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  • The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is the leading authority on vehicle crash safety in America.
  • According to the IIHS, the Chevy Tahoe, Hyundai Santa Fe, Lexus RX, and Mazda CX-5 are some of the safest SUVs you can drive.
  • The Hyundai Santa Fe and Lexus RX are some of the vehicles that were given a “good” rating in terms of crashworthiness.

Family vehicles have always had one basic characteristic—they were large. Massive station wagons ruled the roads in the 70s, in the 80s minivans reigned supreme, and in the 90s, the SUV ushered in a new era of family vehicles. As the popularity of the SUV grew, the safer they needed to become. Buying an SUV may be a daunting task because you’ll have to match the standard features with your family. Beyond that, you want to keep your family safe in case anything untoward happens on the road. Using The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) standards, here are the safest SUVs in the market.

, The Safest SUVs for Your Family According to the IIHS
During the 90s, the SUV ushered in a new era of family vehicles.

What is the IIHS?

Have you ever watched those videos of vehicles being purposely crashed into walls? Most likely, that is The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crashing vehicles. Since 1959, they have been the authority on vehicle crash safety in America. Funded by major insurance associations, they take a scientific approach to researching about vehicle crash avoidance and crashworthiness, human factors, and the physical environment of the road.

The results of their research have greatly affected vehicle safety. In 1996 IIHS conducted a moderate overlap frontal crash to simulate when a vehicle crashes into something off the centerline of its structure. Half of the vehicles at the time earned a marginal or poor rating. Today, nearly all vehicles are designed to effectively protect its passengers during a similar situation. In 2003, they introduced the side impact test resulting in increased side impact safety and better rollover safety ratings. Adapting to the trends of modern vehicles, IIHS began rating vehicles’ active safety systems for frontal crash prevention. This covers how the vehicle can warn of an impending collision or initiate autonomous braking.

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What are the safest SUVs?

It seems as if every manufacturer is capitalizing on the popularity of the SUV. This makes the task of buying the perfect one that much harder. Using Kelley Blue Book’s results of the best-selling SUVs in 2018, we’ll split up the SUVs into their respective segments and give you the safest SUV per segment according to their IIHS rating. We’ll also apply the rating system of IIHS: Good, Acceptable, Marginal, and Poor. The front crash prevention technology is rated as Superior, Advanced, and Basic.

Full Size SUV

Chevrolet Tahoe

The only full-size SUV to make the best-selling list in 2018, the Chevrolet Tahoe’s IIHS results focus on Child Seat Anchor Ease of Use category. With a rating of “Acceptable,” the IIHS focuses on how the consumer would use the seat anchors putting the location and other physical factors around it. IIHS also dives into the optional safety equipment like blind spot detection, lane departure warning and prevention.

, The Safest SUVs for Your Family According to the IIHS
The Chevrolet Tahoe was the only full-size SUV to make the best-selling list in 2018.

Mid-Size SUV

Hyundai Santa Fe

With stellar results, the IIHS awards the Santa Fe the 2019 Top Safety Pick+. This award is only given to the top performing vehicles based off their battery of tests. The Santa Fe was given a Good rating for its overall Crashworthiness. Standard front crash prevention equipment was rated as Superior, though the headlights on the lower SE and SEL trims only received a moderate rating.

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Luxury Crossover

Lexus RX

The only luxury vehicle on the list, the Lexus RX averages a Good rating for its overall Crashworthiness. Its high-tech Bi-LED Headlamps were only rated as Acceptable and the lower end Triple-Beam LED Headlamps received a Marginal rating. The Lexus RX receives a Good+ rating under the Child Seat Anchor Ease of Use category. This makes it an ideal vehicle for parents with children that still need a child seat.


Mazda CX-5

The crossover segment has slowly taken over the market share of the sedan. Competition is tough, with almost every manufacturer banking on their models to make an impact in this segment. The Mazda CX-5 is the highest rated crossover in the IIHS battery of tests. With its crashworthiness and headlights garnering a Good rating. The only hitch in rating that the CX-5 received was an Advanced under the Standard Equipped Front Crash Prevention category.

, The Safest SUVs for Your Family According to the IIHS
The Mazda CX-5 is the highest-rated crossover in the IIHS battery of tests.

Subcompact Crossover

Subaru Crosstrek

Subaru has always been known for their Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system across their model range. This gave all year round safety no matter the road conditions. The Subaru Crosstrek is one of two Subarus that made it to our list, with an overall Good rating for Crashworthiness and even getting a Good+ in the Child Seat Anchor Ease of Use category. The only let down in the Crosstrek’s rating are the standard headlights on lower model trims. Garnering a Poor rating, its Halogen reflector headlights did not fair well in the battery of test conducted by IIHS. Nonetheless it still received a 2019 Top Safety Pick+ award.

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Compact Crossover

Subaru Forester

Another IIHS 2019 Top Safety Pick+ award winner, the Subaru Forester received stellar ratings for Crashworthiness, Headlights, and Child Seat Anchor Ease of Use. Subaru’s EyeSight active safety system, that is standard on the Forester, received a Superior rating under Front Crash Prevention. Unfortunately the trims equipped with LED projector headlights as standard only received an Acceptable rating from the IIHS.

, The Safest SUVs for Your Family According to the IIHS
According to IIHS tests, the Mazda CX-5 is the highest-rated crossover.
About The Author
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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