Which Vehicle is Closest to Tesla Model S in Overall Safety?


Would you believe us if we told you it’s the Buick Verano that’s second in line after the Tesla Model S in terms of overall safety, as tested by the NHTSA?

It’s true, but first allow us to fill in the background information.

Here's the % Breakdown That Contributes to the Overall Score

Here’s the % Breakdown That Contributes to the Overall Score

Tesla Motors says the Model S earned an overall 5-star safety rating from the NHTSA.  Additionally, The Model S scored 5 stars in each individual test.

In terms of the NHTSA’s Vehicle Safety Score (VSS), the Model S achieved the lowest figure issued by the NHTSA: 0.43.  For VSS, the lower the figure the better, as it’s a number that represents the relative chance of injury or relative risk.

Got all that?

Here’s where it gets a bit tricky to decipher.  There’s one more VSS score issued by the NHTSA and, for this one, the higher the better.  Under the US-NCAP system, the NHTSA provides us with a single star rating for the tested vehicle.  This is an overall safety score, or overall VSS.  The chart to your right depicts how the NHTSA arrives at this figure:

  • Frontal Crash (42%)
  • Side Impact Crashes (33%)
  • Rollover Risk (25%)

This is where the Model S scored 5.4 VSS.

Buick Verano Almost Scores as High as Model S

Buick Verano Almost Scores as Well as Model S

Moving on.

The NHTSA has tested 132 Model Year 2013 vehicles.  Out of those vehicles (and all of those tested in previous years from 2011 on when the NHTSA altered its testing procedures) the Model S earned the highest overall VSS (5.4) and the lowest VSS (0.43).  It should be noted that the NHTSA has not tested the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Audi A8 or BMW 7-Series.  We should further add that the NHTSA selectively chooses which vehicles it will test and the Agency typically picks the most mainstream models from each brand.  Therefore, it’s unlikely that any of those aforementioned vehicles will ever be tested.

Back to the Buick Verano.  The Verano is 5-star rated by the NHTSA, but when we dig deeper into the numbers, we see that its VSS score (relative risk of injury) is 0.50.  That’s not far off the 0.43 set by the Model S.

If the NHTSA had a safety ranking system, the Model S would be number one and the Buick Verano number two.

Finally, do you recall when Tesla stated that the Model S was so reluctant to rollover that special means had to be used?  Well, how reluctant is the Model S?  For an answer to that, we have to introduce one more NHTSA score: relative rollover risk or RRS.

The Model S scored 0.38 RRS.  Surprisingly, the Honda Accord is in the number two spot this time with a RRS of 0.66 or close to twice the risk of rollover of the Model S.

What’s all of this mean?  The Model S is safe.  It’s was we’ve been saying all along.  It is indeed the safest vehicle ever tested by the NHTSA and that still can’t be disputed.

We sure do wish the NHTSA would test a vehicles, especially large luxo sedans so that we could see how the Model S stacks up against its closest competitors, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon.  So for now, the Model S is the safest tested vehicle in it class and the safest of any ever tested by the NHTSA.

Categories: Crashed EVs, Tesla

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19 Comments on "Which Vehicle is Closest to Tesla Model S in Overall Safety?"

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Jesse Gurr

Where do you find this data? I looked at safecar.gov for any information. I found the test reports but didn’t find the data you are looking at. Although it is rated 5 stars, it’s rollover rating is at 4 stars. Many other cars have 5 stars for all categories, wouldn’t that make them safer? Just curious.

Eric Loveday

That data is behind the NHTSA’s publicly geared site…It’s there, but not accessible by everyone. Some of it can be found, such as hundreds of images of the Model S tests and full-length videos, but most is beyond the reach of the general public

Eric Loveday

I believe Jesse was referring to the rollover rating for the Verano.


Thanks, Eric.

I suppose I should research more about roll-over, but it would seem to me that there is room for conflicting results. If a manufacturer installs bigger stickier tires, then the car is more likely to roll over than skid, but would be safer overall.

Eric Loveday

I agree Roy…stickier tires would make a car more likely to rollover, but it’s so difficult to get an EV with a low-mounted battery (i.e. Model S or Nissan LEAF) to roll under any conditions that the tires probably don’t come into play here.

For a standard vehicle or and SUV, certainly tire selection is important for passing this test. However, most of the vehicles with “sticky” tires are sportier and low slung. Lower center of gravity and less likely to roll. I wouldn’t recommend these “sticky” tires on a top-heavy SUV though if you’re concerned with rollover.


“It should be noted that the NHTSA has not tested the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Audi A8 or BMW 7-Series”
What a pity 🙁 What about 5-series?


How does the Model S compare to similarly sized and similarly priced sedans like?

Mercedes S class
BMW 7 Series
Porsche Panamera

Does the Model S have anti whiplash headrests? Fixed headrests provide poor whiplash protection.

Does the Model S offer any active safety systems like auto-braking? Drowsy driver alert? Lane keeping? Adaptive cruise control?

Eric Loveday

Similarly sized vehicles have not been tested by the NHTSA


Then how can you declare it’s the “world’s safest vehicle”?


It’s the safest they’ve tested so far. Stop trying to start a fight.

Just because a car has all those technological add-ons, they don’t make it any safer. Just ask the Lexus driver WITH blind-spot monitoring, who nearly side-swiped me the other day because she wasn’t paying attention to the little yellow light in her side mirror (that I could see!).


Relax Aaron, seriously.

I’m sorry you feel challenging a dubious conclusion (i.e. “worlds safest car!!!” ) is trying “start a fight.”

I’m also sorry you feel that anti whiplash seats don’t make a car safer. Do you have anything to support that conclusion?


“Anti whiplash headrests” have never been proven to actually prevent whiplash. In practice, the sharply angled headrests used in “anti whiplash headrests” frequently cause people to not rest their heads against the headrests, which causes people to get whiplash more often. So they are dangerous.

Adjustable headrests would be better than not, but the Tesla seat is excellent for people of my height.


“the sharply angled headrests used in “anti whiplash headrests” frequently cause people to not rest their heads against the headrests, which causes people to get whiplash more often. So they are dangerous.”

Has that been proven?


all of those sound like the most worthless options in existence

“lane keeping” LOL


Sounds like you are stuck in the last century.

Semi-autonomous and autonomous cars are the future.

Just look at the S-Class distronic system with traffic jam assist. Hands free, foot free driving up to almost 40mph.

That may be LOL to you, but to me that is something worth noticing.


If you don’t want to drive, take the train/bus/taxi.


Perhaps you should tell Musk that. He has publically stated his desire for an autonoumous car. I’m sure you would change your opinion if Mercedes’ system was already offered by Tesla. The shallow, knee jerk opinions offered by myopic fanboys can be quite humorous.


Relax, Teri. Seriously.