Amanda Drago
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NHTSA and IIHS Will Never Crash-Test Certain Cars

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Almost a half-million cars purchased every year have not received crash-test ratings, and many of them never will. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety won’t rate certain sports cars, large vans, and luxury models due to budget restraints.

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How do the NHTSA and IIHS select which cars to crash-test?

The NHTSA and IIHS cannot afford to crash-test every single car. This means they tend to forego testing on cars with a low sales volume. The fewer people buying a specific model, the fewer people who will be affected by the lack of safety ratings for said model.

If you’re interested in buying a popular model but can’t find crash-test results for it, there’s also a chance the NHTSA and IIHS simply haven’t had the chance to test it yet. This is often the case for a brand-new or redesigned model. In this instance, it may be smart to hold off on purchasing the car until the organizations release safety scores.

Other ways to check crashworthiness

If you don’t want to wait for these scores or it seems unlikely that the car you’re after will ever have crash testing, another option is to find the insurance claim losses and driver fatality rates for the car. The IIHS website offers this information for most models, allowing you to see how they perform in actual collisions.

Safety agencies in other countries may have crash-tested models that the NHTSA and IIHS have not. However, these agencies may use different safety standards, and models may differ from the ones in the U.S. For these reasons, you should look to U.S. organizations for the most relevant info.

It’s also worth noting that every new model in the U.S. must undergo crash testing internally before it can be sold. This ensures that new models on the market meet minimum federal safety standards. The U.S., however, does not require the results of these tests to be publicly available.

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Although it would be ideal if every car purchased had public crash-test ratings, the NHTSA still provides ratings for 85 percent of new cars, while the IIHS offers them for 80 percent. When combined, this means that 97 percent of the cars sold each year have gone through testing.