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 and a 'Safer Pick' vehicle, which considers the safety of other road users.

The Used Car Safety Ratings study is based on more than 8.3 million real-world police reported vehicle crashes in Australia and New Zealand between 1987 and 2017, There are 389 vehicle models manufactured from 1998 onwards with ratings, covering the most popular vehicles in Australia and New Zealand. 

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.

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.  

A consistent trend is that there is significant variation within vehicle categories, even between vehicle models of the same age. Some vehicle models, including recent ones, provide good protection for their drivers but present a high risk of injury to other road users in a crash. The Used Car Safety Ratings assist buyers to select vehicle models that provide the best protection for all road users.

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.

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 (new for 2019) 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 2019 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 that may reduce the risk of death or significant injury include:

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

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