Is Lexus’s safety rating for midsize luxury SUVs better than BMW’s?

Lexus received top safety honors from the IIHS in 2017, while BMW did not. The average cost of SUV auto insurance is 18% higher than normal vehicles.

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Nov 3, 2021

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Things to remember...

  • The tests run by the IIHS/HDLI on the Lexus and BMW models result in safety ratings that are used to calculate auto insurance costs
  • The safety ratings provided by the IIHS/HDLI explains in great detail how Lexus and BMW differ in safety ratings
  • Compared to BMW, Lexus produces safer luxury midsize SUVs

Safer cars generally lead to more affordable automobile insurance, so many drivers buy midsize luxury SUVs because they believe that they are safer options.

Companies often promote their vehicles in such a way that leads consumers to believe that they’re safer than they actually are.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) have a system for evaluating midsize luxury SUVs in order to provide them with much-needed safety ratings.

According to each vehicle’s ratings, IIHS/HLDI chooses which makes will receive their Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ awards.

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IIHS/HLDI Safety Ratings

The IIHS/HDLI runs a series of tests in order to evaluate each vehicle’s level of safety.

The midsize luxury SUV makes in question are the Lexus and BMW. IIHS/HDLI has rated both of these vehicles with detailed attention to the following tests:

  • crashworthiness
  • crash avoidance and mitigation
  • child seat anchors

They have all been given ratings of either good, acceptable, marginal, or poor in each of these areas. However, front crash prevention, under the crash avoidance and mitigation category, is rated from basic to superior.

Insurance companies take all of these things into consideration, so it would be beneficial to the driver to also consider how a car’s safety influences insurance premiums.


Crashworthiness is based on how effectively the vehicle will protect the riders in the event of a collision or crash. Both Lexus and BMW received a “good” rating for their crashworthiness.

However, BMW’s X3 and X5 models were unavailable for front small overlap crashworthiness testing. BMW’s X5 model was also unavailable for testing on head restraints and seats, as well as roof strength.

Lexus managed to receive a “good” rating with availability for all of these specific tests.

Crash Avoidance & Mitigation

If a car is less likely to crash, the cost of insurance coverage on the car will likely go down as well. Both Lexus and BMW earned “superior” ratings for their front crash prevention based on automatic braking and the availability of a forward collision warning system.

Lexus earned an “acceptable” rating for their headlights with optional equipment. The BMW X3 earned a “marginal” rating with optional equipment while the X5 earned an “acceptable” rating with no indication of optional equipment.


Child Seat Anchors

Many parents with small children will purchase vehicles simply to ensure safety for their kids in the backseat. Federal regulations require most vehicles to have two or more rear seating positions with full Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, otherwise known as LATCH.

By testing accessibility of lower anchors, force, clearance angle, location and the appearance of any other confusing hardware, both makes were rated on how easy it is to install child restraints with the vehicle’s hardware.

BMW only received a “marginal” rating for their child seat anchors. Lexus, however, received an outstanding “good +” for their ease of use with extra LATCH positions.

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Top Safety Pick Awards

Depending on a vehicle’s overall safety ratings from the criteria provided above, IIHS/HDLI honors them with their Top Safety Pick awards.

This award is how they give their seal of approval to vehicles that they highly recommend for safety purposes. Lexus received the 2017 Top Safety Pick+ award which is the highest award available from IIHS/HLDI.

Unfortunately, BMW did not receive any awards from IIHS/HLDI, which clearly shows a drastic difference between the two SUVs.

Are Lexus SUVs safer than BMWs?

Overall, it’s pretty safe to say that Lexus’s midsize luxury SUVs have better safety ratings than BMW’s. They both received similar ratings in crashworthiness, but many of BMW’s testing categories for crashworthiness were unavailable.

Every other testing area in crash avoidance, mitigation and child seat anchors seemed to favor Lexus as the safest option. The extreme differences in ratings of their child seat anchors were what really set the vehicles apart.

According to the ratings provided by IIHS/HLDI, Lexus’s midsize luxury SUV is indeed safer than the BMW’s.

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