Safety ratings of used cars

When buying a second hand car safety should be at the top of your list of considerations. The Used Car Safety Ratings assist buyers in making decisions to purchase cars that offer the best protection in a crash.

Safety should be paramount

If you're looking for a new car, vehicle safety should be a priority. Used Car Safety Ratings results provide car buyers with critical information that can be used to help them make an informed decision about the protection a second hand vehicle offers.

 When looking for your next car, look for a vehicle with at least a good or excellent  (4 or 5 stars) for driver protection or a 'Safer Pick' vehicle, which considers the safety of other road users.

Used Car Safety Ratings are calculated by the Monash University Accident Research Centre and are based on real-world crash data collected since 1987.

This is to understand how well a specific vehicle protects the occupants in the event of a crash.

Each of the driver protection ratings in the latest update has been recalculated based on the most recent crash data available, so they are not comparable with the ratings published in previous years. 

The study shows how well each vehicle will protect the driver from death or serious injury in the event of a crash.

A vehicle must have at least 100 crash involvements for it to be included in the analysis, for the vehicle to pass the final accuracy requirements for public presentation it must have over 300 crash involvements.

The crash data has been analysed and vehicle safety ratings calculated by Monash University's Accident Research Centre.

Where do ratings come from?

In New Zealand, a vehicle's safety rating comes from one of three sources:

ANCAP (Australasian New Car Assessment Program)

ANCAP, an independent vehicle safety authority, assesses the level of safety provided by new vehicles entering the market. To determine safety ratings, ANCAP conducts crash tests of various scenarios to measure the safety of those in the vehicle.

ANCAP safety ratings also factor in features that assist in the prevention of a crash and the protection other road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.

Used Car Safety Rating (UCSR)

The UCSR assesses the level of safety of used vehicles already in the market. Safety ratings are calculated by Monash University and are based on real-world crash data about how well a specific vehicle protects the occupants in the event of a crash.

Vehicles assessed using UCSR may also be categorised as a 'safer pick' if they cause less harm to others – pedestrians, cyclists and occupants of other vehicles involved in the crash – and they have safety features that help to prevent a crash occurring.

Vehicle Safety Risk Rating (VSRR)

The VSRR assesses vehicles that don't have an ANCAP or UCSR. It's used for vehicles where there are too few of these vehicles currently being driven to provide enough crash and injury data, so the rating is based on the average crash rating of similar vehicles (eg other small SUVs) from the same year of manufacture.

The VSRR assesses how well a vehicle is likely to perform in a crash; in terms of how well it protects occupants of the vehicle and those the vehicle crashes into - pedestrians, cyclists and occupants of other vehicles.

Newer vehicles are safer

Used Car Safety Ratings results show that, on average, newer models provide their drivers with better protection from injury in a crash. These improvements come from better structural designs, an increase in the fitting of safety features such as front, side, curtain and knee airbags, more advanced seat belt systems and vehicle interiors built with more energy-absorbing materials. Crash avoidance and safety assist systems available in new vehicles also reduce the risk of accident and injury.   

Will your car protect you - and others - from death or a serious injury?

It’s the right price, looks good, and it’s the perfect size for what you need. But there is one critical factor you may not have thought about – does your vehicle offer you good protection from injury in the event of a crash.

41% of New Zealand's light vehicles have 1 and 2-star safety ratings. That's approximately 1.65 million vehicles, out of 4 million in the fleet.

The Used Car Safety Ratings charts provide you with the crash safety rating for the driver. They show you how well each vehicle protects its driver from death or serious injury in a crash.

It is also important that your vehicle offers good protection to other road users including pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, or the drivers of other vehicles.

Vehicles which provide excellent protection from injury for their own drivers as well as for other road users in the crash receive a Safer Pick rating. If you are serious about reducing road trauma, you need to consider how your vehicle protects you and other road users.

Safer Pick vehicles

Safer Pick vehicles were introduced to identify vehicles that provide the best protection for both their own occupants and other road users in a crash. In order to be classified a Safer Pick, they must also be fitted with Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and include reversing assist technology (either reversing sensors, a reversing camera or both).

These vehicles are rated as being the safest choices when purchasing a second hand car.

How are the ratings calculated?

Records from over 8 million vehicles involved in police-reported road crashes in Australia and New Zealand. The ratings were calculated using an internationally reviewed method and are influenced by the vehicle’s mass, the structural design of the body, and the safety features fitted to the vehicle, such as airbags and types of seat belts.

Each of the driver protection ratings in the latest update has been recalculated based on the most recent crash data available so they are not comparable with the ratings published in previous years. 

The score for each individual model can be compared against the ratings for all other vehicles.

The driver protection ratings are about the risk of death or serious injury to the driver of the vehicle in the event of a crash. The ratings are not about the risk of being involved in the crash in the first place, which is generally determined by a range of factors including driver behaviour, vehicle condition and the road environment.

What's the difference between Used Car Safety Ratings and ANCAP Safety Ratings?

New car safety ratings (e.g. ANCAP) are determined by crash testing vehicles in a controlled laboratory setting while the used car safety ratings are calculated using data from millions of police reports on actual crashes involving a range of drivers and all types of driving conditions.

Occupants of heavier vehicles in real-world multi-vehicle crashes typically fare better than those in lighter vehicles. This is why ANCAP crash test results should not be compared among vehicles with large weight differences. In many single-vehicle crashes, greater weight offers no safety advantage. ANCAP crash test ratings relate to both occupant protection and the ability of the car to avoid a crash. ANCAP has a separate rating for a vehicle’s ability to protect a pedestrian in a crash.

The used car safety ratings listed in this report can be compared across all categories as they are derived from reports of actual on-road crashes and represent the ability of the car to protect its driver.

The ‘Safe Pick’ vehicles further identify vehicles that provide the best protection for both their own occupants and other road users in a crash.

Any vehicle safety rating system can only provide an indication of the relative levels of protection between vehicles you can expect in the event of a crash. Whether or not you die or are seriously injured in a crash also depends on how safely you drive your vehicle.

Vehicle safety features

Safety features both active and passive that may reduce the risk of death or significant injury include:

  • Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) including pedestrian and cyclist detection
  • Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) 
  • Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD)
  • Blind spot warning, Rear Traffic Alert
  • Brake Assist
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC) 
  • Front, side, knee and curtain airbags
  • Lane departure warnings 
  • Active Lane Keep Assist
  • Seatbelts with pretension devices designed to work with airbags 
  • Traction control
  • High strength materials in the structure (ie; reinforced door frames)

Used import safety ratings

Imported vehicles receive safety ratings based on their year of manufacture and model generation. If you've purchased a used import, there may be a significant difference between the safety rating of your vehicle and the rating for a similar New Zealand-new model on the ANCAP site.

Manufacturers are not usually involved with their importation, so are unable to provide ANCAP with the specification detail to confirm that they match the model versions tested. For the same reason, there is little information available on the specs and safety features of imported vehicles.

ANCAP ratings only apply to New Zealand or Australian new vehicles where the specific model has then been tested by ANCAP in a controlled environment, testing four key safety performance areas: adult occupant protection; child occupant protection; vulnerable road user protection; and safety assist.

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