Buying a car is a thrilling experience. The thrill will last even longer if you do all of your research prior to the purchase. One very important aspect of that research needs to be a thorough look into a vehicles safety ratings. Here is how you can do that research.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducts crash tests on new vehicles and reports their performance on safercar.gov. For the 2012 model year, for example, the NHTSA is testing 74 vehicles, or about 81 percent of 2012 model-year passenger vehicles sold in the United States. You can find the top rated cars here: http://www.safercar.gov/Safety+Ratings
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit organization funded by automobile insurance companies and insurance associations. It is a private group despite its funding sources. The IIHS conducts separate testing and issues its own ratings, free from the NHTSA. NHTSA and IIHS conduct different test. Both make sure to test the volume sellers. IIHS went the extra step of testing innovative cars like the Nissan Leaf and the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt beginning in 2011. You can find their ratings here: http://www.iihs.org/ratings/default.aspx