The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released the results from its first ever headlight testing. The testing was done at the IIHS Vehicle Research Center in Ruckersville, VA and produced some shaking results. Out of 31 midsize cars evaluated, the Toyota Prius v was the only to earn a good rating. 11 cars earn an acceptable rating, while nine only reached a marginal rating. Ten of the vehicles can’t be purchased with anything other than poor-rated headlights.


Headlight ratings for 2016 midsize cars Best available headlight system for each model

For trim and package specifications for the listed ratings and for ratings of other systems available on these models, visit


Toyota Prius v


Audi A3

Nissan Maxima

Honda Accord 4-door

Subaru Outback (built after Nov. 2015)

Infiniti Q50

Volkswagen CC

Lexus ES

Volkswagen Jetta

Lexus IS

Volvo S60

Mazda 6


Acura TLX

Ford Fusion

Audi A4

Lincoln MKZ

BMW 2 series

Subaru Legacy

BMW 3 series

Toyota Camry

Chrysler 200


Buick Verano

Kia Optima

Cadillac ATS

Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Chevrolet Malibu

Mercedes-Benz CLA

Chevrolet Malibu Limited (fleet model)

Nissan Altima

Hyundai Sonata

Volkswagen Passat



According to IIHS, a vehicle’s price tag is no guarantee of decent headlights. Many of the poor-rated headlights belong to luxury vehicles.

“If you’re having trouble seeing behind the wheel at night, it could very well be your headlights and not your eyes that are to blame,” says David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer.

The ability to see the road ahead, along with any pedestrians, bicyclists or obstacles, is an obvious essential for drivers. However, government standards for headlights, based on laboratory tests, allow huge variation in the amount of illumination that headlights provide in actual on-road driving. With about half of traffic deaths occurring either in the dark or in dawn or dusk conditions, improved headlights have the potential to bring about substantial reductions in fatalities.

To produce these results, headlights were evaluated a track after dark. A special device measures the light from both low beams and high beams as the vehicle is driven on five different approaches: traveling straight, a sharp left curve, a sharp right curve, a gradual left curve and a gradual right curve.

Glare for oncoming vehicles also is measured from low beams in each scenario to make sure it isn’t excessive.

Headlights were tested as received from the dealer. Although the vertical aim of headlights can be adjusted on most vehicles, IIHS doesn’t change headlight aim because few vehicle owners ever do and some manufacturers advise consumers not to.

After a vehicle was tested on the track, IIHS engineers compared its visibility and glare measurements to those of a hypothetical ideal headlight system and used a scheme of demerits to determine the rating. Results for low beams were weighted more heavily than high beams because they are used more often. The readings on the straightaway were+ weighted more heavily than those on the curves because more crashes occur on straight sections of road.

Vehicles equipped with high-beam assist, which automatically switches between high beams and low beams depending on the presence of other vehicles, may earn back some points taken off for less-than-ideal low beam visibility. This credit is given only for approaches on which the glare threshold isn’t exceeded and on which the high beams provide additional visibility compared with the low beams.

A vehicle with excessive glare on any of the approaches can’t earn a rating above marginal.