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The new Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V are incredibly popular SUVs on the market. However, the Subaru Forester has a much longer legacy as a safe SUV. In fact, the Forester has now been a top safety plus pick from the NHTSA for nine model years. While the RAV4 and the CR-V do well in this category, having a vehicle achieve this feat nine times in a row means a great deal to buyers, especially those looking for used SUVs.

What does the NHTSA do?

2014 Subaru Forester is better than Toyota RAV4 used models.
2014 Subaru Forester | Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

People often wonder what the National Highway Traffic and Safety organization does. The NHTSA is responsible for ensuring people are safe on the highway. The administration enforces vehicle safety standards and works closely with state and local governments. Perhaps most importantly, the administration seeks to reduce deaths and serious injuries from crashes.

One of the most significant ways the NHTSA accomplishes its goals is by evaluating vehicles’ crashworthiness. This is done through six main categories and other tests. Vehicles are assigned rankings, with top safety plus pick being the highest honor. The CR-V and the Toyota RAV4 typically receive high scores, but they haven’t excelled like the Subaru Forester.

The Subaru Forester is a top pick regarding safety

2023 Subaru Forester. Used Subaru Forester models are also great
2023 Subaru Forester | Guillaume Payen/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The 2023 Subaru Forester is an all-around great vehicle. Not only does it deliver solid performance with its continuously variable transmission, but it’s also a versatile SUV that could be an excellent fit for almost any driver. According to Car and Driver, it uses a 2.5-liter flat-four engine. However, perhaps the vehicle’s best part is it’s incredibly safe. In addition, the same is true for used Subaru Forester models, as it has a long history of being a top pick.

In fact, regarding used Subaru Forester model years, buyers can go back as far as 2014. This was when the vehicle started its top safety plus pick streak with the NHTSA. In addition, many of the previous used Subaru Forester models received high marks from the administration. Of course, the 2023 Subaru Forester is an excellent choice for people searching for a newer vehicle.

Honda CR-V is an overall less safe vehicle than the Subaru Forester

2023 Honda CR-V in dirt
2023 Honda CR-V | Honda

The Honda CR-V is also a pretty safe vehicle with much going for itself. However, the difference between it and the Forester is that the CR-V doesn’t have as many years of being a top safety plus pick. Luckily, the CR-V 2023 has the distinction, but neither the 2022 nor the 2021 model has it. However, they are top safety picks, meaning they aren’t disappointments in this category.

This is still a good sign for used Honda CR-V models because buyers can still acquire older models with a fair amount of confidence. For the 2022 Honda CR-V, what holds it back is a lack of seat belt reminders. There are also a couple of areas where the vehicle is only average. Still, the Honda CR-V is one of the best SUVs on the market in more ways than one, even if it’s not a nine-time top safety plus pick like the Subaru Forester.

Toyota RAV4

2023 Toyota RAV4 from a distance. Toyota RAV4 used models are also good.
2023 Toyota RAV4 | Toyota

The Toyota RAV4 is the most popular SUV in its class. In addition, finding a Toyota RAV4 used is typically a great purchase. However, it doesn’t have the same legacy as used Subaru Forester models regarding safety. Unfortunately, unlike the 2023 CR-V and the latest Forester, the RAV4 2023 isn’t a top safety plus pick. The same is true for the last several years of the RAV4. Of course, it’s still a safe vehicle, but it’s only acceptable in a few areas. Still, used Toyota RAV4 models are great finds for SUV buyers.

The Subaru Forester is often disregarded in the conversation of the best SUVs on the market. However, it has some real bragging rights over two of its most popular rivals, despite it being in a different class. Again, none of these SUVs are unsafe, but the top safety plus rating goes a long way, not only for new vehicles but also for used models. This puts recent used Subaru Forester models above many of the rest.

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