As more people use them for everyday transportation, pickup trucks have become more luxurious and feature-rich than ever before. It’s easy to find a new truck loaded with leather, big-screen infotainment systems, and high-end trim like natural wood and aluminum inside. Automakers know this and make their trucks safer and more livable, though some could do more with standard safety and driver assistance features.
The trucks you see here have earned a Top Safety Pick + or Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Not earning one of those designations does not mean a vehicle is unsafe. Still, the IIHS uses the awards to recognize vehicles with exceptional performance in crash tests and additional tests, such as headlight illumination and car seat anchor ease of use.
How the IIHS Rates Vehicles
The IIHS updates its testing methodology as new vehicle types and technologies become available. To earn a Top Safety Pick award, a vehicle must perform well in crash tests and offer robust crash prevention technologies.
IIHS Standards for earning a Top Safety Pick designation
A vehicle must earn “Good” ratings in all crash test categories, including:
- Driver-side small overlap front
- Passenger-side small overlap front
- Moderate overlap front
- Original side
- Roof strength
- Head restraints
Additionally, the vehicle must get an “Advanced” or “Superior” score for available front crash prevention technology for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian crash avoidance. It must also be available with headlights that earned an “Acceptable” or “Good” score.
IIHS Standards for earning a Top Safety Pick + designation
Vehicles earning a Top Safety Pick + award have achieved the standards for a Top Safety Pick and must come standard with headlights that earn “Acceptable” or “Good” scores.
2023 Rivian R1T
Top Safety Pick +
The R1T is an all-electric pickup from brand-new automaker Rivian, and though it’s still not a common vehicle to see on the road, it’s one of the safest new trucks you can buy. It earned “Good” scores in all crash test categories and a “Good” score for its headlights. That performance was good enough for the truck to earn a Top Safety Pick +, but Rivian equips a generous list of standard safety gear as well.
The R1T has a highway driving assistance system that helps with steering, braking, and acceleration. Adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist are also standard, along with blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alerts. A full parking assistance system comes with every truck that brings a 360-degree distance sensor and trailer guidance. Forward collision warnings, automatic emergency braking, and brake support also come standard.
2023 Toyota Tundra
Top Safety Pick +
The Toyota Tundra got a significant redesign in 2022 that brought dramatic updates to its styling, tech, and powertrain options. At the same time, Toyota added a load of safety gear and improved the truck’s crash test performance. The IIHS awarded it a Top Safety Pick +, which includes “Good” scores in all crash test categories and “Superior” ratings for front vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian crash prevention. The Tundra’s headlights scored “Good” or “Acceptable,” depending on the trim.
Every Tundra comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.5. The package includes forward collision warnings, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alerts, lane keep assist, automatic high beams, and road sign recognition. The Limited trim adds blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alerts and trailer detection.
2023 Ford F-150
Top Safety Pick
Ford redesigned the F-150 for the 2021 model year, giving it fresh styling, an available hybrid powertrain, better tech, and more standard safety gear. America’s best-selling pickup couldn’t match the Toyota Tundra and Rivian R1T’s Top Safety Pick +, but the truck earned a respectable Top Safety Pick. The F-150 picked up “Good” scores in all crash test categories but fell short in seatbelt reminders and seatbelt LATCH system ease of use, where it earned “Poor” and “Marginal” scores, respectively.
The F-150 comes standard with the Ford Co-Pilot360 safety package, which includes automatic headlights, automatic high beams, lane keep assist and lane departure warnings, automatic emergency braking, forward collision warnings, pedestrian detection, and a rearview camera with trailer hitch assist. Stepping up one trim level to the XLT brings blind spot monitoring, reverse braking assist, and a reverse sensing system.
2023 Ram 1500
Top Safety Pick (Crew Cab only)
The latest Ram 1500 is a plush full-size truck with an interior that rivals some luxury cars. At the same time, its optional air suspension gives it one of the best rides in the segment. Additionally, it grabbed a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS. Specific configurations of the Ram 1500 earned a Top Safety Pick, but not all. The crew cab truck grabbed the best safety scores, though its headlights and car seat anchors held it back with “Marginal” scores in certain trims.
Most advanced safety equipment is held back in options packages and higher trims. Available features include blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alerts, forward collision warnings, lane departure alerts, a head-up display, and a trailer reverse sensing system. Ram also offers parking sensors.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are pickup trucks safer than cars?
In many cases, no. Trucks have a higher center of gravity and are not always equipped with as much safety equipment as cars, which can lead to less passenger safety in a truck, despite its larger size and mass.
Why are trucks so expensive?
Pickup trucks cost a lot because they offer a load of capability and function. Few other vehicles can tow, haul, and perform daily-driving duties like a full-size truck. Most new trucks also get piles of technology, from advanced infotainment systems to useful trailering assistance features.
Can I install a car seat in a single cab truck?
Yes, using car seats in single-cab trucks is legal, but there are a few things to know. It’s best not to use rear-facing seats, as airbag deployment will be a problem. It’s also important to make sure that the seat is deep enough to support the car seat base. We covered car seat laws in all 50 states, so check out our guide here.
Are pickup trucks safer in snow?
Trucks are no safer than cars in snow, and in some cases, they can be less safe. Most pickups have less weight over the rear drive wheels, so there’s less traction. Four-wheel drive helps considerably, but a front-wheel drive sedan can do just as well with a set of snow tires. It’s good to remember that all-terrain and off-road tires are not suitable substitutes for winter or snow tires.