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Safest 2023 pickup trucks list is slimmer; IIHS strengthens requirements


With more trucks becoming family vehicles, the importance of being one of the safest 2023 pickup trucks is greater than ever with many changes since the 2022 report.

This year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has raised the standard for vehicles to receive a Top Safety Pick + or a Top Safety Pick designation. This means only two trucks are now considered to be the safest 2023 pickup trucks.

The safest 2023 pickup trucks

For the 2023 model year, only the Toyota Tundra and the Rivian R1T get the Top Safety Pick + top billing, and there are no Top Safety Pick winners for pickup trucks.

This means both of those trucks meet the current safety standards from the IIHS. While this doesn’t mean other trucks aren’t safe, it just means they don’t meet the new IIHS requirements.

What’s changed for Top Safety Pick ratings?

The IIHS says it has raised the bar for Top Safety Pick ratings by focusing on key areas: “better side crash protection and improved pedestrian crash prevention systems and eliminating subpar headlights from the field of qualifying vehicles.”

This emphasis resulted in just 48 models total getting the award in 2023. Last year, there were 101 winners with 65 models getting the coveted Top Safety Pick + award.

“The number of winners is smaller this year because we’re challenging automakers to build on the safety gains they’ve already achieved,” said IIHS President David Harkey. “These models are true standouts in both crashworthiness and crash prevention.”

For the side crash prevention test, it is now tougher to pass with 82% more energy added to the test.

Improved pedestrian crash prevention systems added a night time portion of the test and requires an advanced or superior rating in both night and day settings.

Headlights are also a new area of focus for the IIHS, and the agency has been pushing automakers to offer better lighting.

“Previously, a vehicle could qualify by offering at least one trim level with available acceptable or good headlights, while winners of the ‘plus’ award needed to have them standard across all trims. For 2023, both awards require standard acceptable or good headlights.”

The bottom line

These test results often created confusion with people wondering if the truck they want is now considered unsafe. That’s just not the case. It is more that the IIHS testing requirements continue to get tougher to pass. The IIHS will always push automakers in the realm of safety since that’s their job.

This is just another data point to consider when shopping for a new truck.

Tim Esterdahl

Automotive Journalist Tim Esterdahl has been a lover of trucks and SUVs for years. He has covered the industry since 2011 and has pieces in many national magazines and newspapers. In his spare time, he is often found tinkering on his '62 C10 pickup, playing golf, going hunting and hanging out with his wife and kids in Nebraska.

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