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The Tesla Model Y and Model 3 represent the most affordable vehicles in the California marque’s electric vehicle (EV) lineup. However, the lower price tag doesn’t mean that the diet-Teslas have compromised in every way. Both EVs get top scores in safety and crashworthiness from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS). Still, is the Tesla Model Y safer than the Model 3?

Why is the Model Y so safe?

The Tesla Model Y gets a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The Top Safety Pick+ rating is the agency’s highest award and represents “good” ratings in nearly every category and subcategory. While “good” may not sound like high praise, it is the highest rating the IIHS gives for individual evaluations. In the Model Y’s case, the Tesla SUV scores high marks in every one of the IIHS’ six crashworthiness tests, as well as front crash protection and roof strength. 

The Tesla Model Y is an EV SUV with top scores from the IIHS.
Tesla Model Y | Tesla

In addition to superior roof strength, the Model Y is balanced in such a way that it resists rolling over. This is due to the Teslas battery placement. When a side impact force strikes the Model Y, it will often right itself rather than roll over like other SUVs.  

Is the Tesla Model 3 a safe car?

The Tesla Model 3 is a very safe car. Like its sibling vehicle, the Model 3 gets a Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS. For instance, the baby Tesla got high scores in front crashworthiness tests. That is primarily thanks to the absence of an internal combustion engine (ICE) in the front. While EVs have a stigma about fire issues like thermal runaway, ICEs are inherently more fire-prone. That fire risk is due to a gas-powered engine’s flammable liquids, friction, and high heat. 

A Tesla Model 3 is as safe as a Model Y, according to the IIHS.
A Tesla crash vehicle | Patrick Pleul, Getty Images

Furthermore, much like the Tesla Model Y, the Model 3 has outstanding roof strength scores. In fact, one of the baby Tesla’s resisted a felled tree as it crashed down onto its roof. In addition to resisting roof-crushing weight, the Tesla EV protected its occupant from any physical harm. 

Which EV is safer?

Both EVs are very safe vehicles and boast top scores from the IIHS. Additionally, both Teslas have five-star ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). However, there are two categories where the Model 3 outshines its sibling, if just barely. First, the Tesla Model Y Long Range gets an “acceptable” rating from the IIHS for its headlights. 

Furthermore, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that the Model Y resisted 19,188 lbs of crushing force to its roof. However, the smaller Model 3 resisted 20,835 lbs of crushing force. That gives the Model 3 a strength-to-weight ratio of 5.85 to its siblings’ 4.42.

Which EV should you buy? 

While the Tesla Model 3 is safer on paper, the safety differences between the two models are negligible. If you want a larger EV in the Tesla lineup, you’d be fine buying a Model Y. However, if you want to save some money and reap the benefits of one of the safest EVs on the market, buy the baby Tesla. 

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