Proper visibility is crucial to your safety and everyone else’s on the road. When driving in the dark or during extreme weather (e.g., fog, snow, or rain), it’s important that your vehicle offer you as much visibility as possible. A key factor to your visibility behind the wheel is your car’s headlights.
Over time, safety laws have elevated the standards for headlights. Despite this and the advances of headlight innovation, not all car lights are the same.
Since 1959, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in the US has been dedicated to researching the causes of vehicle traffic collisions in North America. After performing a series of intensive tests, the IIHS offers safety ratings for passenger vehicles to help consumers make informed decisions when picking the vehicle(s) they depend on.
In 2016, the IIHS added a headlight evaluation to its range of tests. You can learn how the test is scored here. Headlights are rated on a four-point scale based on how much visibility they offer. The lowest rating is Poor, followed by Marginal, then Acceptable, and at the top, Good. Some of the criteria include how much glare the headlights produce and the amount of on-road illumination available at nighttime.
We’ve picked out some of the 2023 vehicles the IIHS has awarded a Good headlight rating to so far. We expect the IIHS will release a more extensive list in the coming months.
2023 Vehicles with Good Headlight Ratings
- Subaru BRZ
- Subaru Crosstrek (Limited trim)
- Subaru Impreza (2.0i Limited trim)
- Audi A3
- Audi A4 (Prestige trim)
- Audi A4 Allroad (Prestige trim)
- Audi A5 (Premium trim and Premium Plus trim)
- Subaru Legacy
- Subaru Outback
- BMW X3
- Genesis GV60
- Infiniti QX60
- Mazda CX-50 (Turbo trims)
- Mitsubishi Outlander (all trims built after June 2021)
- Volkswagen Arteon
- Volkswagen ID.4 (Pro S trim)
You can find our breakdown of the top IIHS headlight picks for 2021 and 2022 here.
The importance of visibility on the road can’t be overstated. The IIHS provides the following facts on visibility to help consumers understand the difference a clear view can make:
- Roughly 50% of all traffic deaths occur in the dark or at dawn or dusk.
- Vehicles with Good IIHS headlight ratings have 19% fewer nighttime single-vehicle crashes than those with Poor-rated headlights.
- In 2016, only 1 out of 80 headlights systems tested received a Good headlight rating.
- In 2022, roughly every 1 in 3 headlight systems tested earned a Good rating. About 40% of all systems tested received a Marginal or Poor rating.
Increasing Your Visibility
Aside from good-quality headlights, try some of these tips to improve your visibility on the road:
- Fully defrost and clear all snow and sleet off your vehicle before driving.
- If you share a vehicle with other drivers, remember to adjust your mirrors each time you drive.
- Frequently clean your windows, mirrors, and headlights. If your headlights are flickering, replace the bulbs.
- Change your windshield wipers every six months and top up windshield wiper fluid every two months.
- In foggy weather, don’t use both headlights and fog lights at the same time (pick one).
- Consider installing a back camera if you don’t have one already.
- Try a rain repellent on your windshield.
If visibility is very low, avoid driving until the weather clears, if possible. For more automotive tips and news, visit our blog.