Clark Howard

New Report: The Safest Car Models for 2024

When it comes to cars, safety should be the top priority. No matter how nice or fast a vehicle is, if it’s not safe, it’s not good.

A recent report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows which vehicles are the safest on the road. In the organization's 2024 Top Safety Picks report, the safest vehicles are categorized by size, including:

Looking for the Safest Cars on the Road? Read This

To come up with its list, the IIHS submitted the vehicles through a battery of tests and rated the cars either acceptable, symbolized by an “A,” good, symbolized by a “G” or both based on several criteria, including how they performed in front and side “overlap” impact tests, headlight standards and pedestrian crash tests.

“In 2012, the IIHS introduced a ‘Small Overlap Frontal Test,’ in which 25% of the car’s width strikes a barrier on the driver side at 40 miles per hour,” Clark says. “A car’s main crush-zone structure that absorbs most of the impact is in the middle 50% of the front end. Small overlap crashes hit the headlight sections near the outer edges, where there’s no significant ‘crumple zone.’”

Clark says after a few years, automakers began to build vehicles that passed the overlap tests, but it was a process. “That small overlap test initially really confounded automakers. Many popular models suddenly failed safety tests when the criterion was introduced,” he adds.

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Let’s take a look at three of the categories — small cars, midsize cars and midsize SUVs — listed in the report. All the vehicles listed below are 2024 models.

Safest Small Cars

2024 Safest VehiclesSafety Rating
Acura Integra 4-Door HatchbackTop Safety Pick+
Hyundai Elantra 4-Door SedanTop Safety Pick
Mazda 3 4-Door HatchbackTop Safety Pick+
Mazda 3 4-Door SedanTop Safety Pick+
Subaru Impreza 4-Door WagonTop Safety Pick
Toyota Prius 4-Door HatchbackTop Safety Pick+
Toyota Prius Prime 4-Door HatchbackTop Safety Pick

Safest Midsize Cars

2024 Safest VehiclesSafety Rating
Honda Accord 4-Door SedanTop Safety Pick+
Honda Ioniq 6 4-Door SedanTop Safety Pick+
Subaru Outback 4-Door WagonTop Safety Pick
Toyota Camry 4-Door SedanTop Safety Pick

Safest Midsize SUVs

2024 Safest VehiclesSafety Rating
Ford Explore 4-Door SUVTop Safety Pick+
Honda Pilot 4-Door SUVTop Safety Pick
Hyundai Palisade 4-Door SUVTop Safety Pick
Jeep Grand Cherokee 4-Door SUVTop Safety Pick
Jeep Grand Cherokee L 4-Door SUVTop Safety Pick
Kia Telluride 4-Door SUVTop Safety Pick+
Mazda CX-90 4-Door SUVTop Safety Pick+
Mazda CX-90 PHEV 4-Door SUVTop Safety Pick
Nissan Ariya 4-Door SUVTop Safety Pick
Nissan Pathfinder 4-Door SUVTop Safety Pick+
Subaru Ascent 4-Door SUVTop Safety Pick+
Toyota Highlander 4-Door SUVTop Safety Pick
Volkswagen Atlas 4-Door SUVTop Safety Pick
Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport 4-Door SUVTop Safety Pick

Read the full vehicle safety report from the IIHS.

What To Look for in a Safe Vehicle

Many vehicles today come with all sorts of high-tech sensors to help you drive more safely. Here are a few features that you may be interested in:

Lane Departure Warning System

A lane departure warning system alerts the driver, typically by a series of beeps and lights on the dashboard, that the vehicle is either getting too close to another car or crossing lane markers.

The feature is one of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's recommended safety technologies.

Electronic Stability Control 

Clark is a big fan of vehicles that have electronic stability control (ESC), which helps to steady the vehicle when it senses that your wheels have momentarily lost traction with the road. Clark says the feature is a must-have for teenage drivers and he was once told by the people at Consumer Reports not to buy a car for a kid if it does not have ESC – a  "make-or-break feature" – on it.

Dash Cams

While a dash cam may not be on your traditional checklist of safety features for vehicles, Clark is a big believer that these electronic devices are a big protection.

"I look at them as ultra-cheap insurance," Clark says, adding that the dash cams can be used to show police officers what transpired during a car accident.

Along with dashcams, more truck drivers are buying truck-bed cameras, which help them keep an eye on their loads.

Final Thoughts

Clark wants you to do your due diligence when it comes to choosing a safe vehicle.

“For years, we’ve been in the ‘fully assist’ stage where cars are basically rolling computers that make us safer and smarter,” Clark says. “Technologies like forward collision systems, adaptive headlights, and lane departure warning systems have greatly reduced fatalities. And let’s not forget about electronic stability control, the most important safety feature.

“But that’s only a pit stop on the road to safety. The cars of the future will be a whole different game, and they will do more and more to eliminate fatalities,” Clark says.

Of course, the safest thing about any vehicle is the driver. As a motorist, you'll want to make sure you find a trustworthy mechanic to do all your timely repairs as well as keep the oil changed and tires maintained.

Want more money-saving tips? Read our guide on how to maintain your car.

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