Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the Auto Professor?

The Auto Professor is a team led by Dr. Norma Hubele. Norma is a university professor, consumer advocate, and automotive safety expert who has studied auto crash statistics and auto safety for over 30 years. Norma has provided expert witness testimony in over 100 legal cases involving vehicles. The Auto Professor team brings unbiased information to consumers, so they can make the best and safest vehicle purchase possible.

What are Auto Grades?

Auto Grades represent how well specific vehicles have protected their occupants in real life crashes on the road. Other rating systems are scripted and based on laboratory tests with dummies, but The Auto Professor gives their Auto Grades based on real world scenarios that could never be fully explored in a lab setting.

How does The Auto Professor’s grading system work?

An Auto Grade compares vehicles against other vehicles on the road based on the same scale, so all are on a level playing field. A car earns a good grade because its drivers survived a crash relatively more often than drivers in other vehicles. Just like standard school grading systems, an Auto Grade of B- means that vehicle performed slightly better than one with a C+.

Where does The Auto Professor get their data?

The federal government keeps a nationwide database of fatal vehicle accident reports. We translate this information into meaningful Auto Grades to help you, the consumer, make better car buying decisions.

Does The Auto Professor conduct their own lab tests?

Never. We rely solely on real crash data of how vehicles protected people in crashes driving on the road.

What’s the difference between Auto Grades and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) Star Rating?

Each rating system provides different information. The NHTSA’s Star Ratings inform consumers about how cars performed in their controlled laboratory tests. Auto Grades uses accident data from real world auto accidents to let you compare virtually any car on the road today. Our grades tell you how well vehicles protected drivers during fatal crashes. Please visit our article on Comparing Vehicle Safety Ratings Systems for more details.

Can auto makers influence The Auto Professor’s Auto Grades?

Never. Our Auto Grades are 100% independent, unbiased, and based solely on real life crash data. Auto manufacturers have no influence whatsoever on the Auto Grades assigned by The Auto Professor. Consumers can be assured that The Auto Professor is presenting the most accurate and independent information possible.

Are there Auto Grades for new cars?

Sometimes. When a new car has not undergone a major redesign, we expect the vehicle will perform similarly to previous years. In this case the new model year receives the same grade as the previous model year, and the Auto Grade is shaded to indicate it was estimated.

Can I search and compare diverse vehicles with each other?

Yes. Our rating system is unique in that all vehicles are on a level playing field whether it’s a full-sized SUV or compact SUV you’re comparing to a small sedan. Other rating systems are based on vehicle weight and class, so you cannot compare across diverse types of vehicles. See our article about Comparing Vehicle Safety Ratings Systems to learn more.

Do you have to spend a lot of money for a vehicle with a good Auto Grade?

Not necessarily. A safe vehicle doesn’t need to be an expensive one. There many reasonably priced vehicles that earn above-average Auto Grades.

Why does The Auto Professor show Auto Grades by age and gender?

Our vulnerability to injury and driving behaviors may differ between men and women and by age, so we split grades by age and gender when the data allows. This helps users understand the experience of real people with similar physical characteristics in specific vehicles. 20+ years of safety research has shown that these characteristics influence accident survival rates.

What about passengers, are they factored into The Auto Professor’s Auto Grade?

No. Every car has a driver but not all cars have passengers, and accident reports show that drivers represent 70% of deaths in cars. This is why we grade cars based on drivers’ experiences only.

Working together to create a world where everyone walks away from a crash.