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.

Those vehicles which provide excellent protection from injury for their own drivers as well as for other road users in the crash receive a "Safe Pick" rating. 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 over 7 million vehicles in police-reported road crashes in Australia and New Zealand between 1987 and 2012 were analysed by Monash University Accident Research Centre. 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 2014 update has been recalculated based on the most recent crash data available so they are not comparable with the ratings published in previous years. Models of vehicles that cause lower injuries to other road users with which they collide, including other drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, as well as providing excellent protection for their own driver, and are fitted with Electronic Stability Control (ESC) are awarded the "Safe Pick" label.

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.

Question: Won't certain kinds of vehicles score a good rating because of the types of people who drive them or where they are driven?

Answer: These factors were taken into account as much as possible when the data were analysed. The ratings were adjusted for factors such as driver gender and age, type of road user involved, speed limit at the crash location, number of vehicles involved, crash configuration, and year and location of crash. As far as possible the ratings are about the contribution of the vehicle to injury outcomes in a crash and not who was driving the vehicle or where it crashed.

What's the difference between user car and ANCAP safety ratings?

ANCAP safety ratings are determined based on data obtained through the simulation of common crash scenarios undertaken on new vehicles in a controlled laboratory. ANCAP safety ratings demonstrate a vehicle's level of occupant and pedestrian protection as well as their ability, through technology, to avoid a crash. 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.

Used Car Safety Ratings are all calculated on a consistent set of criteria and all updated annually based on the most recent real world data. They can therefore be compared across all categories. The Used Car Safety Ratings "Safe Pick" further identifies 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 and the particular crash circumstances.

Myths about vehicle safety

Myth: You can take more risks if you've got a vehicle with safety features - they will save you in a crash.

Fact: While safety features are more likely to increase your chances of surviving a crash, they don't make you indestructible. Safety features won't necessarily save you from death or serious injury, particularly at higher speeds or if you're not wearing your seat belt.

Myth: A safe vehicle is more expensive.

Fact: Many reasonably priced vehicle models score very well in the safety ratings and better than some of the more expensive models.

Myth: Older vehicles tend to be bigger and heavier, and therefore safer.

Fact: Older vehicles have been shown from crash records to be less safe on average than newer vehicles, due to fewer safety features and less sophisticated design.

To find out more about used car safety ratings, read our brochure. (pdf 4.4mb)

About the Vehicle Safety Research Group

The UCSRs are the main output from the Vehicle Safety Research Group research program and there have been a number of highlights over the 22 years of publication in refining and extending the ratings. The focus of the VSRG program has become much broader than just the ratings.

Key areas of vehicle safety explored by the program include assessment of vehicle safety technologies, modelling and projection of vehicle fleet composition and its effects on safety, estimating crash risk, consideration of the safety implications of vehicle choice on high risk road user groups and examining the relationship between ANCAP and real world crash outcomes.

Some specific activities of the Group are:

  • Investigation of the effectiveness of vehicle safety technologies including ABS braking systems, frontal and side airbag systems and electronic stability control.
  • Analysis of the influence of vehicle colour on crash risk.
  • Estimation of trends in light vehicle road trauma related to crashes involving heavy vehicles and predicting the likely impact of forecast rapid growth in heavy vehicle travel.
  • Estimation of crash risks by vehicle type including motorcycles and analysis of the effects of vehicle choice on overall crash risk.
  • Extensive analysis of the crash risks and injury outcomes associated with 4WD vehicles compared to other regular passenger cars.
  • Analysis of vehicle choices made by young drivers and their influence on secondary safety outcomes relative to the key crash types in which they are involved and including assessment of the potential benefits of safer vehicle choices for young drivers.
  • Assessment of the effectiveness of novice driver vehicle restriction and the potential for improving the restrictions to further reduce novice driver road trauma.
  • Investigation of the potential for improving the consistency between Used Car Safety Ratings and ANCAP new car safety ratings.