Vehicle safety ratings

Most cars in New Zealand will have been given a safety rating from 1 to 5 stars that show how well a vehicle will protect its occupants in a serious crash.

The higher star vehicle you are in, the less likely you are to be killed or seriously hurt in a crash.

A vehicle's safety rating should be something that every person considers when they are buying a car.

This page includes links to vehicle safety ratings, explains how the ratings are calculated and sets out the changes the AA wants made to improve the safety of New Zealand's vehicle fleet.

New Cars

The AA wants to see two changes to improve the safety of New Zealand's vehicle fleet:

  • New imports should be required to have electronic stability control and at least a 4-star safety rating
  • Used imports should require at least a 3-star rating or meet suitable safety standards

New cars are put through a series of crash tests to give them a safety rating from 1 to 5 stars, with 5 being the best.

The AA website provides a list of new car safety ratings and the AA supports the Australasia New Car Assessment Programme (ANCAP) which uses crash test dummies to analyse how well people in a car would be protected in a head-on or side impact crash. The tests also measure how severe injuries would likely be to a pedestrian in a crash.

Along with the crash tests, vehicles will achieve a higher rating if they have safety features like anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, multiple air bags and three-point seat belts for every passenger.

Other new car assessment programmes like Euro NCAP and Japanese NCAP conduct similar tests to ANCAP, meaning their safety ratings are consistent internationally.

The AA recommends that if you are buying a new car you look at vehicles with a 4-star safety rating or higher.

If you are in a crash in a 5-star ANCAP vehicle, you and your passengers will be twice as likely to survive than if you were in a 1-star car.

Used cars

The Used Car Safety Ratings (UCSR) study uses data from more than four million real-life vehicle crashes in Australia and New Zealand since 1996 to give vehicles a rating from 1 to 5 stars.

The UCSR study shows how well each vehicle will protect the driver from death or serious injury in the event of a crash, with 5 stars being the best.

In any price range there will be some vehicles that are safer than others and the AA website provides a list of safety ratings for used cars.
When buying a used car, you should also look for vehicles that have ABS braking, airbags, electronic stability control and three point seat belts in the back seat.

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