Ratings

Government 5-Star Safety Ratings for Motor Vehicles Advertising and Communication Usage Guidelines

These guidelines for vehicle manufacturers, dealers, and advertising agencies (hereafter collectively called “advertisers”) are intended to promote accurate characterization and comparison of the Government 5-Star Safety Ratings and use of information relating to advanced crash avoidance technologies that meet government performance criteria. The guidelines apply to all uses, such as print, online, mobile, TV and radio advertisements, as well as press releases and other consumer-based marketing communications.

Click on any of the links below for more information on a particular topic, or view all usage guidelines.

Frontal Crash Safety Ratings

Frontal crash safety ratings for the driver seating position should be listed separately from frontal crash safety ratings for the (right-front) passenger seating position. The star ratings from the two front seating positions should not be added together. For example, a 5-star rating for the driver seating position should not be added to a 5-star rating for a right-front passenger seating position to create a 10-star frontal crash safety rating. A 5-star rating is the highest rating that can be achieved in any crash category.

Advertisers may use a phrase similar to the following when describing a vehicle with a 5-star driver frontal rating: “received the highest government frontal crash safety rating for the driver.” If the frontal crash safety rating for the driver seating position is to be shown, results for the right-front passenger also should be shown, and vice versa.

For vehicles receiving a 5-star overall frontal crash safety rating, advertisers may use a phrase similar to the following: "received the highest government frontal crash safety rating," or "achieved a 5-star overall frontal crash safety rating.”

Do not use terms such as "double" 5-star rating when a vehicle has received a 5-star rating for both the driver and the right-front passenger seating positions. Under no circumstances may an advertisement claim a vehicle earned a rating higher than 5 stars.

NHTSA will provide an overall frontal crash safety rating on NHTSA.gov and encourages the use of this overall rating in advertising. An overall crash safety rating is the quickest way to communicate a vehicle’s safety to consumers for a particular crash type. For vehicles receiving an overall 5-star frontal crash safety rating, it should be made clear that the overall rating is for frontal crash safety and is not the Overall Vehicle Score. (See Overall Vehicle Score section.)

Side Crash Safety Ratings

The side barrier crash safety rating for the front seating position should be listed separately from the side barrier crash safety rating for the rear seating position. The ratings for the front and rear seating positions should not be added together. For example, a 5-star rating for a front seating position should not be added to a 5-star rating for a rear passenger seating position to create a 10-star side barrier crash rating. A 5-star rating is the highest rating that can be achieved in any crash category.

If the side barrier star rating for the front seating position is to be shown, results for the rear seating position should also be shown, and vice versa.

For vehicles receiving a 5-star overall side barrier crash safety rating, advertisers may use a phrase similar to the following: “received the highest government safety rating for the side barrier crash test.”  For vehicles receiving a 5-star side pole crash safety rating for the front seating positions, advertisers may use a phrase similar to the following: “received the highest government safety rating for the side pole crash test.” If the side barrier crash safety rating is promoted, the side pole crash safety rating also should be provided; if the side pole crash safety rating is promoted, the side barrier crash safety rating should be provided.

Do not use terms such as "double" 5-star rating when a vehicle has received a 5-star rating for both the front and rear seating positions in the side barrier crash test. Under no circumstances may an advertisement claim a vehicle earned a rating higher than 5 stars.

NHTSA combines results from both of the side-impact tests to create side-impact ratings for the front and rear seating positions. A side-impact rating that combines the front seat’s performance in both the side barrier and side pole tests is called the front seat side-impact rating. Advertisers may use a phrase similar to the following when describing a vehicle with a 5-star front seat side-impact rating: “received the highest government side crash safety rating for the front seat.” Likewise, advertisers may use a phrase such as the following to describe a vehicle with a 5-star rear seat side-impact rating: “received the highest government side crash safety rating for the rear seat.” If the front seat side-impact rating is to be shown, the rear seat side-impact rating also should be shown, and vice versa.

In instances when a vehicle receives a 5-star overall side rating, which results from combined scores for the side-impact barrier test and side pole test for both front and rear seating positions, advertisers may use a phrase similar to the following: "received the highest government side crash safety rating," or "achieved a 5-star overall side crash safety rating."

NHTSA will provide an overall side crash safety rating on NHTSA.gov and encourages the use of this overall rating in advertising. An overall crash safety rating is the quickest way to communicate a vehicle’s safety to consumers for a particular crash type. For vehicles receiving an overall 5-star side crash rating, it should be made clear that this overall side crash safety rating is not the Overall Vehicle Score. (See Overall Vehicle Score section.)

For those vehicles tested with side air bags (SABs), a phrase similar to "model tested with optional/standard side air bags (SABs)" should appear in the body of the advertisement or as part of a voiceover.

For those tested vehicles that are deemed by NHTSA to have differences between the left and the right side that affect performance, advertisements should have a phrase such as “rating applies only to the driver-side seating position.” For vehicles that have significant equipment choices, such as engine/power source choices, and where NHTSA deems that a rating is limited only to a particular configuration, advertisements should have a phrase such as “rating applies only to vehicles with [specify equipment].”

Rollover Safety Rating

Advertisers may use a phrase similar to the following when describing a vehicle with a 5-star rollover rating: “received the highest government rollover rating.” However, rollover advertising that involves a vehicle that has a “tip-up” rating on NHTSA.gov should prominently mention the “tip-up."

Overall Vehicle Score

NHTSA encourages the use of the “Overall Vehicle Score” in advertising. Use of the term "Overall Vehicle Score" applies only to a vehicle’s overall rating, which is a combination of the overall ratings from the frontal and side crash tests – and rollover resistance. Therefore, the term “Overall Vehicle Score” should only be applied to a vehicle’s overall rating and not to ratings for a specific test type (e.g., frontal crash ratings and side crash ratings). The highest Overall Vehicle Score achievable is 5 stars.

Avoid Misleading Terminology

Do not use language referring to "doubling," "tripling" or "quadrupling" of a star rating, as doing so implies that the vehicle scored a star rating two, three or four times that of another vehicle. Do not use rating add-ons. For example, language claiming that a vehicle scored a rating of 5.6 stars is inaccurate and misleading to consumers. Ratings are always whole numbers—no decimal points are allowed. A vehicle cannot achieve a rating or Overall Vehicle Score higher than 5 stars.

Do not use potentially misleading words such as "perfect," "safest," "flawless" or "best in class" to describe a particular star rating or the Overall Vehicle Score received by the vehicle. Acceptable phrases to describe a vehicle receiving a 5-star rating would include "highest" or "maximum” safety rating or "top" safety rating or score.

Proper Seating Terminology

NHTSA encourages advertisers to use terminology for seating positions that is consistent with terminology used by NHTSA. NHTSA considers the use of the term "occupant" to be misleading, since it is unclear whether the term refers to the driver or a passenger. Accordingly, advertisers are encouraged to use the terms bolded in the paragraph below and not the term “occupant.”

  • Seating positions for frontal crash tests are typically referred to as driver and right-front passenger seating positions.
  • Seating positions for side barrier crash tests are typically referred to as driver and rear passenger seating positions.
  • The seating position for the side pole crash test is typically referred to as driver seating position.

Competitive Comparisons

Advertisements that competitively compare frontal crash star ratings or Overall Vehicle Scores of two or more vehicles should compare only vehicles that are within 250 pounds of each other and within the same body style. Comparisons for frontal crash ratings or Overall Vehicle Scores should not be made or implied between vehicles where the difference in weight exceeds 250 pounds or the vehicles are of different body styles (e.g., comparisons between a sedan and an SUV, even if of similar mass).

Comparisons of frontal crash results or Overall Vehicle Scores for vehicles within the same body style may be made across weight categories (e.g., comparing a heavy passenger car to a medium passenger car), as long as the 250-pound comparison limit is not exceeded.

Side barrier, side pole, side overall, and rollover resistance ratings may be compared to one another regardless of vehicle weights or vehicle body styles.

Safety Concerns

Safety concerns identified by NHTSA are to be clearly stated and prominently displayed directly beneath, or after, the applicable star rating in the body of the advertisement for all model years where the safety concern appears on NHTSA.gov.

Mid-Year Changes

Vehicle manufacturers who make a mid-model year running change to a vehicle that has already been rated, to address safety concerns or for any other reason, should indicate in the advertisement that the revised star rating applies only to vehicles manufactured on or after the date of the running change, or alternatively, to vehicles beginning with a given Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

Crash Avoidance Technologies

As a part of the Government 5-Star Safety Ratings program, NHTSA is providing consumers with information on effective crash avoidance technologies that can help reduce the risk of vehicle crashes. The technologies that are currently being identified as beneficial by NHTSA are forward collision warning (FCW) systems, lane departure warning (LDW) systems and rearview video systems (RVS).

Vehicles that are equipped with recommended technologies, such as forward collision warning, lane departure warning, crash imminent braking or dynamic brake support systems recommended by NHTSA may be promoted by advertisers in their advertising. No star ratings or partial star ratings may be attributed to crash avoidance technologies. No additional emphasis may be placed on the star ratings for frontal, side, rollover or combined, due to the presence of crash avoidance technologies. Use one of the following phrases, as applicable:

  • “(Insert car make and model) is equipped with a forward collision warning system as recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.”
  • “(Insert car make and model) is equipped with a lane departure warning system as recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.”
  • “(Insert car make and model) is equipped with a crash imminent braking system as recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.”
  • “(Insert car make and model) is equipped with a dynamic brake support system as recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.”

Each advertisement referencing crash avoidance technologies that meet NHTSA’s performance criteria should have the following phrase in the Attribution Statement:

  • “Information about crash avoidance technologies as part of the Government 5-Star Safety Ratings program can be found at NHTSA.gov.”

See Attribution Statement for additional information that should appear in all advertisements using the Government 5-Star Safety Ratings.

Voiceovers

The language used in voiceovers during TV commercials must accurately convey the display/image of the star rating(s) used in the advertisement.

Corporate Twins

Each year, vehicle manufacturers provide NHTSA with a list of vehicles they have identified as "corporate twins." If a vehicle manufacturer has notified NHTSA that a vehicle is a "corporate twin" of another vehicle, then the appropriate frontal/side/rollover star safety ratings and Overall Vehicle Score may be applied to each corporate twin. When a vehicle's star safety ratings and test results are released and it has any corporate twin(s), the star safety ratings and test results for that vehicle and all of its twins will be updated simultaneously on the NHTSA.gov website with the appropriate star safety ratings and test results.

Attribution Statement

Each advertisement using the Government 5-Star Safety Ratings should have one of the following attribution phrase(s), as applicable:

  • “Government 5-Star Safety Ratings are part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's New Car Assessment Program (NHTSA.gov)."
  • "Government 5-Star Safety Ratings are part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s New Car Assessment Program (NHTSA.gov)."

For advertisements on the web, the attribution may appear as a pop-up during a mouse-over.

Advertisers should not use quotes from the NHTSA Administrator or any other Federal employee. Only safety ratings or scores, language suggested by these guidelines, and attributions, should be used.

Government 5-Star Logo

The government 5-star logo may be used in an advertisement (print, online, mobile or TV), along with star safety ratings, an Overall Vehicle Score, and/or crash avoidance technologies that meet NHTSA performance criteria (consistent with the guidelines in this document), provided: the logo is displayed in immediate proximity to the star ratings, Overall Vehicle Score, and/or technology, so as to indicate that the government’s association with the advertisement is limited to the star ratings, Overall Vehicle Score, and/or crash avoidance technology, and not to the contents of the entire advertisement.

Questions pertaining to advertisements or TV spots that incorporate the government 5-star logo with star safety ratings, Overall Vehicle Scores, and/or crash avoidance technologies that meet NHTSA’s performance criteria may be submitted to NHTSA’s Office of Communications and Consumer Information at (202) 366-9550 or via email at Crash.Test@dot.gov.

Download the Government 5-Star Safety Ratings Logo (ZIP, 3.12 MB)

5-Star Safety Ratings logo

Crash Test Photos and Video Clips

Vehicle crash test photos and video clips are available for use in an advertisement to supplement vehicle safety features or crash test ratings. NHTSA’s interactive vehicle crash test database provides many options for finding vehicle-specific test photos and video clips. In most cases, querying by vehicle parameters such as make, model and year will produce the best results. Entering test query criteria should yield photos, videos and reports for the particular vehicle searched.

If you have trouble producing results, try broadening your search criteria (e.g., use an earlier model year for the intended vehicle since all models are not tested yearly). Note that the database only includes multimedia for crash tests conducted in recent years. This database can be accessed by visiting www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/database/VSR/veh/QueryVehicle.aspx.

NHTSA can also make available raw footage and B-rolls of crash tests. Request access to this footage from NHTSA's Office of Communications and Consumer Information at (202) 366-9550 or via email at Crash.Test@dot.gov.

For questions regarding photos and video clips, please contact Johanna Lowrie in NHTSA's Office of Crashworthiness Standards at (202) 366-5269, or via email at Johanna.Lowrie@dot.gov.

Crash Test Results Timing

Crash test ratings and Overall Vehicle Scores should not be used in an advertisement until they are posted to NHTSA.gov. The same applies for crash avoidance technologies that must meet NHTSA’s performance criteria. For questions regarding the status of a crash test, please contact Johanna Lowrie in NHTSA's Office of Crashworthiness Standards at (202) 366-5269, or via e-mail at Johanna.Lowrie@dot.gov.

Violation of Advertising Guidelines

If an advertiser makes inaccurate or misleading statements in any media, including print, TV, radio, online, mobile or other media, regarding any of the crash test ratings or results produced by the agency’s 5-Star Safety Ratings program or any associations to the government 5-star ratings program for a vehicle that is either sold in the United States or in other countries, NHTSA may take any or all of the following actions:

  • Place a “Buyer Alert” warning on NHTSA.gov in immediate proximity to the correct ratings of the vehicle. (In the event that a manufacturer publishes an inaccurate crash test rating or a result for a vehicle that has not been tested, under the guidelines, the agency may place a “Buyer Alert” warning on NHTSA.gov (1) for the life cycle of a vehicle model until the vehicle is re-rated or (2) for all of the manufacturer’s vehicles rated by NHTSA.
    Overall Rating Buyer Alert Warning
  • Place an explanation of the violation in a footnote on NHTSA.gov in all locations where the ratings information for the vehicle manufacturer is displayed. This may include a statement on the website’s homepage alerting consumers to the violation.
  • Issue a press release about the violation to inform consumers.
  • In the case of an egregious violation, remove the rating(s) and recommendations of effective crash avoidance technologies from its website and notify the manufacturer that it is no longer authorized to use this information.

Under no circumstance may an advertiser claim that a vehicle received a star rating or an Overall Vehicle Score higher than 5 stars. Under no circumstance may an advertiser claim an enhanced star rating or an Overall Vehicle Score with such things as higher numbers, plus symbols (+) or other implications of greater value, based on the presence of crash avoidance advanced technologies. An advertiser may not advertise NHTSA ratings and recommendations of effective crash avoidance technologies, or use the NHTSA, DOT, or 5-Star Safety Ratings logos, for vehicles that have not been tested under the agency’s program and for which ratings are not publicly available on NHTSA.gov.

Knowing misstatements or violation of these guidelines may be referred to the Department of Justice for appropriate legal action.