Is Subaru’s safety rating on small SUVs better than Ford’s?

When comparing small SUVs and safety, the Subaru Forester beats the Ford Escape easily. The Forester is ranked third, while the Escape performed poorly in front crash tests.

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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: Oct 28, 2021

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Things to remember...

  • The Subaru Forester is ranked three out of 23 small SUVs in terms of safety
  • The Ford Escape’s child LATCH is difficult to use
  • The Ford Escape does not perform well in front crash tests

One has an off-road reputation and the other has a reputation for being the smaller version of its big brother.

The Subaru Forester is a small SUV from a family of rugged, outdoorsy-type vehicles advertised as driving over rough terrain with the family dog as everyone heads off into the mountains for a weekend of campfires and marshmallow-roasting.

The Ford Escape is the smallest version of the Ford Expedition, the full-size SUV in the Ford family.

Despite their differences, however, these two small SUVs are very similar in terms of what they have to offer. The starting price on the Subaru Forester is only about $1,500 less than the Ford, and both have similar measurements and features.

The Subaru edges out the Ford for gas mileage in the city by one mile, and the Ford does the same to the Subaru when it comes to highway driving.

With both of these small SUVs so similar in dimension, space, price, and fuel-efficiency, what’s left to compare?

Consumers might not think this far in advance, but it might not be the Subaru with the lowest price tag in terms of long-term ownership.

Before you sign any purchase paperwork, do your due diligence to find out which one is the most cost-effective. You can start by comparing car insurance rates to find out which one is more affordable to insure. Enter your zip code above to start comparing.

Consider the Safety Ratings of the Ford and the Subaru

Safety ratings are important, and not just because they tell you how well you can expect your new SUV to hold up if an accident occurs. While safety does come first, it’s the additional benefit of driving a safe vehicle that turns people on to one car over another in many cases.

When a car has excellent safety ratings, it’s less expensive to insure.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) takes the time every year to crash test every small SUV on the market to determine which one is the safest, which one is not, and to let you know which cars lack in which areas.

The current model year features 23 small SUVs with varying degrees of safety, all rated on the same crash tests.

The IIHS breaks its tests into three categories:

  • Crashworthiness – the most important aspect of any crash test is how crashworthy the vehicle is. Every small SUV is tested on its small and moderate front overlap, side and roof strength, and its head restraints and seats.
  • Crash avoidance – the IIHS rates all vehicles on their ability to prevent front crashes and on the headlight performance.
  • LATCH system – every vehicle is rated for the ease of use of the child LATCH system in the back.

Once every test is complete, professionals take the time to go over every inch of the vehicle to determine which aspects of the vehicle performed well in each test. They are then issued grades of good (G), acceptable (A), marginal (M), or poor (P).

These are in order from the best score to the worst, and these ratings are typically shown using only the first letter of the rating.


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Subaru vs. Ford Safety Ratings

The Subaru Forester is the clear winner in terms of which vehicle is the safest. It’s rated third of 23 small SUVs while the Escape comes in at a lowly 15th on the list.

The Subaru is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award-winner. To earn this award, a vehicle has to earn all good ratings in the five main crashworthiness categories, an advanced or better rating for front crash prevention, and an acceptable or better in the headlight tests.

Subaru Forester

The Subaru performed as well as any vehicle could in safety tests. No vehicle on the list of 23 small SUVs managed to score higher than acceptable in headlight categories or the LATCH system test. 

The Subaru earned all good ratings in crashworthiness, acceptable ratings for both its headlights and LATCH system, and the high rating of superior in all front crash tests.

Ford Escape

The Ford Escape wasn’t able to pull off the high safety ratings of the Subaru, though that certainly doesn’t make it an unsafe vehicle.

It’s true it earned no safety awards from the IIHS in the current model year, but it did earn four good ratings and one acceptable for the small front overlap in the crashworthiness category.

It earned an impressive acceptable score for its headlights. It fell short in terms of the LATCH and the front crash prevention. The LATCH is only marginal, and crash prevention ratings show this vehicle performs at a basic level.

Choosing the More Cost-Efficient Small SUV

How much is your vehicle going to cost you? You know the purchase price isn’t much different, but what about the cost of repairs and maintenance and insurance? These are ongoing costs with the potential to turn an affordable car into a budget-breaker.

Comparing warranties is a good start. Factory warranties come with your purchase, and extended warranties are available but are often considered wasteful by many auto experts.

The Escape and the Forester come standard with a three-year, 36k-mile warranty. There is no real discrepancy in terms of this cost factor.

Now consider the insurance costs. The Forester is an award winner for its safety features, which automatically makes it more affordable to insure.

Now call your insurance company to ask them to provide the cost of insuring both. One will be less than the other. Asking for additional discounts for being a good driver, a good student, or even retired is another way to save on your insurance.

There are many ways to make your vehicle more affordable if you’re willing to do the research. It’s easy to get started! Just enter your zip code into our comparison tool below to see how much you could save on car insurance.

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