Buying the safest used car doesn't have to break the bank

Car safety features

Brand. Size. Colour. Mileage. Price. There are many things to consider when buying a car. Among these, safety should be at the top of your criteria. As the updated Used Car Safety Ratings reveal you don’t have to sacrifice safety for price to buy a new set of wheels.

Buying a used car can be pretty daunting – there are so many cars to choose from and if we’re honest, most of us are often looking for the best deal rather than thinking about buying the safest car.

But following consecutive rises in the annual NSW road toll, it’s more important than ever for motorists to buy the safest car they can afford.

The good news is safety features aren't exclusive to new cars, with state of the art equipment such as Autonomous Emergency Breaking (AEB), Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and air bags now widely available in many used cars. Couple this with the release of the latest Used Car safety Ratings, and buying a safe second-hand car has never been so easy.

Safe choices for all price ranges

Expert analysis of hundreds of Australia’s most popular used cars and their involvement in millions of crashes forms the basis for the latest Used Car Safety Ratings.

While new cars with the latest technology provide the most safety of all, the Used Car Buyer's Guide reveals many of the safest vehicles on the list can be purchased from under $10,000.

In knowing poorest performing vehicles at driven by our most vulnerable drivers, this lower price point is particularly important for young drivers purchasing their first car or parents looking for a safe, reasonably-priced car for their kids, as well as elderly drivers with limited budgets.

“Your choice of a used car for yourself or your kids can make all the difference in a crash,” Melinda Pavey, Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight said.

“These ratings provide important information for people in the market to buy a used car showing how well a vehicle protects a driver in a crash.

“But they also show that you don’t have to compromise on safety if you don’t have a lot of money to spend.”

Calculating a ‘Safer Pick’

Monash University Accident Research Centre, in partnership with the NSW Centre for Road Safety, the NRMA and other members of the Vehicle Safety Research Group analysed records from more than 7.5 million vehicles involved in road crashes and 1.7 million injured road users in New Zealand and Australia between 1987 and 2015 to produce the ratings.

A total of 389 vehicle models manufactured from 1982 to 2015 are rated: of those, 278 were manufactured from 1996 to 2014.

A driver of the worst vehicle rated in this list is 10 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured than a driver in the safest vehicle listed.

The cars with the highest safety ratings incorporate important safety technologies such as Electronic Stability Control (ESC) which dramatically improves a vehicle’s road-holding capability and control for the driver, particularly in the case of utility vehicles.

Crash data shows us that a ute with ESC is a third less likely to be involved in a run-off-road crash than one without it, so it’s a bit no brainier to look for vehicles that have this potentially life-saving technology.

In fact a driver of the worst vehicle rated in this list is 10 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured than a driver in the safest vehicle listed – which shows just how important choosing a safe second-hand car can be.

A vehicle will not be included in the ratings analysis until it has been involved in at least 100 crashes and at least 20 driver injuries have been recorded.

This [Used Car Ratings] is especially important for two of our most vulnerable groups — young drivers looking for their first car and older drivers looking to downsize.

This means a typical vehicle has been on the market for at least four years before it gets a rating while current vehicle models are excluded from the Used Car Safety Ratings.

“The second hand car market is growing in popularity in Australia and as well it should – we are seeing an increasing number of safe and affordable cars available to Australian consumers.

“This is why the Used Car Safety Ratings are so important. They provide invaluable information to buyers about buying the safest car in their price range. This is especially important for two of our most vulnerable groups – young drivers looking for their first car and older drivers looking to downsize.” NRMA spokesperson Peter Khoury said.

Download the latest Used Car Safety Ratings and the Used Car Safety Ratings Buyer’s Guide 2017-18 and find out more about safer vehicles on the Centre for Road Safety website at roadsafety.transport.nsw.gov.au.

Safety ratings are created by using vehicle records from over 7.5 million police-reported road crashes and 1.7 million injured road users in New Zealand and Australia between 1987 and 2015.

The vehicle’s size and weight, design, and safety features it has, such as airbags and types of seat belts, are all taken into account.

A total of 389 vehicle models manufactured from 1982 to 2015 are rated. Of those models, 278 were manufactured from 1996 to 2014.

A vehicle will not be included in the ratings analysis until it has been involved in at least 100 crashes and at least 20 driver injuries have been recorded. This means, a typical vehicle has been on the market for at least four years before it gets a rating. Also, current vehicle models that have an ANCAP rating are excluded from the UCSR.

Vehicles labelled “Safer Pick” not only provide excellent protection to their own driver, but cause less serious injury to other drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists in a collision, and have a lower risk of being involved in a crash.

The average risk of death or serious injury to the driver in a crash in a 2015 car is nearly 50 per cent less than in a 1996 car.

Newer vehicles provide more protection in a crash as they use high-strength materials and have features like improved impact crumple zones and collapsible steering columns.

More and more newer vehicles are being fitted features that can help avoid a crash or reduce the severity if a crash does occur.

These include safety features like:

  • Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), including pedestrian detection
  • Anti-lock Brake System (ABS)
  • Blind Spot Warning
  • Brake assist
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
  • Front, side, curtain and knee airbags
  • Lane departure warning
  • Traction Control
  • Seatbelts with pretension devices designed to work with airbags

Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) have been shown to be particularly effective in helping to prevent crashes.

48 vehicle models are in the poor category, and a further 65 in the very poor category.

Many of these very poor performing vehicles are often driven by novice drivers.

Novice female drivers have high exposure to very poor performing small cars whilst the worst performing large cars are popular with novice male drivers.

This is despite the fact that novice drivers are the most likely driver group to be involved in a crash and hence require their vehicle to provide the very best protection from death or serious injury in a crash.

The UCSR are a vital resource for selecting a safe car for a novice driver.

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