Is Nissan’s safety rating for small trucks better than GMC’s?

When comparing small trucks, both the Nissan Frontier and the GMC Canyon received high safety marks, but they also ranked below average in several areas.

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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 9, 2021

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Things to remember...

  • Both the 2017 Nissan Frontier and the 2017 GMC Canyon received the highest possible safety marks from the IIHS in some categories, but they also ranked below average in several important areas
  • Each of the eight vehicles rated by the IIHS in the small trucks class had a poor rating in at least one safety category
  • Safety ratings can help you to determine which vehicles are safer for you to drive, and they may be an indicator of which small trucks could potentially be more affordable to insure

The reality is that most truck drivers are faced with high-risk situations at some point, and these are instances when accidents are far more likely to occur.

For example, your risk of being involved in a truck accident can climb dramatically if any of the following is true:

  • you are off-roading
  • you are a new or inexperienced driver
  • you are driving your small truck in severe weather conditions

The truck that you choose to buy today could impact your accident risk as well as the severity of damage and injuries from a collision because some trucks have better safety ratings than others.

One automotive industry organization, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety / Highway Data Loss Institute, assesses a wide range of vehicles in various classes on a regular basis.

The purpose of this review and analysis is to determine the safety level of different vehicles in high-risk, real-life situations.

If you have your attention focused on buying a small truck today, a closer look at how some of the more popular trucks in this class stacked up against each other in the IIHS safety ratings can help you to be a more informed auto buyer.

You should also compare car insurance quotes between different brands. Enter your zip code into our free rate tool above to start comparing quotes.

Comparing Safety Ratings of the GMC Canyon and the Nissan Frontier

The IIHS reviewed the GMC Canyon crew cab and extended cab models, and it also reviewed the Nissan Frontier king cab and crew cab models for 2017.

Altogether, eight categories were analyzed by the IIHS this year, and the small trucks received a rating from poor to good or basic to superior, depending on the category.

While many truck buyers may assume that these reputable brands would create vehicles that generate high safety ratings in all categories, you may be surprised to learn that this is not actually the case.



All four of these small truck models were analyzed in five areas for crashworthiness, and these sub-categories include:

  • Front Small Overlap
  • Front Moderate Overlap
  • Side
  • Head Restraints and Seats
  • Roof Strength

Notably, the GMC Canyon crew cab received the highest possible safety rating of good from the IIHS for each of these categories.

The GMC Canyon extended cab, on the other hand, was given an average rating for Front Small Overlap and Side, and it received a good rating for all other categories.

The two Frontier models shared rankings of marginal for Front Small Overlap, average for Side, and good for the other three crashworthiness categories.

Crash Avoidance and Mitigation

The two categories analyzed for crash avoidance and mitigation by the IIHS are:

  • Headlights
  • Front Crash Prevention

All four of these Nissan and GMC truck models had the lowest rating of poor for the Headlights category.

The two Canyon trucks rated at the lowest level of basic for the Front Crash Prevention category and the two Nissan trucks did not receive a rating from the IIHS in this category.

Child Seat Anchors or LATCH

The ease of use of the LATCH for the child seat anchors was also analyzed by the IIHS. The Frontier king cab and the Canyon extended cab models earned an average rating in this category, which is only one level below the good category.

However, the Frontier crew cab and the Canyon crew cab both earned a marginal rating, which is one step above the lowest rating possible.

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2017 Top Safety Pick and/or 2017 Top Safety Pick+

In many vehicle classes, the IIHS has awarded the title of 2017 Top Safety Pick to a specific model. However, in this particular class of vehicles, none of the models earned this title, and all of them fell short of meeting the market in at least a couple of areas.

In fact, all trunks had the lowest rating of poor in at least one IIHS category.

However, the one small truck model that performed higher than the others in many areas is the Chevy Colorado.

This small truck generated good or average ratings in all areas of Crashworthiness, and it received a basic rating or poor rating for the two Crash Avoidance and Mitigation categories.

In addition, it was one of only a couple of small trucks reviewed this year that received an average rating for the LATCH category.

This particular small truck ranked higher than the other four trucks analyzed here in the areas of Side, Front Small Overlap, and Latch in most cases.

Remember that safety ratings can be a strong indicator of how protective a truck can be if you are involved in a collision, and they also may indicate which trucks could potentially qualify for better insurance rates throughout your ownership period.

After you have narrowed down your small truck choices to a couple of models that you are most interested in, reach out to a few reputable insurance providers to request coverage quotes. Enter your zip code into our free tool below to get started.

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