Used car safety ratings

In the market for a used car? Here's how to choose a safe model.
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If you’re in the market for a second-hand car, you should consider the level of protection the vehicle will offer you and other road users in the event of an accident.

The 2013 Used Car Safety Ratings rated 216 vehicle models.

Crash statistics are analysed by Monash University’s Accident Research Centre in Melbourne and are compiled every year to provide the Used Car Safety Ratings (UCSR). These ratings give consumers essential information about a vehicle's capacity for protecting the driver, passengers, and other road users in the event of a crash.

For more information relating to safety and Advice, see our Cars section.

How are the safety ratings calculated?

The 2013 UCSR are calculated from records of over 5.5 million vehicles in police-reported road crashes in Australia and New Zealand between 1996 and 2011. Monash University use an internationally reviewed method to calculate the ratings, which takes into consideration the vehicles' mass, structural design and safety features.

The rating is about the risk of death or serious injury to the driver of the vehicle in the event of a crash (i.e. the contribution of the vehicle to injury outcomes in a crash). Factors like driver behaviour, vehicle condition and the road environment are taken into account as much as possible when the data is analysed. The ratings are adjusted accordingly 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 the year and location of the crash.

A “safe pick” label is applied to vehicles that cause fewer injuries to other road users with whom they collide, including other drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists, as well as providing excellent protection for their own driver. So if you’re in the market for a second-hand car, consider one with a “safe pick” label.

Each year results are updated based on the most recent crash data so results aren’t comparable with those from previous years.

A combination of the following three aspects is used to form the safety rating:

  • Crashworthiness assesses the ability of a vehicle to protect its own occupants in the event of a crash by measuring the estimated risk of death or serious injury to the driver.
  • Aggressivity assesses the ability of a vehicle to protect other road users with whom it collides. It is also measured by the estimated risk of death or serious injury to those involved, including vehicle passengers, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
  • Total secondary safety combines crashworthiness and aggressivity to determine a vehicle's overall injury outcome in a crash. This rating measures the estimated risk of death or serious injury to all road users. Without this total secondary rating, consumers are more likely to base their vehicle choices on crashworthiness performance. This wouldn’t be an ideal approach for the vehicle fleet industry to take, so in order to optimise vehicle safety on a wider community basis a rating that combines both is ideal.

What’s new in 2013?

Generally, newer models provide their drivers with better protection from injury in a crash. This is because as cars develop, their structural design is improved and they are fitted with an increasing amount of safety features.

Of the 216 vehicles rated:

  • 57 models received five stars and rated excellent – 32 of these also received a “safe pick” label.
  • 52 models received four stars and rated good
  • 33 models received three stars and rated marginal
  • 23 models received two stars and rated poor
  • 51 models received one star and rated very poor

The medium-sized category has 13 vehicles achieving the maximum five star rating and there are “safe pick” options in all categories except the light vehicles and commercial vehicles – vans. Australian cars were impressive in their categories. The Holden Cruze JG/JH (small car), Commodore Ute VE and Statesman/Caprice WK/WL (large car), Ford Falcon FG (large car) and Territory SX/SY (large 4WD) and the Toyota Aurion (large car) all rated excellently with safe pick labels.

Choosing the right car

On average four people are killed and 90 are seriously injured every day on Australian roads, according to the 2011-2020 National Road Safety Strategy.

Choosing a safe car can help to protect you, your occupants, and other road users in the event of a crash. New car models are being developed with more and more safety assist technology, sophisticated crash design and a range of safety equipment. We also look at safety information from the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP).

If you’re looking to buy an older model used car then you’ll need to do your research before you buy – and these safety ratings are a good place to start.

Vehicle safety features are important. Features that could help to reduce the risk of death or serious injury in the event of a crash include:

  • Front, side, curtain and knee airbags
  • Seat belts designed to work with airbags
  • Crumple zones
  • Collapsible steering columns
  • High-strength materials in the structure of the vehicle

There are also features that help drivers to avoid a crash and include:

  • Automatic braking
  • Pedestrian detection
  • Electronic stability control (ESC)
  • Anti-lock Brake System (ABS)
  • Lane departure warning
  • Blind spot warning
  • Traction control
  • Brake assist

Try to look for a car with as many of these features as possible.



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