The Importance of Auto Ratings on Buying A Vehicle

More than 50% of all shoppers report using a consumer review service before buying a new or used car. Four main consumer review sites not only offer automobile ratings but also put cars to the test. This is a trusted method for consumers to find vehicle information they otherwise might not obtain. Demographics for those who depend upon consumer review sites before buying a vehicle is varied and includes young, first time drivers, seniors, car enthusiasts, antique car collectors and restorers, and adults purchasing new or used family vehicles. Four of the main consumer review organizations include the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), JD Power and Associates, Consumer Reports, and Edmunds.

IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)

Founded in 1959, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a non-profit organization located in Arlington, Virginia. Focusing on safety, the IIHS focuses on research and performs a series of automobile tests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) performs a frontal offset impact test that checks for damage to a vehicle and a car’s occupants upon frontal impact. The IIHS also performs a frontal offset impact test and often the results from the IIHS and the NHTSA have different results. Other tests include the rear crash protection, head resistant ratings, and roof strength evaluation. Vehicles that receive a good rating in all tests qualify for the annual top safety pick award.


J.D. Power and Associates was founded in 1968 as a marketing research company. The company conducts automotive surveys including the Vehicle Dependability Study, the Initial Quality Study, and the APEAL Survey. The Vehicle Dependability Study is used to track problems vehicle owners experience after owning their car for three years. The Initial Quality Study tracks problems noted by owners within the first ninety days of purchasing a car. The APEAL Survey is used to document a consumer’s opinion regarding their overall shopping experience. J.D. Power and Associates is one of the most popular consumer review sites consumers use before purchasing a new vehicle.


Consumer Reports may be the most well-known consumer advocacy group. Founded in 1936 by Consumers Union, Consumer Reports tests and reviews new and used cars. Their testers purchase vehicles themselves, and conduct road tests and check for issues such as child safety. They review a wide array of features such as car repairs, prices, tires, and which cars get the best and worst fuel mileage. Consumer reports also features a best and worst car review with a top cars special.

  • Consumer Reports Auto Ratings: Official Consumer Reports site focuses on auto ratings and safety. 

  • Consumer Reports Car Buying Guide: The Center for Advancing Health (CFAH) reviews the connection between consumer confidence and Consumer Report when buying a vehicle. (PDF)

  • How to Buy a Car:  Berkley discusses steps for buying a car safely. 

  • Buying a Used Car:  Tips from Texas AgriLife Extension Service regarding car buying, recommends Consumer Reports. (PDF)

  • Buying and Owning a Car: Guide from Oregon State regarding buying a used or new car. Recommends consumers review Consumer Reports before making a purchase. 


Founded in 1966, Edmunds began as a book publisher that specialized in providing consumers with vehicle information. They moved towards the Internet and quickly became one of the leading consumer auto review sites. Edmunds provides information such as incentives and rebates, reviews used and new cars, and conducts road tests. Road tests check for a car’s function, design, performance and the quality of the vehicle’s build. Edmunds gives awards for the vehicle that performs best on their road tests.

  • Edmunds:  Official website for the automobile rating service. 

  • How to Buy a Used Car:  Cornell University advises students to use Edmunds before buying a used car. 

  • Buying Tips:  Guide from Wartburg College recommends consumers use Edmunds when purchasing a new vehicle. (PDF)

  • Buying a Car: Resources from the University of Iowa recommends students consult with Edmunds before buying a car. 

  • Used Car Buying III: Edmunds is listed as a resource by the University of Kentucky in the car buying guide. 

More Resources

You may find more information regarding automobile ratings and consumer reviews in the links below.

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