Whether you are a parent looking to keep your kids safe on the road or simply want some added peace of mind during your daily commute, safety is an important factor to consider in any car purchase. Modern vehicles have come a long way in terms of safety features, which now include strong crash structures, numerous airbags, and even advanced driver-assist technologies to avoid collisions. However, despite the heightened focus on safety and the increasing number of government safety mandates, not all car brands have the same commitment to protecting their customers.
Fortunately, we have access to more information than ever before to help us make informed choices when searching for the safest cars on the market. The government crash testing conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides a good baseline to see how well vehicles protect occupants in a variety of common crash scenarios. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) goes even further, requiring more challenging crash test scenarios and testing driver-assist technologies to ensure they perform as advertised. Only the safest vehicles on the road can receive the coveted IIHS “Top Safety Pick” and “Top Safety Pick+” designations.
All of this information is freely available for every car buyer to explore on the websites of these two organizations. But to kickstart your car buying journey, here are the three safest overall brands to shop from. These manufacturers emphasize safety across their lineups, and you can rest assured that you will be well-protected in virtually any of their vehicles. We have also included the three least safe brands on the market so you know what manufacturers to steer clear of as you shop.
The Safest Car Brands of 2022
The Japanese brands have a strong reputation for building safe and reliable vehicles, so it is no surprise that the top three safest brands of 2022 all hail from the island nation. Mazda, Subaru, and Toyota all stand out for their incredible attention to safety, and their 2022 lineups passed IIHS and NHTSA testing with flying colors. While the domestic brands did not fare so well overall, if you are looking for a safe full-size pickup truck, then Ford and Ram both have good options. Finally, if a luxury car is your style, then Volvo remains the go-to brand for high safety ratings.
#1 – Mazda
Mazda may be one of the smallest manufacturers in the automobile industry, but its less expansive lineup allows it to focus on keeping every model at the cutting edge of technology. In fact, Mazda stands out for having every single vehicle in its lineup receive an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating for 2022, with the sole exception of the MX-5 Miata roadster, which was not tested. However, the Miata did receive a 4-star rating in European NCAP testing and comes standard with the full suite of Mazda driver-assist technologies, so even if you want a lightweight sports car, you can count on this brand to keep you safe. Mazda has also made all-wheel drive standard for its entire SUV lineup for 2022, further enhancing safety in bad weather.
Another smaller Japanese brand, Subaru, has long had a reputation for safety, and its legendary symmetrical all-wheel drive technology provides additional security on slippery roads. While Subaru didn’t quite match Mazda in getting a Top Safety Pick+ for every vehicle it sells, it came close and can boast a Top Safety Pick rating or better for every 2022 model except for the Impreza sedan. This one exception is because the Impreza does not offer Subaru’s EyeSight driver-assist technology on the two lowest trims, but given that this model starts at an incredibly low $19,295 and is one of the few compact sedans available with all-wheel drive, it is far from a stain on Subaru’s reputation.
#3 – Toyota
As the best-selling car brand in America, Toyota doesn’t have the agility of smaller brands like Mazda or Subaru, but this automotive goliath has still managed to field one of the safest car lineups around. Every model Toyota sells for 2022 comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense driver-assist technology, and the majority of its lineup has received at least a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS, including the Corolla, Camry, RAV4, Highlander, and Sienna. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. The aging Prius, 4Runner, and Tacoma all failed to receive a Top Safety Pick Rating because of marginal performance in frontal crash testing. Fortunately, all three of these iconic models are expected to receive a full redesign for the 2023 model year, which should bring them up to Toyota’s high standards for safety.
Trucks – Ram / Ford
While the Japanese brands are known for building safe and reliable vehicles, they don’t have much to offer truck fans. While Toyota does offer the Tundra and Tacoma, the redesigned 2022 Tundra has yet to be tested by either the NHTSA or IIHS, and the more popular but older Tacoma performed poorly. But that doesn’t mean truck buyers don’t have options for safe pickups. In fact, the two most popular trucks in America, the Ford F-150 and Ram 1500, both received Top Safety Pick ratings for 2022. Strictly speaking, this rating only applies to the crew cab versions, which come standard with advanced driver-assist technology, but any version of these two trucks is a safe buy.
Luxury – Volvo
Luxury brands tend to perform better than mass-market brands when it comes to safety, as their higher price tags generally cover more capable safety systems. But while there are few unsafe luxury brands, if safety is your top priority, then Volvo should be top on your list. This Swedish brand has a long history of building incredibly safe vehicles, inventing the three-point seatbelt, rear-facing child seat, and side-impact airbag as part of its crusade to protect drivers. For 2022, Volvo yet again sets new standards for safety by being the only brand to have every single vehicle in its lineup receive a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS.
The Least Safe Car Brands of 2022
Unfortunately, not every manufacturer is equally committed to building safe vehicles. While some brands have blazed a trail for safety behind the wheel, others have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the modern era. Bringing up the rear as the least safe automobile brands of 2022 are Jeep, Volkswagen, and Chevy. While all three of these manufacturers offer robust safety features in their lineups, they tend to be restricted to higher trims and more expensive models. This tendency for cost-cutting over safety also extends to other GM and Stellantis brands, including GMC, Buick, Chrysler, and Dodge.
#1 – Jeep
The largest brand under the Stellantis umbrella, Jeep has long had a poor track record for safety, and its current lineup is no exception. In fact, Jeep managed to be the only major manufacturer in 2022 that failed to have a single one of its vehicles named a Top Safety Pick. On top of not offering standard driver-assist technology, several of its models turned in atrocious crash-test performances. This includes the best-selling Grand Cherokee WK, which received a “Poor” small overlap rating from the IIHS, and the Wrangler, which spectacularly flipped on its side in frontal crash testing. While Jeeps may be designed for adventure, they are not a good choice for anyone concerned about safety.
#2 – Chevy
While the 2022 Chevy Trailblazer managed to score a Top Safety Pick+ rating, the rest of the 2022 Chevy lineup performed poorly in safety testing. Although the recent move to make Chevy Safety Assist standard across more models has certainly made Chevy a better choice than it used to be, Chevy simply doesn’t reach the high bar set by safer brands. Further, several of its most popular models are among the least safe, with the 2022 Silverado receiving a “Marginal” small overlap rating, the 2022 Trax not offering several of the most important driver-assist features, and the safety cage of the 2022 Traverse proving less than perfect in the updated side-impact test. These safety weaknesses are shared by several closely-related models offered by Buick and GMC.
#3 – Volkswagen
Volkswagen’s strategy of chasing low price points hasn’t helped it capture market share in America, but it has resulted in a lineup of surprisingly under-equipped vehicles that performed poorly in safety testing. Only two Volkswagen models managed to receive a Top Safety Pick rating in 2022: the new ID.4 electric SUV and the soon-to-be-discontinued Arteon sedan. The remainder of the lineup turned in acceptable crash-test scores but were handicapped by less-than-impressive driver-assist technology. While not a terrible result, it is made more disappointing by the fact that the Volkswagen Group’s luxury brand, Audi, is among the safest around.