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

Toyota and Honda's midsize SUVs both received top safety ratings from the IIHS. Safety features can reduce 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...

  • Examining the IIHS safety test results for the Honda Pilot, the Toyota Highlander, and the Toyota 4Runner in 2017 could help you to make a buying decision based in part on safety
  • In several of the eight safety test categories that the IIHS analyzed in 2017, there were substantial variations in some of the results for the Honda Pilot and the two Toyota SUV models
  • By choosing to buy a safer vehicle you could promote your well-being on the road, and you could potentially get a vehicle that is more affordable to insure

Toyota and Honda automotive brands are typically viewed in a fairly similar light, and these brands are commonly known for their reliability, value, and overall safety on the road.

When you choose to buy a larger vehicle, such as a midsize SUV from one of these automakers, you may feel exceptionally secure driving in a spacious vehicle that has a commanding presence on the road.

Unfortunately, your feeling of security may not be based on facts proven by test results.

If you want to know which of the midsize SUVs on the market in 2017 are safer to drive based on recent safety tests, you need to turn to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for accurate information.

Compare car insurance quotes today to find the best rate for the coverage you need. Enter your zip code into our free tool above to get started.

Analyzing IIHS Safety Test Results for the Toyota and Honda SUV

Between the 2017 Honda Pilot, the Toyota Highlander, and the Toyota 4Runner, you may easily feel torn between the options. These three midsize SUVs are loaded with valuable, high-quality features and have exceptional interior and exterior design.

However, they vary substantially in some safety test areas, and this fact may make it easier for you to decide which vehicle is the best fit for you.

For each of the midsize SUVs that the IIHS analyzed in 2017, eight safety tests were performed, and each one explored a different aspect of driving safety.

The IIHS has categorized these tests into three broad groups for easier analysis and review, and the SUVs have been given one of the following possible ratings for each of the tests:

  • Good
  • Average
  • Moderate
  • Poor

You should be aware, however, that the test for Front Crash Prevention has a different rating system. Its rating system uses the following grades:

  • Superior
  • Advanced
  • Basic


Accidents can happen to the safest drivers in all types of vehicles, so you want to ensure that the SUV you purchase can protect you and your passengers as well as possible. This is the basis for the five Crashworthiness tests conducted by the IIHS.

These tests include Side, Front Small Overlap, Roof Strength, Head Restraints and Seats, and Front Moderate Overlap.

The Honda Pilot and the Toyota Highlander for 2017 had “good” scores across the board for each of these five Crashworthiness tests. While the Toyota 4Runner had a “good” score in four of these tests, it had a much lower rating of “marginal” in the Front Small Overlap safety test.

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Crash Avoidance and Mitigation

Some safety features in modern SUVs may prevent or reduce injuries in a collision, and other safety features can reduce the change of or entirely prevent you from being in a collision.

The Crash Avoidance and Mitigation category examines this through the test categories of Headlights and Front Crash Prevention. For the Headlights test, the Highlander and the Pilot received “average” marks, but the 4Runner had a “poor” test result. 

For the Front Crash Prevention test, the Pilot and Highlander had an exceptional rating of “superior,” and the 4Runner was not properly tested in this area.

Child Seat Anchors (LATCH)

The last of the eight safety areas there were reviewed by the IIHS is the LATCH category for child seat anchors, and it examines how easy it is for drivers to properly secure car seats to the vehicle’s anchors.

The 2017 Highlander was rated as “good” for the LATCH safety test. The Pilot had a reasonable “average” rating, and the 4Runner had a lower “marginal” LATCH score.

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2017 Top Safety Pick and/or 2017 Top Safety Pick+

The 4Runner has considerably lower safety test ratings than the Pilot and Highlander, and because of its low safety test scores, it was not a recipient of either the IIHS Top Safety Pick honor or the Top Safety Pick+ honor.

However, both the Pilot and the Highlander had high enough safety scores to be recipients of the title Top Safety Pick+.

This distinguished honor has specific qualifications, including high ratings in the Headlights and Front Crash Prevention areas and a “good” score for all of the Crashworthiness safety tests.

Is Toyota safer than Honda in 2017 for midsize SUVs?

The primary difference between the Pilot and Highlander safety ratings for 2017 is that the Pilot has a slightly lower LATCH test result. On the other hand, the 4Runner ranks lower than both of these other SUV models for LATCH, Headlights, and Front Small Overlap.

Finding an affordable vehicle to buy may be just as important to you as finding a safe vehicle. The reality is that safety ratings may be reviewed by your auto insurance company to generate premium quotes, so these two factors are related. 

With several variations in safety test results as well as other factors that insurance companies review when preparing an insurance quote, you can see that requesting coverage quotes on a few SUV models before you decide which one to buy may help you to save money on insurance.

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