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

Toyota and Volkswagen's midsize SUVs both received top safety ratings, but Toyota scored higher. Safety features can lower your car insurance rates by up to 8%.

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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: Sep 15, 2020

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Toyota and Volkswagen midsize luxury SUV models have all undergone thorough testing by the IIHS
  • The safety ratings earned by the Toyota and Volkswagen models determine which vehicles are the safest option
  • Toyota provides the safest option for midsize luxury SUVs in comparison to Volkswagen

When shopping for a midsize luxury SUV, it would be beneficial for the driver to research a vehicle’s safety ratings.

A vehicle’s safety ratings are taken into consideration when insurance companies decide on the cost of auto insurance for that vehicle. Every car company strives to sell more vehicles, so they put emphasis on how good their safety features are regardless of if it’s true or not.

Most people just assume that the companies are being honest, but you should seek out more reliable information.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a great resource for credible safety ratings.

Compare car insurance rates with our free rate tool to see how much you could save on car insurance by switching carriers.

IIHS Safety Ratings

The IIHS/HLDI tests every single vehicle to make sure they are safe. They use their vehicle research center to evaluate each vehicle’s crashworthiness, crash avoidance and mitigation, and child seat anchors.

These areas all include subcategories that earn the following grades depending on how well they perform:

  • good
  • acceptable
  • marginal
  • poor

Basic, advanced, and superior ratings are given to each vehicle for their front crash prevention, which is a subcategory under crash avoidance and mitigation. The Toyota Highlander, 4Runner, and Volkswagen Atlas all received thorough testing in all of these areas by the IIHS/HDLI.


When it comes to safety, one of the top priorities should be protecting all of your passengers. Unfortunately, crashes and collisions happen every day even though no one ever plans on it happening to them.

It’s better to be fully protected by a safe vehicle than to be vulnerable and hope for the best. The IIHS/HDLI tested the sides, roof strength, front moderate overlap, head restraints and seats, and front small overlap of all three of these vehicles.

The Toyota Highlander and Volkswagen Atlas both obtained “good” ratings for all of the crashworthiness areas. The Toyota 4Runner managed to earn “good” ratings for all areas except for front small overlap, which only resulted in a “marginal” rating.

Crash Avoidance & Mitigation

You’ve probably seen plenty of commercials that focus on new technology that helps drivers avoid collisions. Crash avoidance and mitigation depend upon a vehicle’s front crash prevention and headlights.

If a vehicle can avoid getting into crashes altogether, passengers would only have to depend on a vehicle’s crashworthiness as a last resort.

The Toyota Highlander and Volkswagen Atlas both earned “superior” ratings for front crash prevention, although the IIHS indicated that the Atlas earned its rating with optional equipment.

The Toyota 4Runner was unavailable for this testing area. For headlights, the Toyota 4Runner only earned a “poor” rating, while the Volkswagen Atlas earned a “marginal” rating, and the Toyota Highlander obtained an “acceptable” rating.

Child Seat Anchors

This category focuses on Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, otherwise referred to as LATCH.

Midsize luxury SUVs often carry entire families, so it’s important to consider a child’s safety before purchasing.

Because LATCH is required in most vehicles by federal regulations, the IIHS/HDLI pays close attention to every aspect of the vehicle’s LATCH hardware and tests ease of use when it comes to installing child seats and restraints.

The Volkswagen Atlas and Toyota 4Runner both got “marginal” ratings in this category. The Toyota Highlander managed to outscore both of these vehicles with a “good” rating.

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Top Safety Pick Awards

After all of the tests are completed, the IIHS/HDLI compares the safety ratings of each vehicle and chooses which vehicles are appropriate for one of their Top Safety Pick awards.

The IIHS/HDLI uses these awards to endorse the vehicles that have proven themselves as outstandingly safe options.

The Volkswagen Atlas acquired a 2017 Top Safety Pick award, but the Toyota Highlander managed to take it a step above by snagging a Top Safety Pick+ award.

The Toyota 4Runner did not receive a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS/HDLI.

Which is safer?

Although the Toyota Highlander earned the highest safety ratings over the other two midsize luxury SUVs in every single category, the Toyota 4Runner did the opposite.

With it’s “marginal” front small overlap rating, lack of front crash prevention, and “poor” headlights, it’s considered the most unsafe option of the three.

The only Volkswagen midsize luxury SUV managed to earn outstanding ratings but they weren’t enough to beat out the Toyota Highlander. Overall, the Toyota produced the safest midsize luxury SUV with the Highlander.

Compare car insurance quotes to see how much these safety features could save you in insurance premiums. Enter your zip code into our free rate tool below to get started.

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