Here are the Safest 2020 Pickup Trucks on the Market

Opinion


Sitting in the cab of a pickup truck, looking down on the vehicles around you, there’s a sense of invincibility. King of the road. With trucks’ high perch and AWD or 4WD capability, you might think you’re in the safest vehicle on the road. So, pickup trucks are the safest vehicles out there, right?

When it comes to safety, a couple factors come into play. When the weather is bad, some drivers may develop an overabundance of cockiness behind the wheel of a big truck and drive too aggressively.

Another factor is that trucks tend to be big and heavy, using body-on-frame construction, so when they hit something, the impact is a big one. And automakers might focus on scoring well in crash testing with cars and SUVs before turning to trucks. As a result, many trucks have trouble getting the highest score on all the tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety—especially the passenger-side small overlap front test and the headlight evaluation. Even though not a single truck qualifies as a 2020 IIHS Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+, some new trucks are safer than others.

Although the IIHS has not crash-tested all the 2020 models yet, keep reading to learn about some of the safest 2020 models based on the data to date (IIHS crash tests of Acceptable or better qualify for our list), as well as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash test ratings and the safety equipment the trucks have.

2020 Ram 1500

The 2020 Ram 1500 Crew Cab model with optional equipment was the first full-size pickup truck to earn a 2019 Top Safety Pick+ designation from the IIHS. That means it earned a Good rating in all six crashworthiness tests (small-overlap front driver and passenger side, moderate overlap front, side-impact, and roof crush). Although the truck loses the safety award for 2020 because it lacks pedestrian sensing for its front crash prevention technology, the Ram remains one of the safest trucks you can buy.

Ram credits its patented framerail construction for scoring highly on the difficult passenger-side small overlap front test. The front of the Ram’s entirely new ladder frame features cleverly engineered octagonal-section framerail extensions. These are mandrel-bent and welded from tailor-rolled sheet steel blanks that vary from 3 to 2mm thick going forward to ensure they crumple in a gradual, controlled manner. Finally, these cleverly engineered framerail extensions are splayed outward to better capture small-offset crash forces and route them through the sturdiest parts of the frame.

Optional tech including automatic emergency braking and forward collision mitigation won the Ram a Superior rating on front-crash avoidance. Higher trim levels also offer blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warning with automatic braking, and lane departure warning. The other tricky test is headlights. FCA engineers improved the optional adaptive LED projector headlights with high-beam assist, and the effort earned the elusive Good score. The extended-cab version also performs well in safety tests but is held back by a Marginal score in IIHS headlight testing. The Ram 1500 was the 2019 MotorTrend Truck of the Year.

The NHTSA gives the Ram 1500 the top five-star rating for the crew cab with four stars in the frontal and rollover tests. Others in the lineup earned an overall four-star rating.

2020 Honda Ridgeline

The 2020 Honda Ridgeline is not a surprise addition to the safe truck list; after all, the outlier has unibody  construction, sharing a FWD car-based platform and the many safety goodies that Honda puts on its cars and SUVs.

A key update for 2020 is newly standard Honda Sensing driver-assistance and safety features. Forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, road departure prevention, lane-keeping assistance, and lane-departure warning come on every 2020 Honda Ridgeline, along with an excellent adaptive cruise control system.

The Honda Ridgeline  received the 2019 Top Safety Pick designation, but it didn’t measure up to the award’s stricter standards for 2020. The Ridgeline did not keep its award for 2020 because it ranked Acceptable in the small-overlap front passenger-side test.

The NHTSA gives the Ridgeline, both FWD and AWD models, a five-star overall rating.

2020 Toyota Tacoma

The 2020 Toyota Tacoma is a long-serving compact pickup that hung in there while other major automakers exited the segment, only to return years later. It comes with a lot of standard safety features, even on the base model. The Tacoma is equipped with forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control as standard equipment. These features are part of the Toyota Safety Sense P suite of driver aids. A blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert is also available for some models.

The body-on-frame compact pickup gets a 2019 Top Safety Pick designation for certain trim levels—the ones with the best headlights. The 2020 Tacoma gets top scores in all but the passenger-side front offset test where it received an Acceptable rating (and that’s one reason it doesn’t get a 2020 Top Safety Pick award). TRD models with the LED headlights and LED daytime running lights package and high-beam assist earned the Good headlight rating,  but the models with halogen headlights get a Marginal rating. The Tacoma’s front crash prevention system was rated as Superior.

The NHTSA gives the 2020 Tacoma an overall four-star safety rating, but the truck does get the full five stars in side crash tests.

2020 Ford Ranger

Ford returned the Ranger to the U.S. market for the 2019 model year, riding on an aging body-on-frame platform. The automaker continued to upgrade the 2020 Ford Ranger with an FX2 package and new colors as it awaits the next generation on a new platform.

Ford Co-Pilot360 is standard on every trim level and includes automatic emergency braking, curve control, forward collision monitoring, and a rearview camera. The midlevel XLT and top-dog Lariat add blind-spot monitoring, lane keeping assistance, and a reverse sensing system. All Rangers come with front, front side impact, and side curtain airbags.

The 2020 Ranger does well in crash tests administered by the IIHS, with Good scores across the board except for the challenging passenger side small overlap crash, where it achieves an Acceptable rating. Excellent collision avoidance technology further improves the Ranger’s IIHS rating, but headlights rated as Marginal hold the truck back from being a Top Safety Pick.

From the NHTSA, the 2020 Ford Ranger gets an overall four-star safety rating with a mixed bag of results: five stars in side crashes, four stars in frontal testing, and only three stars in rollover resistance.

2020 Ford F-150

Ford F-Series pickup trucks are the automaker’s bread and butter, and the F-150 is the long-reigning best-selling truck. Ford gives its pickups much love, respect, resources, and technology, which includes safety and driver assist systems.

All versions of the 2020 Ford F-150 come with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. Available equipment, depending on the model, includes blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, automatic high-beam headlights, inflatable rear seatbelts, and Ford Co-Pilot360, which bundles adaptive cruise control, pedestrian detection, lane keeping assistance, and lane keeping alert.

The IIHS has yet to crash test the 2020 model in extended cab form, but the crew cab model scored Good in every test category with the exception of headlights, where it scored Poor. Front crash prevention technology was rated as Superior. To better distribute forces in a small overlap front crash, engineers gave the F-150 a patented extruded aluminum roof crossmember and an additional frame crossmember to improve crash resilience.

The NHTSA gives the crew cabs a five-star rating with five stars in all but the rollover test. Other cab configurations get an overall four-star rating. The F-150 was the 2018 MotorTrend Truck of the Year.

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