Car Insurance Safety Ratings

Safety ratings are a crucial factor in determining car insurance rates. Many companies offer discounts for safety features such as electronic stability control and brake assist in helping lower car insurance rates.

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A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP®

UPDATED: Jan 29, 2021

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Most insurance companies offer a discount on coverage if the car you drive has up-to-date safety features
  • Older makes and models of cars will most likely be missing some key elements with regard to safety features
  • Driving an older car may allow you to save more money in the long run

If you are looking for car insurance, you need to be aware that safety ratings on your car will affect your premiums.

Everyone wants to be safe, so it is no wonder that positive safety ratings can save you money on car insurance. After all, the safer your vehicle is, the less likely it will be to incur injuries from an accident

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There are many different ways for a vehicle to be safe. However, when you apply for car insurance, safety ratings aren’t specifically asked about in the applications.

That isn’t because those safety ratings aren’t considered, but because the car insurance companies will ask the make and model of your vehicle and the computer will assess what safety features are standard in order for the company to apply their own safety rating to the vehicle.

When you purchase insurance, you will have the opportunity to tell your agent of any additional safety features that your vehicle has.

This could lead to a deeper discount, which is good news no matter who you are!

Safety Ratings and Safety Features

As mentioned above, there are many different ways for a vehicle to be considered safe.

For example, the insurance company will determine your vehicle to be safer if you have anti-theft devices than if you don’t, as it makes the car safer when you leave it at work, at the grocery store or in your driveway.

However, anti-theft devices aren’t considered when a vehicle’s final safety ratings are determined. Here are some of the things that enhance a vehicle’s safety rating:

Seat belts

If you want your vehicle to be at its safest, then you need to choose a car or truck that includes adjustable seat belts (as most newer vehicles do) and that have what is called a pretensioner function.

You know that your seatbelt keeps you from going trough the windshield in an auto accident, but what keeps you from hitting the steering wheel or the dashboard?

The pretensioner is the device that locks your seatbelt into place when it senses a collision or hard braking.

This is the part of your seatbelt that is going to keep you suspended in your vehicle if it turns upside down.


There are different types of airbags, and if your vehicle was made before 2006, then you don’t have the most advanced airbag system available.

This new system, which is required in any vehicles with airbags, balances out during deployment to prevent injury to children and smaller adults, something that was a real issue with prior airbags.

These days you can get front, side, and even overhead airbags.

Airbags are designed to keep you in your vehicle during an accident and prevent other objects from striking you as well.

Here are some more safety devices that can lower you auto insurance rates:

  • Anti-lock brakes – Anti-lock brakes ensures that you don’t lose control of your vehicle if you have to slam on your brakes. It does this by preventing the wheels of your vehicle from locking up, allowing you to keep complete control of it during a tense situation.
  • Brake assist – Brake assist will sense when you are slamming on your brakes and will allow you to brake even faster. This function is important in preventing accidents as it makes up for slow human response time.
  • All-wheel drive – All wheel drive simply distributes power to both the front and back tires of your vehicle to maximize the traction you get while you are driving. This prevents skids and spin-outs in bad weather conditions and in accidents.
  • Electronic stability control – When you are driving and something jumps out in front of your vehicle or another vehicle cuts you off, it is your electronic stability control that prevents you from careening off the road or losing complete control of your vehicle.
  • Weight – In most cases, the heavier the vehicle is, the safer it will be in an accident. SUVs, however, have one issue with their weight and that is the fact that they are top heavy. This means that they are more prone to rollovers.

Car companies are constantly coming up with more ways to keep you safe while you drive. Newer vehicles may have many more safety features than an older car will.

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What Are the Vehicles With the Best Safety Ratings?

In 2010, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested the majority of vehicles on the market for their safety features. Here is a list of the best-rated vehicles by category:

  • Large carsBuick LaCrosse
  • Small cars – Honda Civic 4-door
  • Mini cars – Ford Fiesta made after July 2010
  • Mid-size cars – Audi A3
  • Minivans – Toyota Sienna 2011 model
  • Small SUVHonda Element
  • SUV – Audi Q5

If you haven’t noticed, there isn’t a single sports car on this list. If you are looking for better safety ratings, then you are going to have to avoid the sports car market completely.

Safety Ratings Aren’t All That Matters

If you buy a brand new car so that you can take advantage of the insurance break you will get because of all the safety features, then you are going to end up negating that break because it costs more to insure a new car than it does an older car.

It is more expensive for insurance companies to pay for repairs on a car that is only a couple of months old than it would be for a car that is five years old.

While you don’t want to go out and buy a terrible vehicle, you should consider buying an older vehicle with great safety features if you really need to save money.

In addition to the type of car that you drive, insurance companies will take into consideration where you live, your driving record, credit score, how many past insurance claims you have, and more.

Don’t get so caught up in questioning safety features that you forget there are other ways to save money as well.

Lastly, you can’t forget to shop around in order to save money. Where you buy your insurance affects your rates, and some companies cost more than others.

By using a quote tool, you can ensure that you get the very best rates possible.

Enter your ZIP code now to access car insurance quotes from multiple companies today!

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