Manufacturers are constantly making changes to their vehicles, but time and budget constraints make it impossible for IIHS to test every model every year. To keep our ratings as comprehensive as possible, IIHS engineers work with manufacturers in a process known as test verification.

Every year, we determine whether vehicles are changing in any way that could affect their performance in crash tests — for example, if modifications are being made to the structure or to airbags. Engineers gather information about upcoming models from trade journals, auto shows and other sources and confirm their assessment regarding each vehicle with the manufacturer. If there are no changes, the rating from the previous model year gets carried over. If a vehicle has been substantially redesigned, it must be tested again to be included in the ratings.

IIHS doesn't conduct all the tests for every redesigned vehicle itself. If the previous year's model was rated good in the driver-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front or side test, the manufacturer may conduct a verification test in that category. The same is true for vehicles with superior front crash prevention ratings.

In addition, as of 2019, automakers with a proven track record of cooperation with IIHS may conduct verification tests for moderate overlap front and side ratings for any vehicle, even one that isn't a successor model to an earlier good-rated vehicle.

Finally, for any vehicle with a good driver-side small overlap rating, the manufacturer may conduct its own test for the passenger-side rating.


Verification allows IIHS to provide consumers with up-to-date information. It ensures that automakers continue to pay attention to frontal and side crash protection as they redesign vehicles. At the same time, it frees Institute engineers to conduct research and develop new tests that in the future will lead to even more improvements in crash protection.

How it works

If a vehicle is eligible for verification, and the manufacturer wants it to receive a rating from IIHS or wants a passenger-side small overlap rating, the company must conduct the test according to Institute parameters.

For crash tests, the company provides video footage, along with measurements of intrusion and injury data from the dummies.

For evaluations of automatic braking for front crash prevention ratings, the manufacturer must provide test footage, as well as information about the vehicle's speed, location and accelerator and brake pedal positions. IIHS engineers analyze this information and assign the rating, just as they would if the test had taken place in the Institute's own Vehicle Research Center.

We only allow verification tests for driver-side small overlap front, passenger-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side and front crash prevention ratings. If a vehicle's seats, roof or headlights have changed at all, the Institute conducts a new head restraint, roof strength or headlight evaluation.

To ensure good faith participation, we conduct occasional audit tests in which vehicles are retested in-house to make sure the results don't differ significantly from the manufacturers' tests.

Driver-side small overlap front test — side curtain airbag coverage

IIHS allowed manufacturers to conduct their own tests to show improvement in one specific aspect of the small overlap front rating. After the driver-side small overlap test was introduced, many vehicles received a demerit for insufficient forward coverage from the side curtain airbag. All of these airbags were expected to be modified to improve coverage of the side window area because of a new government safety standard for rollover protection. This new standard, known as FMVSS 226, was phased in by the 2018 model year. IIHS allowed manufacturers to submit small overlap test video for newly compliant vehicles. If IIHS determined that the video demonstrated sufficient airbag coverage, the demerit was removed.