The federal government's New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) began in 1978, and went through a major revision in 2010. But it's not the only vehicle-safety testing and rating program in the U.S. Since 1995, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers, also has been crashing cars with the aim of improving their safety (and lowering repair costs).
The two organizations perform different tests, and report the results differently: The New Car Assessment Program, which is administered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), uses a star system, while IIHS uses a ranked, color-coded system of Good, Acceptable, Marginal and Poor. IIHS also issues a list of Top Safety Picks each year. And although consumers might be confused about who has stars and who has color bars, there's agreement that more testing programs are better than fewer when it comes to automotive safety.