Used car safety ratings

In the market for a used car? Here's how to choose a safe model.
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03.What to look for

There are many sources of information available to ensure you make the right decision about your next second-hand car. Combine UCSR with these other sources, such as information provided from NRMA Insurance and the Green Vehicle Guide, which has useful data on emissions and fuel consumption for car models.

  • Don't rush into it and take the necessary time to research and inspect the vehicle.
  • Work out your budget before you start looking and stick to it. For example, the safe luxury car may not be an option for you.
  • Your needs should be reflected in the type of car you buy. If you do most of your driving in the city, a four-wheel drive is hardly necessary.
  • Inspect before you buy and, if possible, obtain a third-party inspection. Take someone with you because two sets of eyes are always better than one. Check out the exterior, engine bay and interior. Ask to take the car for a test drive. Always inspect the car in full daylight where marks, dents and other defects are clearly visible.
  • Is it worth the price? Sites like and have free car valuation calculators that give estimated valuations for private sale, trade-in and dealer price.
  • For extra peace of mind search its history on the Personal Properties Securities Register (formerly known as REVS). It's a national online register that can help to protect you when buying personal property, especially valuable second-hand goods like cars. By using this register you can find out if the car you’re thinking of buying has a security interest registered against it. To check the register, you’ll need the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) or chassis number. For a small fee, you can conduct a search and obtain a certificate.
  • Ask questions about the vehicle's history; How many owners has the vehicle had previously? Has it been involved in any crashes? What is the mileage? How much does it cost to fill the tank? Is the vehicle currently registered and insured? Does it have electronic stability control, anti-lock braking system, traction control, and brake assist? Also find out if the car has safety features such as crumple zones, collapsible steering, reinforced door frames, front, side and curtain airbags, and advanced seat belt systems. 
  • Use caution if you buy privately. Once you hand over the cash there is generally very little way out. However, a three-month statutory warranty is usually offered if you buy through a car dealer (whereby dealers and/or manufacturers ensure the product is suitable for its intended purpose). Check out our used car buying guide to find out more about your rights and responsibilities when buying a used car.

Also take into consideration:

  • Associated costs of registration and taking out insurance on the vehicle.
  • Repair costs How much will you be set back for routine servicing and/or any major problems or repairs experienced with the car?
  • Safety In addition to the used car safety ratings, check the ANCAP crash test ratings.
  • Security can be checked using the NRMA Insurance car theft ratings.
  • Rear visibility
  • Emissions Check the Green Vehicle Guide for ratings of the emissions and fuel consumption of car models.

New vs Used car safety ratings

ANCAP ratings are not directly comparable with UCSR. ANCAP conducts crash testing in a controlled laboratory setting, with three standard assessments – offset frontal, side impact, and pole crashes – to give a rating for occupant protection.

A pedestrian impact test simulates accidents in which a pedestrian is hit by an oncoming vehicle. The ratings also take into account the presence of safety features in determining the ability of the vehicle to protect its occupants, as well as to assist in preventing an accident from occurring (such as Electronic Stability Control).

By contrast, the UCSR are analysed using real-life data on all types of crashes to give a total secondary safety rating that combines crashworthiness and aggressivity. This rating doesn’t take into account the presence of safety features.


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