Of all 10 vehicle categories studied by MUARC – light, small, medium and large cars; small, medium and large SUVs; people movers, commercial vans and utes – SUVs scored the most ‘safer picks’, including nine large SUVs, eight medium SUVs and one small SUV.
By contrast no light-car models achieved five-star status and while some commercial vans, commercial utes and people movers were rated five stars, none qualified as a ‘safer pick’.
MUARC deputy director, associate professor Stuart Newstead, says it is crucial to consider the safety rating when buying a second-hand car. “Vehicles rated one star were at least 90 per cent more likely to kill or seriously injure the driver in a crash compared to the safest vehicles,” he says.
Stuart says some of the safest used-vehicle models identified in this year’s study included the BMW 1 Series (2004-2013), Subaru Liberty (2009-2014), Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2009-2016), Audi Q3 (2012-2018), Hyundai Santa Fe (2012-2018), Volvo XC60 (2009-2017) and Toyota Prado (2009-2018). Each scored a five-star rating and qualified as a safer pick.
Unsurprisingly, the safest cars are later models manufactured in the past 10 years, and generally speaking the newer the car, the safer it is.
Researchers found the average risk of death or serious injury to the driver in a crash in a 2018-model car is more than 43 per cent less than in a 2000-model car.
Newer vehicle models have a wide range of safety features including front and side airbags and active safety aids such as electronic stability control.
Seven of Australia’s safest used car models for 2020
In the market for a new used car? These are some of the safest used-vehicle models for 2020, based on the latest Used Car Safety Ratings report. Each scored a five-star rating and qualified as a safer pick.
- BMW 1 Series (2004-2013)
- Subaru Liberty (2009-2014)
- Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2009-2016)
- Audi Q3 (2012-2018)
- Hyundai Santa Fe (2012-2018)
- Volvo XC60 (2009-2017)
- Toyota Prado (2009-2018)
Driving a (used car) bargain
Steer clear of inflated used-car prices. These are some of the best second-hand car deals to look out for when shopping around.
Roomy medium-size SUV: 1998 Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUV, starts around $4600.
Second family car or first car: 2004 BMW Series 1 hatchback, starts around $6240.
High-tech and comfortable hybrid sedan: 2015 Toyota Prius hybrid, starts around $13,300.
Premium sports SUV: 2009 Lexus RX 350, starts around $16,000.
*All these models are five-star-plus ‘safe picks’ and found through an internet search of car reviews and guides.