cars available in the industry. They also put some pressure on automakers to improve their performance in this category and give them concrete means of measuring improvement as time goes by. Different manufacturers have their own testing programs and assessment tools, but there are two programs not affiliated with the automakers that are regarded as the best and most reliable sources of data.

The New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) is a federal government sponsored program that is administered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit institute that is funded by the insurance industry. Both groups have been involved for years in the practice of crashing cars for the purpose of improving safety and also lowering the cost of repairs.

Administration of Auto Crash Tests

These two groups have the same basic objective, but they perform different tests from one another, and they report their findings in different ways. Thus it is useful for potential buyers to take a look at results from NCAP and IIHS in their efforts to try to find a good, safe car to buy for their families. The NCAP uses a star system to indicate performance on its testing, giving more stars to higher performers and ranking them from one to five. The IIHS uses a color coded system, with different colors representing good, acceptable, marginal, and poor performance on their tests. Most people familiar with this aspect of the industry agree that it is good to have more than one source of this information, because it gives consumers multiple perspectives to draw from and a wider base of data to look at.

Importance of Vehicle Safety Testing

For drivers, the importance of car safety tests is pretty clear. When you are getting ready to buy a car, truck, or SUV, you should look into these results because they can show you the vehicles in the category you are interested in that perform the best. These vehicles will tend to keep people the safest and also lead to the fewest claims, which can also save you money on your auto insurance estimates. It is good to get a vehicle that does well on these tests across the board. When multiple groups have studied a car or truck and concluded that it is very safe, we can feel good in the legitimacy of those conclusions.

Differences in Crash Rating Systems

It is interesting to take a look at the way that the NHTSA and IIHS rate vehicles in the tests they administer. As with other government programs of a similar tenor, the NCAP uses a five star system to denote how a vehicle has performed in its tests. Again, five stars only go to the very best performers in any single category, while one star scoring is reserved for the worst. This seems to be an easy way to tell the good from the bad, but the IIHS takes the opposite stance.

There is a line of thought that says a five star rating system from vehicle safety testing programs is misleading, because buyers could think that cars with one or two stars at least got some stars, and that they mustn't be that bad if they got some. But at the same time, the color coded ratings are not crystal clear except to those who are already familiar with what the colors stand for. Either way, it is important for consumers to go beyond symbols and find out what vehicle safety ratings really mean.


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