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

One of Toyota's midsize SUVs received a top safety rating while Jeep scored low by comparison. Safety upgrades 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...

  • Although midsize SUVs are considered to be among the safest vehicles on the road, like every vehicle, they possess different safety ratings by brand and model
  • When selecting a vehicle, it’s important to know that crashworthiness ratings are judged from Good to Poor, while crash avoidance ranges from Basic to Superior
  • The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety uses scientific methods to analyze the safety of each vehicle, using statistics from the Highway Loss Data Institute
  • These ratings are based on a variety of both human, engineering, and environmental factors
  • The vehicles that prove the safest each year are rewarded with the annual Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ and are held to strict standards of safety


It’s a common belief that midsize SUVs, because of their increased size and their high weight compared to sedans and midsize cars, are much safer in a crash.

While this isn’t technically false, many drivers are lulled into a false sense of security because of the reputation these vehicles possess. The truth is, every vehicle has different safety ratings, and neither size nor bulk should be considered the be-all end-all of car safety.

Even within the category of midsize SUVs, there is a wide range of difference between safety ratings for different makes and models. It’s important to take these differences into account when choosing a new vehicle.

Compare car insurance quotes to find the company that’s right for you. You might be able to save hundreds of dollars a year by finding a company that offers you a better rate. Enter your zip code into our free comparison tool above to check it out.

Nonprofits Working for You

Since road safety is an important matter of public interest, multiple nonprofit organizations have formed in an attempt to make the United States’ roadways safer.

The most notable of these are the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI). Both of these organizations are supported by the automotive industry and by insurance companies.

While the IIHS uses the scientific method to test the safety standards of each vehicle released each year, the HLDI helps by contributing accumulated data.

The IIHS’ safety tests evaluate vehicle standards with respect to various areas of study – namely:

  • Human factors – addresses the issue of teenage or impaired drivers, as well as road fatigue from long drives and occasional issues of non-seatbelt use.
  • Vehicle research – the most straightforward area of research, which focuses on collision testing – this test seeks to decide the vehicle’s crashworthiness and their underlying crash avoidance abilities.
  • Environmental factors – focuses on the study of the roadways themselves, namely focused on eliminating roadside hazards and crashes that leave the road.

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Methods of Testing

When it comes to testing a vehicle’s crash safety, the five categories of testing are as follows,

  • Small Overlap Front – based on tests where a vehicle collides with a sturdy barrier at 40 miles per hour.
  • Moderate Overlap Front – based on tests where a vehicle collides with a flexible barrier at 40 miles per hour.
  • Side – based on tests where an SUV shaped object collides with the driver’s side door at 31 miles per hour.
  • Roof Strength  – based on tests where a metal plate is pushed against the vehicle’s roof at a constant speed.
  • Head Restraints/Seats – based on a sled test where the vehicle is stopped suddenly while in motion, triggering the airbags.

These tests are then graded from Good to Acceptable to Marginal to Poor.

Toyota vs. Jeep

Toyota released two midsize SUVs in 2017, while Jeep came out with three – the Toyota released the Highlander and the 4Runner, while Jeep released the Cherokee, Grand Cherokee, and Wrangler. These vehicles are judged on the following criterion,

Crashworthiness

The Toyota Highlander received top marks in each area of crashworthiness, receiving a Good rating in every category. The Toyota 4Runner, however, received a Marginal rating in small front overlap testing.

Similarly, the Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee received the same Marginal rating in the same area – but the Jeep Wrangler received a Poor rating, making it the least sturdy of the five vehicles.

Crash avoidance

Similarly to above, the Toyota Highlander received the highest possible ratings in general crash avoidance – their headlights, however, were classified as merely Acceptable.

The Jeep Cherokee received a Superior rating in comparison to the Grand Cherokee’s basic rating, while both share the Acceptable rating with the Highlander.

Neither the Toyota 4Runner or Jeep Wrangler were evaluated for stopping time, but both received Poor ratings on their headlights, making them the least safe in crash avoidance.

Child Seat Anchors (LATCH)

The Toyota Highlander received the highest possible rating in this simple category, while the Jeep Cherokee scored an Acceptable and the Grand Cherokee, Toyota 4Runner, and Jeep Wrangler received Marginal scores.

Picking The Safest Car On The Road

The rubric for receiving the annual Top Safety Pick award is quite strict, requiring a Good rating in all crashworthiness categories and either Advanced or Superior rating when it comes to crash avoidance.

To qualify for the highest honor of the Top Safety Pick+, the vehicle must also have headlights categorized as Acceptable or Good.

The Toyota Highlander is the only one of the vehicles discussed here that took home a Top Safety Pick+ in 2017, making it the safest and most driver friendly. No other vehicle from Jeep or Toyota received a 2017 Top Safety Pick award.

Toyota’s safety ratings are, as a whole, better than Jeep’s despite Jeep releasing an additional model this year, their vehicles proved insufficient to win the industry’s highest safety honors and, in the case of the Wrangler, they weren’t even evaluated for crash avoidance.

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