Crash tests can help you determine how well a vehicle will protect you in a crash. Here are different organizations that perform crash tests and rate vehicles:
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – Each year, NHTSA crashes vehicles head-on into a wall and bashes them broadside to test their ability to protect their occupants. NHTSA focuses on evaluating vehicle restraints such as air bags and safety belts.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety – A different test by the IIHS uses offset-frontal car crashes to assess the protection a vehicle’s structure provides.
Consumers Union – Published by CU, the annual auto issue of Consumer Reports rates vehicles in terms of overall safety. Its safety score combines crash test results with a vehicle’s accident avoidance factors—emergency handling, braking, acceleration, and even driver comfort.
To find out whether a manufacturer has recalled a car for safety defects, contact NHTSA. If a vehicle has been recalled, ask the dealer for proof that the defect has been repaired. Used vehicles should also have a current safety inspection sticker if your state requires one.