Marissa Hayes is a technical editor and contributing writer. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in history, and she was the editor of the literary magazine, The Bluestone Review.

Full Bio →

Written by

Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com.

Full Bio →

Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Car Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Jul 19, 2021

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right coverage choices.

Advertiser Disclosure: We strive to help you make confident insurance decisions. Comparison shopping should be easy. We partner with top insurance providers. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about auto insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything auto insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by auto insurance experts.

Share Insurantly’s content if you find it useful

Car Insurance companies use crash test data to help determine rates

Your car insurance rates are determined by a number of factors, including your driving record, age, gender, and even where you live. Some are these are not under your control, unfortunately. But you can save money by choosing a vehicle that performs well in crash tests. A car that’s rated highly will not only provide better protection in case you’re in an accident – it will also help lower your insurance rates.

Why do crash tests matter to insurers?

Insurance companies consider crash test data when determining rates, because they want to minimize the cost of claims they pay out. If your vehicle is less likely to suffer severe, costly damage in a crash, your insurance company will have to pay less if you’re in an accident.

In contrast, if you choose a car that is prone to extensive damage, your insurance company may have to pay more on an accident claim. The same is true for any physical injuries you may incur. If your vehicle performs poorly in crash tests, you could be more likely to be seriously injured in an accident, and your insurance claim could be higher as a result.

Who does the testing?

Several different organizations perform crash test ratings. Two of the most well-known and reliable are the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Before you buy a vehicle, check out its crash test rating on each site.

How are crash tests conducted?

Several different organizations perform crash test ratings. Two of the most well-known and reliable are the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Before you buy a vehicle, check out its crash test rating on each site.

Crash tests are meant to mimic real-world conditions as much as possible, using “crash-test dummies” to substitute for the driver and passengers in a variety of situations.

Generally, the following tests are performed:

  • Front impact: In this test, a vehicle hits a concrete wall or another vehicle, usually at 40 miles per hour. It mimics what might occur during a head-on collision.
  • Moderate overlap: This test measures the damage done when only part of the vehicle’s front hits another vehicle. It mimics damage done when a vehicle turns into oncoming traffic and can often be more severe than expected, because a relatively small area is absorbing a large amount of force.
  • Small overlap: Similar to a moderate overlap test, this involves an even smaller area. It’s meant to show what happens when one car “clips” another car or an object like a tree.
  • Rear impact: This helps test the head restraints and can be done at various speeds. These types of collisions are very frequent, accounting for millions of insurance claims a year. Neck injuries are a common result, and while they’re not life-threatening, they can be debilitating and result in expensive insurance claims.
  • Low-speed: Several tests are conducted to mimic what happens during a “fender bender.” Even a very low-speed accident such as one that would occur in a parking lot can cause significant damage in some vehicles. Bumpers are often not big enough or are too flimsy to protect sheet metal and parts that are expensive to repair.
  • Side impact: These “T-bone” crashes often occur at intersections and have a high fatality rate. There’s relatively little material to absorb the impact of a crash.
  • Rollover: This tests the roof’s ability to remain intact, protecting the driver and passengers. SUVs in particular can be prone to rollovers, and although they represent fewer than 3 percent of all accidents, they account for more than a third of passenger vehicle occupant deaths, according to the IIHS.

Researching crash test results before you buy a vehicle can be time well spent. Especially if you’ve narrowed your decision down to just a few models, crash test results may be able to help make your decision easier if one vehicle has performed better than the other.

Taking the time to make the comparison and to research rates with several different companies can result in savings that are repeated every time you pay your car insurance premium.