Is Toyota’s safety rating for midsize SUVs better than Ford’s?

Toyota's midsize SUV received a top safety rating while Ford scored low by comparison. Safety upgrades may lower your car insurance rates by up to 8%.

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Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State University as well as technical and professional communication at East Carolina University. Zaneta has prepared technical p...

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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: Sep 15, 2020

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Only one of the five Toyota and Ford SUVs in the 2017 midsize vehicle class had overall high safety ratings based on IIHS tests
  • The Ford Explorer and Ford Edge both received one “poor” rating each in at least one IIHS safety test areas
  • Altogether, the IIHS reviews vehicles in the midsize SUV class across eight safety tests, and these tests are grouped into three primary categories


Both Ford and Toyota are well-established automakers that have exceptional reputations with vehicle buyers.

The midsize SUV vehicle class is highly popular among buyers today, and many buyers love the safe, secure feeling that they get when driving in a larger vehicle from one of these leading automakers.

Together, these two automotive manufacturers have five midsize SUVs on the market in 2017 and these are the Toyota Highlander and 4Runner and the Ford Flex, Edge.

While a driver may feel relatively safe when test driving any of these five popular SUVs from Ford and Toyota, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safet (IIHS) safety test results tell a different story.

While you are comparing safety ratings, make sure to compare rates with our free quote tool above! 

In fact, only one of these five vehicles has good test scores overall. Because safety can impact your driving experience on the road and your auto insurance cost, it is important to analyze the test results before you decide which of these five SUVs to purchase.

2017 IIHS Safety Test Ratings: Comparing Toyota Versus Ford

Each of the five midsize SUVs manufactured by Ford and Toyota in 2017 has great features and an appealing style that may be enticing you to make a purchase.

Safety is an important aspect to consider before you decide which SUV to purchase.

The IIHS is an excellent resource to rely on when you need to learn more about the safety capabilities of these vehicles.

Altogether, the IIHS has created three distinctive safety areas, and these are analyzed through eight total tests.

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What the IIHS Safety Tests Mean

The three unique categories that the IIHS reviews are crash avoidance or mitigation, crashworthiness, and LATCH.

The crash avoidance and mitigation safety category has two unique tests, and it examines the vehicle’s ability to avoid a crash altogether or to reduce how severe a crash may be.

The IIHS categorizes five safety tests into the crashworthiness section, and these tests indicate how protective a vehicle is of the occupants in the SUV.

The final safety category for IIHS has a single test in it, and this LATCH test tells you about the simplicity and ease of attaching a child’s car seat to the latch anchors in the SUV.

The majority of the IIHS safety tests are given a possible score of:

  • Poor
  • Marginal
  • Average
  • Good

One of the tests in the crash avoidance and mitigation category have a different rating system, and its possible scores are:

  • Basic
  • Advanced
  • Superior

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Crash Avoidance and Mitigation: How Well a Vehicle Performs in a Collision

The two areas that are tested under this safety category are Headlights and Front Crash Prevention. For Front Crash Prevention:

  • Toyota Highlander: “Superior”
  • Toyota 4Runner: Not tested
  • Ford Edge: “Basic”
  • Ford Flex: “Basic”
  • Ford Explorer: “Basic”

For Headlights:

  • Toyota Highlander: “Average”
  • Toyota 4Runner: “Poor”
  • Ford Edge: “Poor”
  • Ford Flex: “Marginal”
  • Ford Explorer: “Poor”

Crashworthiness: The SUV’s Ability to Protect Its Occupants from Injuries

  • Toyota Highlander: “Good” in all five tests
  • Toyota 4Runner: “Good” in all tests, except “Marginal” for Front Small Overlap
  • Ford Edge: “Good” in all tests, except “Average” for Front Small Overlap
  • Ford Flex: “Good” in all tests, except “Average” for Front Small Overlap
  • Ford Explorer: “Good” in all tests, except “Marginal” for Front Small Overlap and not rated in Head Restraints and Seats

Child Safety Seat Anchor or LATCH: What It Takes to Install a Car Seat

Only one vehicle in this class for 2017 received a “good” LATCH score. The test results are:

  • Toyota Highlander: “Good”
  • Toyota 4Runner: “Marginal”
  • Ford Edge: “Average”
  • Ford Flex: “Average”
  • Ford Explorer: “Average”

Toyota and Ford Midsize SUVs: Determining Which Vehicles Received an IIHS Safety Award

To qualify for the IIHS Top Safety Pick award, SUVs must have a “good” score for the five crashworthy tests and a higher rating for the Front Crash Prevention test.

An even higher honor offered by the IIHS is the Top Safety Pick+ award. This higher honor requires vehicles to meet these safety guidelines, and they also must have a better safety rating in the Headlights test.

Of all five of the Toyota and Ford models reviewed in 2017, the Toyota Highlander was the only vehicle recognized with the Top Safety Pick+ recognition. None of these vehicles received recognition for Top Safety Pick for 2017.

Toyota Versus Ford: Which is a safer midsize SUV make?

Of these five midsize SUV models, Toyota had the highest-ranking vehicle in the Highlander and the lowest-ranking vehicle in the 4Runner. The Ford models rated in between these two Ford SUVs in the IIHS safety tests comprehensively.

As you compare the safety ratings from IIHS, keep in mind that safety data is also reviewed by car insurance companies when you buy insurance for your new SUV.

If you are interested in finding the most affordable SUV to insure, it may be necessary to request multiple coverage quotes online before you decide whether you want to buy a Ford or Toyota SUV. Get a quote today with our free quote tool below! 

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