Tesla Model Y outperforms Model 3 in IIHS crash safety tests



The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) revealed the results of its Tesla Model Y crash safety tests last week. Like all Teslas, the Model Y electric SUV earned the top rating in these tests as well.

However, when looked at closely, the Model Y electric SUV has proven to be even safer than the Model 3. This is because Tesla practices continuous improvement methodology both on the factory floor and in its software development for the cars.

These tests also prove that Tesla Model Y has taken the crown from Model 3 for being the vehicle with the least probability of injury. Interestingly, this makes the entire Tesla lineup i.e. Model S, 3, X, and Y occupy the top spots for the safest vehicles when it comes to passenger injury.

Graph: Tesla Model 3 has the lowest probability of injury of any vehicle tested by the NHTSA.
Graph: Tesla Model 3 has the lowest probability of injury of any vehicle tested by the NHTSA (Source: Tesla, Inc.).
Tesla Model Y Accessories by EVANNEX (Sponsored Banner).
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Driver-Side Small Overlap Frontal Test

With the advancement in body structure design of the Model Y since the Model 3 — Model Y performed much better in the “Driver-side small overlap frontal crash test”. This test reproduces the collision that sends forces essentially through the vehicle’s driver-side wheel well rather than the entire empty front trunk that acts as the forward crumple zone.

In this test, a vehicle hits a 5 ft solid barrier at 40 mph (64.3 km/h) for 25% of its total width.

IIHS crash safety test comparison: Tesla Model 3 (above), Tesla Model Y (below).
Tesla Model 3 (top) vs. Tesla Model Y (bottom) driver-side small overlap crash test. Source: IIHS via Cameron Martz / The Tech of Tech / YouTube.

Model Y successfully redirected the passenger compartment away from the point of collision instead of trying to absorb the impact through the front crumple zone. Model 3 did good in this test but did not redirect as much as Model Y (watch video comparison by the YouTube channel The Tech of Tech below).

More the redirection from the point-of-impact, the fewer forces of deceleration are passed on to the passengers, hence, fewer chances of injury to the occupants of a vehicle.

The numbers coming out of both Model Y and Model 3 tests are even more interesting. For example, in this driver-side small overlap frontal test, Model 3 had 21 cm of footwell intrusion while Model Y had only 1 cm of intrusion. This is a huge achievement on part of the Tesla safety engineering team.

Tesla Model 3 vs. Model Y driver-side small overlap test: footwell intrusion comparison.
Tesla Model 3 vs. Model Y driver-side small overlap test: footwell intrusion comparison. Source: IIHS via Cameron Martz / The Tech of Tech / YouTube, edited by Iqtidar Ali / TeslaOracle.com.

Tesla Model Y also performed around 3 times better in the head injury criterion (HIC) — Model Y scored 22 points and Model 3 had scored 88 points in this test. The concussion mark is set at 250 points for the head injury by the IIHS.

Moderate Overlap Front Test

In the moderate overlap front crash test, the vehicle collides a 2 feet tall bendable honeycomb block offset at 10% from its centerline at the speed of 40 mph (64.3 km/h). This experiment analyzes the safety of the entire front crumple zone of a vehicle.

When compared side-by-side (video below), Model Y performed better in the moderate overlap front test vs Model 3. As a result of the impact, the Model 3 windshield fractured while due to its height and impact absorption mechanism Model Y windshield stayed intact.

Like the previous small overlap, Model Y performed well in the head injury collision (HIC). While the dummy in Model 3 experienced a HIC of 177, the one in the Model Y got only 107 — well below the concussion mark of 250.

Tesla Model 3 vs. Tesla Model Y head injury collision (HIC) test points comparision by the IIHS.
Tesla Model 3 vs. Tesla Model Y head injury collision (HIC) test points comparison by the IIHS. Credit: IIHS via Cameron Martz / The Tech of Tech / YouTube, edited by Iqtidar Ali / TeslaOracle.com.
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Side Impact Test

Although the IIHS has changed the sled used to test the side-impact collision on cars, Model Y was tested with the older version of the sled to know how it performed against the Model 3. The old version of the IIHS sled weighs 3,100 lbs and hits the vehicle at 31 mph (~50 km/h).

IIHS new side-impact sled (left) and the old version (right).
IIHS new side-impact sled (left) and the old version (right). Credit: IIHS via Cameron Martz / The Tech of Tech / YouTube.

In this t-bone collision test, Model Y did exceptionally well especially for the front passenger, most probably due to its higher sitting position compared to the Model 3.

The dummy in the Model 3 experienced a head injury collision (HIC) of 237 (just below the 250 concussion mark) vs. the Model Y-front passenger who got a HIC of just 120 points.

Also, Model 3 had scored a torso deflection rate (TDR) of 5.2 meters per second while Model Y did much better with a TDR of just 3.91 m/s.

Roof Strength

This is the only area where the Tesla Model 3 performed better than the Model Y due to its shorter roofline and perhaps also due to the high-strength steel cross member that expands from b-pillar to b-pillar. This cross member steel bar is not present in the Model Y.

In the roof strength test, Model 3 got a 5.85 strength-to-weight ratio score, while Model Y received a 4.2.

We have recently witnessed a Tesla Model 3 showing ultra-strength of its roof when a large tree trunk fell on it and all the occupants walked away without any injury.

Here, the Model Y just under-performed by Tesla standards but still scored a good (G) with the IIHS.

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Interestingly, IIHS is showing two versions of the Model Y headlights. The safety score ratings have revealed that there are different versions installed in the Long Range and Performance variants.

According to the IIHS test results, the Model Y Performance version has the LED Projector (aka Matrix LED) headlights and the Long Range AWD variant has LED Reflector lights.

This is why the Model Y Performance headlights have gotten a score of G (good) and the Model Y Long Range has received a rating of A (acceptable).

IIHS mentions in its scoring results that the Model Y vehicles they have tested are manufactured after April 2021. This means that Tesla is actually installing different headlights in the Performance and Long Range AWD trims of the Model Y.

Read the detailed results on the IIHS website.

Related: IIHS selects Tesla Model Y and Model 3 for its 2022 Top Safety Pick+ award

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Iqtidar Ali
Iqtidar Alihttp://www.teslaoracle.com
Iqtidar has been writing about Tesla, Elon Musk, and EVs for more than 3 years on XAutoWorld.com, many of his articles have been republished on CleanTechnica and InsideEVs, maintains a healthy relationship with the Tesla community across the Social Media sphere. You can reach him on Twitter @IqtidarAlii


  1. Interesting, but intrigued as to whether the newer Model 3 would perform similarly to the newer Model Y. Apart from the higher seating position, I’d like to think that my February 2021 Model 3 has many of the later improvements.

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