Car buying safety guide

When you're buying a new or used car, there's likely to be a big difference in the safety features offered between the different cars in your price range.

Safety features have progressed significantly in the last few years, and different makes and models have adopted new safety features at varying rates. To make sure you're buying the safest vehicle, compare the different safety features of the cars that you are interested in.

The two key safety features

Electronic stability control and side curtain airbags are the two basic safety features you should check any car you're interested in has. Some car manufacturers may refer to these technologies by different names, which you can see below.

Side curtain airbags

Protects you if you're in a crash

While front airbags protect you in head-on collisions, side curtain airbags help protect you when your vehicle is hit from the side. Side curtain air bags stop your head hitting the side of the vehicle, which can cause serious head injuries or death.

Cars can be fitted with side curtain airbags for some or all seats on the sides of the car. To protect everyone in your car, look for a vehicle with side curtain airbags for each side passenger.

Electronic stability control

Prevents you from crashing

If you start to lose control of your car, the electronic stability control system helps you stay on track. The control system stops you from skidding and keeps your vehicle on its current path, by reading the intended direction of your steering wheel and appliying brakes to each wheel accordingly.

Electronic stability control reduces the risk of single vehicle crashes in which the driver is injured by 32%, and this is even higher for SUV-style vehicles.

Other names for electronic stability control

  • Active Stability Control (ASC) - Mitsubishi
  • AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control (RSC)
  • Controllo Stabilita (CST)
  • Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) - Ford, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover
  • Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC) - Volvo
  • Electronic Stability Program (ESP) - Holden, Audi, Chrysler, Mercedes, Saab, Volkswagen
  • Interactive Vehicle Dynamics (IVD)
  • Maserati Stability Programme (MSP)
  • Porsche Stability Management (PSM)
  • Precision Control System (PSC)
  • StabiliTrak
  • Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) - Subaru, Nissan
  • Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM)
  • Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) - Honda
  • Vehicle Stability/Swerve Control (VSC) - Toyota, Lexus


Most newer makes and models are given an ANCAP safety star rating, which is the easiest way to work out a car's safety. Before you buy, first check for its safety rating here.