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What Are Car Safety Ratings?


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In Australia we rely heavily on cars in our everyday life – with more than 50% of households owning two or more cars. Car safety ratings should be a consideration every time we purchase a vehicle.

While the numbers of road fatalities are decreasing, the rates of injuries sustained from car accidents have been climbing since 2001. Unfortunately, more than three people per day die in road related deaths.

If you have a choice about what your next car will be, whether it’s a new or used vehicle its car safety rating should be part of your consideration set. Everyone in your car will thank you for it – especially yourself.

Wondering about your current car’s safety rating? Check it at

Australian Car Safety Ratings Systems

In Australia, we have two safety rating systems. ANCAP (Australasia New Car Assessment Program) conducts testing on new passenger, SUV and light commercial cars. It publishes car safety ratings based on the vehicle’s performance.

The Used Car Safety Ratings (UCSR) program gives used vehicles their car safety ratings based on data from real world crashes investigated by the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC).

Testing of New Cars vs Used Cars

The ANCAP car safety ratings compare the safety of vehicles that are of similar size/weight – for occupants and pedestrians as well as its ability (via technology) to avoid or minimise effects of a crash.

Each year, the ANCAP safety criteria increases in difficulty. Why? To account for new advancements in technology and to ensure continuous improvement in manufacturers. This means cars with the latest testing date or ‘datestamp’ will be safer than those tested against less stringent criteria.

The UCSR report classifies cars according to their crash performance based on performance benchmark, and the relative safety in preventing serious injury to their drivers in crashes.

With car safety ratings changing on a regular basis thanks to ongoing testing, always check back throughout your car purchase decision making process. That way you’ll have the most up to date information to help with your decision.

Safety of New vs Used Cars

Some new cars are not necessarily safer than older models and many used cars rate well in terms of safety. Surprised?

Never presume when it comes to car safety. Do your research prior to buying a car and you’ll make a more informed decision you can be confident with.

Here are some safety features to look out for in your car shopping (used cars are less likely to have a number of these):

  • Curtain airbags
  • Side airbags
  • Electronic stability control
  • Traction control
  • Forward collision warning
  • Antilock brakes
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Tyre pressure monitor
  • Automatic high beams
  • Parking assist system
  • Accident avoidance system
  • Strong roof support pillars
  • Crash avoidance/protection features (if you’re thinking about a 4WD, as they’ve an increased likelihood of rolling accidents)

Want to know more about Australia’s safest cars? Click here. Further on car shopping, be sure you’re well prepared with a range of questions to ask the salesperson before you jump into a purchase decision. We help in this article about questions to ask when buying a car.

And, of course, it’s important to insure your car properly. Unsure which policy type is which? Check out our easy car insurance comparison.

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