Used car safety ratings

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Used Car Safety Ratings 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 with which it might collide, including pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, or the drivers of other vehicles. For example, the crash statistics analysed by Monash University indicate that many large SUVs are more likely to cause serious injuries to other road users in a crash than most other vehicles.

If you want to help reduce road trauma, you need to consider how your vehicle protects other road users as well as you, the driver.

Browse the Used Car Safety Ratings for vehicle categories

How the Used Car Safety Ratings are calculated

Records from more than 7.5 million vehicles in police-reported road crashes and more than 1.7 million injured road users in New Zealand and Australia between 1987 and 2013 were analysed by Monash University Accident Research Centre.

Ratings on protection to drivers (crashworthiness), harm to other road users (aggressivity) and combined crashworthiness and aggressivity (total secondary safety) were calculated using internationally reviewed methods. The ratings shown are the crashworthiness ratings.

Vehicles identified as a "Safe Pick" are those that score in the best category for both crashworthiness and total crash safety, do not have a worse than average aggressivity and also have Electronic Stability Control available at lest on some models. It is recommended that vehicles with electronic stability control are purchased where possible. The ratings are influenced by the vehicle mass, the structural design of the vehicle body and the safety features such as airbags and types of seatbelts in the vehicle.

The ratings include only those results for 1996 vehicles onwards. This reflects mandated compliance of post 1996 vehicles to a minimum standard for occupant protection in frontal impacts (ADR69). The vast majority of pre 1996 vehicles provide relatively poor occupant protection in a crash. No pre 1996 vehicle was rated in the best category for crashworthiness performance.

There are 217 vehicle models with ratings for protection to drivers. These cover most of the popular vehicles in the Australian and New Zealand vehicle fleets.

The "Safe Pick" vehicles have been identified from the Total Safety Rating for each model that combines driver protection as well as harm to other road users in a crash as well as only recommending vehicles available with Electronic Stability Control. Why?

The total safety rating identifies how well individual vehicle models protect ALL road users from injury in the event of a crash, including cyclists, pedestrians, motorcyclists and drivers of other vehicles. This is a better guide to the TOTAL COMMUNITY IMPACT of vehicle safety.

The crashworthiness of a light vehicle is relevant to injury outcome in around 90% of crashes in Australasia whilst vehicle aggressivity is relevant to injury outcome in around 55% of crashes. Consequently the total crash safety rating is weighted more highly towards the crashworthiness performance than aggressivity performance of each vehicle. This also means that the estimated total safety rating correlates more closely with the crashworthiness estimates of the vehicle rather than the aggressivity estimates.

If we are serious about reducing road trauma, we need to consider how any vehicle we purchase protects ALL road users, not just its own occupants. Vehicles identified as a "Safe Pick" provide best possible injury protection to all road users including their own occupants.

Electronic Stability Control is a crash avoidance technology that has been proven to be effective in a number of studies internationally. Vehicles are only recommended as a "Safe Pick" if Electronic Stability Control is available on that model. For some vehicle models Electronic Stability Control will be only available on certain variants or as an option. The "Safe Pick" only applies to vehicles fitted with Electronic Stability Control.

Why have the Used Car Safety Ratings been produced?

These ratings are produced to help people in the market who are buying a used car identify the safest models. Armed with this information, consumers can also place pressure on importers and dealers to encourage them to sell and promote safer vehicles. People are encouraged to use this guide to help them choose the safest possible car for the money they have available.

If all vehicle designs were equivalent to the safest model, the number of fatal and disabling crash injuries could be significantly reduced. Safety designs that may significantly reduce risk of death or injury include: crumple zones, collapsible steering columns, reinforced door frames, front, side and curtain airbags and seat belts designed to work with airbags and minimise crash forces on occupants. The overall safety of a vehicle will depend on how many of these features are present and how well they are designed and work in combination to protect people from injury in a crash. These ratings give objective assessment of the safety performance of the models rated when involved in a crash.

What types of vehicles are included in the ratings?

These ratings cover the majority of popular passenger vehicles and light commercial vehicles. The rated vehicles have been classified into 10 categories, comprising 4 categories of regular passenger car, 3 categories of Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV), 2 categories of light commercial vehicle, and 1 category of people movers.

How accurate are the ratings in predicting how safe a vehicle will be in a crash?

These ratings are calculated from the outcomes of actual crashes using statistical methods. The more often a particular vehicle model is involved in a crash, the more accurate will be the rating for that vehicle.

This means that, in general, the ratings for more common and/or older vehicles may be more accurate than ratings for newer and/or less common models. Only vehicles with a specified minimum number of crash involvements and where the rating meets minimum accuracy criteria are included. The rating category given to a vehicle reflects the estimated average risk of death or serious injury in a crash as well as the level of statistical confidence in the estimate.

Vehicles with limited real world crash experience and hence limited statistical confidence in the rating estimate tend to be late vehicle models that have only been on sale for a short time before the end of the data period on which the ratings are based. Ratings for these vehicles will possibly change in future updates as more crash data become available. Vehicles with a high degree of uncertainty in the ratings have been excluded.

Any vehicle safety rating system can only provide an indication of how much protection a vehicle is likely to offer a driver in the event of a crash, or how much harm it is likely to cause the driver of another vehicle. Whether or not death or serious injury results also depends on how safely the vehicle is driven and the particular circumstances of the crash.

What's the difference between these ratings and the New Car Safety Ratings?

New car safety ratings (eg ANCAP) should not be compared directly to these ratings due to fundamental differences between the 2 systems.

These differences include:

New Car Safety RatingsUsed Car Safety Ratings
1 Determined by crash testing vehicles in a controlled laboratory setting Calculated using data from police reports on actual crashes
2 Consider only certain crash configurations - offset frontal, side impact, pole crashes and pedestrian impacts Consider all crash types
3 Consider both the ability of the vehicle to protect occupants and pedestrians from injury in a crash as well as the presence of certain safety features such as seatbelt reminder systems, ESC and other driver assist technologies in the rating Rate only the ability of a vehicle to protect people involved in the crash from injury. The presence of vehicle crash avoidance features is not considered in the ratings apart from the Best Picks being restricted to those vehicles available with Electronic Stability Control
4 Considers injury protection of the vehicle's own occupants in the rating and pedestrian protection Considers the injury protection of road users inside the vehicle and all potential collision partners including other vehicle occupant, pedestrians, motorcyclists and bicyclists
5 Do not reflect the role of vehicle mass in determining injury outcomes in a crash hence ratings cannot be directly compared across vehicles of different mass. Do reflect the role of vehicle mass in determining injury outcomes in a crash hence ratings can be directly compared across all vehicles.

These differences in the ratings can lead to differences in the assessment of some vehicles.

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.

To find out more about used car safety ratings, read our brochure. (pdf 3.6mb)

How do the Australian and New Zealand vehicle fleets rate for safety compared with fleets from other countries?

These ratings compare vehicles with the rest of the vehicle fleet, not against a fixed standard. That means that there will always be vehicles that rate good or bad. Therefore, it is not possible to objectively assess, from these ratings, the overall safety standard of the New Zealand or Australian vehicle fleets. They have not been compared with vehicle fleets from other countries for the same reason.

But aren't some vehicles likely to rate poorly because of the types of people that drive them or where they are driven?

This was considered when the data was analysed. The ratings measure how well the vehicle protected people involved in the crash. They factor out, as much as possible, effects not related to the vehicle such as the age and gender of people involved in the crash or where and when the crash occurred. This means the ratings are about how the vehicle itself contributes to injury outcome in a crash and not who was driving the vehicle and where.

What should people do if the vehicle they currently drive is rated poorly?

Crashes in even the best-rated vehicles can still result in serious injury or death to the driver. The best protection against injury is to drive safely and encourage other road users to drive safely. When people are ready to buy another vehicle, they should take these ratings into account and consider choosing one of the best-rated models.

What should people do if they can't afford one of the best-rated vehicles?

On average, newer models provide their occupants with better protection in a crash but a number of less expensive models do rate well. People should work out what they can afford to spend on a used car and consider choosing one of the best-rated vehicles that their budget allows.

Why aren't vehicles that are rated poorly taken off the road?

These ratings rate vehicles against each other, not against any fixed standard. This means that there will always be vehicles that are rated average, above average and below average. So, although some vehicle models offer better protection to drivers in a crash than others, this does not mean that the less safe models are dangerous to the extent they should be taken off the roads. All vehicles must meet local design standards for safety before they can be made available for sale.

The Monash University Accident Research Centre

The Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) has been conducting research into issues relating to vehicle safety for more than 24 years.

It began developing consumer advice on vehicle safety based on mass crash data in 1990. The same year, the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) and National Roads and Motorists' Association (NRMA) independently set out on a joint project to develop a car safety rating system based on police records of crashes. By 1991 they had produced a relative ranking of vehicles.

In mid 1991, the two groups began to work together and combine their data into one vehicle safety rating system. The creation of the Used Car Safety Ratings resulted from that work.