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.

Visit TAC's How Safe is Your Car to search for safe new and used vehicles by safety ratings, vehicle model, number plate or your budget.

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.

2021 Used car safety ratings: for vehicles built after 2000

Star ratings are given to vehicles based on real crashes in Australia and New Zealand where someone was killed or suffered a serious injury. Used Car Safety Ratings are an excellent resource for drivers looking to buy a safe, second-hand car.

Look for ‘Safer Pick’ ratings that are given to vehicles that cause less serious injury to other drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists if they are involved in a crash.  They also have a lower crash risk in addition to keeping drivers and passengers safe. A driver of the worst scoring vehicle is over eight times more likely to be killed or seriously injured than the driver in the best scoring vehicle.  

View the 2021 used car safety ratings

Some of the highest performing models each achieved five-stars and qualified as a ‘Safer Pick’:

  • BMW 1 Series (2011-2019)
  • Toyota Prius (2009-2016)
  • Audi A4 (2008-2015)
  • Subaru Liberty / Outback (2009-2014)
  • Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2009-2016)
  • Ford Kuga (2013-2016)
  • Hyundai Santa Fe (2012-2018)
  • Audi Q7 (2006-2014)
  • Volvo XC90 (2003-2015)

The findings show that safety and vehicle size play an important role in determining safety ratings. Lighter vehicles perform worse on average, and smaller cars that have safety features such as airbags as optional add-ons rather than a standard inclusion are generally less safe.

How ratings are calculated

Ratings are created using vehicle records from over 8.3 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.