If safety is your top priority when buying a car, be prepared to pay a premium.
If safety is a top priority when buying a car, you need to be prepared to pay a premium for cars equipped with the latest safety technology. Take the 2021 Toyota Camry, for example. It's one of the safest cars on the market, achieving a Top Safety Pick+ award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. But there is a caveat.
The 2021 Toyota Camry trim starts at $33,715, but the range-topping trim with adaptive headlights that qualifies for the Top Safety Pick+ award carries a price tag of $39,185. CarsDirect has discovered this is becoming a common trend in the auto industry. Earlier this year, the IIHS added stricter criteria to qualify for the top award, requiring vehicles to have "good" or "acceptable" headlights as standard equipment.
Despite this, most new cars and SUVs that qualify for the Top Safety Pick+ award are more expensive than you would expect. Last year, only the Honda Insight and Genesis G90 achieved a Top Safety Pick+ award without additional options. In 2020, most new cars and SUVs with a Top Safety Pick+ rating require you to splash out on expensive trims or optional packages.
However, IIHS believes automakers are responding to feedback and making changes to entry-level models to improve their safety. "Manufacturers are dropping the headlights that are sub-par performers in our nighttime track tests," an IIHS spokesperson said.
The 2021 Subaru Ascent and 2020 Acura RDX, for example, both achieved the highest safety rating and even the base models earned the best scores for headlights. The 2021 Honda Odyssey is also no longer offered with halogen headlights the IIHS rated as "marginal" and "poor."
While you'll need to pay a premium to own the safest cars on the market, standard safety equipment is becoming more advanced than ever before. For example, every Nissan built for the 2021 model year comes with the automaker's Safety Shield 360 package that includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, high beam assist, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, rear automatic braking, and rear cross traffic alert as standard.