Car safety ratings and tests

Discover what’s involved in a safety test and what vehicles rank best.

Thinking of buying a new or used car? The most important feature of any car is the level of protection it gives occupants and other road users in a crash, so it’s essential that you have the information you need to make an informed decision.

RACV and the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP)

ANCAP test in action

ANCAP is Australasia’s independent vehicle safety authority. As a founding member of ANCAP, RACV has been conducting vehicle crash testing and publishing the results for over 20 years.

Even though all car-makers perform their own crash testing to prove they meet the Australian Design Rules (ADRs), rapid improvements in vehicle design and safety technologies mean most new cars now provide protection well above the required minimum.

ANCAP recognises this and has much more demanding criteria. To make the results easy to understand, ANCAP assigns a star rating to measure a vehicle’s occupant protection. The higher the score the greater the safety.

How testing is done

ANCAP uses a range of crash tests undertaken by specialist laboratories. In each test, dummies are used to measure the forces on occupants in the crash, which are then assessed with a physical examination of the vehicle to determine a test score. RACV sends their own vehicle engineers to attend these crashes.

Visit ANCAP to find out more.

2018/19 Used car safety ratings: for passenger vehicles built before 2017

Used Car Safety Ratings are an excellent resource to help motorists buy a safe, second-hand car because the ratings are based on real crashes. A ‘Safer Pick’ rating not only provides you with good protection but also protects the occupants of other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

View the 2018-2019 used car safety ratings

Top Used Car Safety Picks

Disappointingly, more than a third of vehicles scored a ‘Poor’ or ‘Very Poor’ rating for occupant crash safety protection.

The story is even worse in the ‘Light Car’ and ‘Compact SUV’ categories where a whopping 77% and 72% of vehicles occupy the lower two ratings.

The Good News

The Honda City manufactured from 2009-2013 did very well In the Light Car category, scoring 5 stars. Likewise, the Volkswagen Tiguan made between 2008-2016 in the Compact SUV category also netted a ‘Safer Pick’ rating. Both cars can be bought for less than $10,000.

Visit TAC’s  How Safe Is Your First Car for a list of more safe vehicles selling for under $5000, $10,000 and $20,000.

How ratings are calculated

Ratings are created using vehicle records from over 8 million police-reported road crashes in Australia and New Zealand. The also consider the vehicle’s size and weight, and design and safety features (such as airbags and types of seatbelts).

The Driver Protection Ratings show the risk of death or serious injury to the driver in the event of a crash. They consider factors including:

  • driver gender and age
  • type of road user involved
  • speed limit
  • number of vehicles involved
  • year and location of crash.

The ratings don’t assess the risk of being involved in the crash in the first place, which can be influenced by a range of factors, including:

  • vehicle technology
  • driver behaviour
  • vehicle condition
  • road environment.

Additional ratings are calculated that estimate the injury risk the vehicle poses to other road uses in a crash and the likelihood of being involved in a crash based on the avoidance features fitted. These ratings are used together with the Driver Protection Rating to designate vehicles as a ‘Safer Pick’.

The ratings are based on work by the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) in conjunction with the RACV, TAC and VicRoads.