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.

2019 Used car safety ratings: for passenger vehicles built before 2017

Presented with easy-to-understand star ratings and based on real crashes, Used Car Safety Ratings are an excellent resource for motorists looking to buy a safe, second-hand car.

‘Safer Pick’ vehicles – which include safety assist technologies to prevent or reduce the risk of a crash – not only provide you with good protection, but also protect the occupants of other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

View the 2019 used car safety ratings

This year’s report covers the most popular vehicles in the Australian and New Zealand vehicle fleets.

  • 389 vehicle models manufactured between 1982-2017 were rated.
    • 300 of these were manufactured between 1998-2017 and don’t have a current ANCAP rating (2012 date stamp or after).
  • 69 vehicle models fell in the excellent (5-star) category, with 22 earning ‘Safer Pick’ status for excellent total primary safety, secondary safety and average or better aggressivity.
    • Primary safety: assesses the injury outcome of an unprotected road user (pedestrian, cyclist or motorcyclist) involved in a light vehicle crash (about 55% of crashes).
    • Secondary safety: measures how well a vehicle protects other road users when the vehicle is involved in a collision.
    • Aggressivity: the UCSR estimates the risk of death or serious injury (hospital admission) to another vehicle driver, pedestrian, cyclist or motorcyclists in a crash.
    • Most of these vehicles had safety technology available to reduce the risk of crashes, including electronic stability control and reversing sensors or cameras.
  • 56 models were rated in the poor (2-star) category and 66 in the very poor (1-star) category.
    • On average, vehicles with a 1-star category rating are around twice as likely to cause death or serious injury to a driver in the same crash compared to a 5-star rated vehicle.
  • Light and small car classes had the highest proportion of poor and very poor performing vehicles, as did small SUVs.

The findings reflect the role vehicle mass and safety specifications play in determining the safety rating. 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.

Cars to note

The Honda City, manufactured from 2009-2013, did very well In the Light Car category, scoring 5 stars. Likewise, the Jeep Compass made between 2007-2017 in the Compact SUV category also scored a 5-star ‘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 8.3 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.