In 2015 there were more than 1,200 fatalities on Australian roads and countless accidents, with signs that this number will only increase in coming years. It might not be possible to prevent all accidents from happening, but driving a safe car makes you much more likely to walk away in one piece.
- People who drive cars with a one-star ANCAP safety rating are six times more likely to die in a car crash than someone driving a vehicle with a five-star ANCAP rating.
- You are twice as likely to die or be seriously injured in a three-star ANCAP safety rated vehicle than in a five-star vehicle.
Safe cars save lives every single day. Learn how you can find a safe vehicle with this guide.
How to use ANCAP safety ratings
ANCAP stands for the Australasian New Car Assessment Program. It rates cars from one to five stars for safety based on extensive testing. ANCAP recommends purchasing only five-star vehicles, and nothing less. These are cars that have tested very well across three main areas:
- Structural integrity. This is how well the shell of a vehicle withstands the forces of a car crash and channels the damage away from its occupants. This tests factors such as how well the crumple zone works and how durable the car’s shell is.
- Safety features. Built-in safety features are also assessed. ANCAP examines airbags, antilock braking systems (ABS), electronic stability control, seatbelt design and anything else that contributes to safety in the event of an accident.
- Safety assist technologies. The newest safety systems are also reviewed by ANCAP and graded alongside other features. These include autonomous emergency braking systems, blind spot monitors, fatigue monitoring systems and other features that reduce the odds of an accident occurring.
ANCAP grades cars by crash testing with dummies, analysing car performance, assessing each safety feature and other internationally recognised methods.
It’s been a long time since one or two stars has been acceptable. The bar has really risen to five stars, and the gap between the star ratings is big.
Michael Case, ANCAP representative
Tips for finding a safe car in Australia
When you compare ANCAP scores, remember the following:
- Car manufacturers are competing to produce the safest vehicles, so four- and five-star ratings are normal for new and recent cars. A three-star rating is inadequate, while one- and two-star ratings are dangerous.
- There is a big difference between each grade. A five-star rating is significantly safer than a four-star rating, which is in turn much safer than three stars.
- ANCAP scores are intended to be compared to vehicles of the same type. When comparing two vehicles of different types with the same star rating, the heavier one will generally, but not always, be safer for its occupants in the event of a crash.
There are a lot of four- and five-star options out there for different price ranges and types of cars, so you should have a full range of options to choose from.
What car types do you have to consider?
ANCAP has nine different vehicle categories and plenty of five-star options in each. Each category is defined by its general size, weight and shape rather than any particular technical differences, so ANCAP may have the same vehicle in more than one category. To find the safest car you should first know which type of car you’re after, then simply compare the safety ratings among vehicles of that type.
These vary widely in price and size. Newer and pricier vehicles usually have better safety features, but there are many well-rated options available.
- Small cars. This is the category with the smallest standard vehicles and includes popular models such as the five-star Kia Optima, Toyota Corolla and Hyundai Elantra, and the four-star Nissan Micra and Suzuki Alto. Read our guide on the bestselling small cars and pick the right one.
- Medium cars. Medium-sized cars including the five-star Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and more.
- Large cars. This category is for large cars, but not SUVs, vans or people movers. Newer five-star cars in this group include the Holden Commodore, Ford Falcon and the Tesla Model S.
SUVs are largely defined by their all-terrain capabilities and four-wheel drive, as well as other less obvious differences. Cars in the SUV category tend to have good safety features, but it’s always worth checking ANCAP scores before buying.
- Compact SUVs. The smallest of the sports utility vehicles, cars in this category include five-star options such as the Subaru Outback and Subaru Forester, and four-star choices such as the BMW 2 Series.
- Mid-sized SUVs. The Jeep Patriot, BMW X3, Mitsubishi Outlander and Hyundai Tucson are all five-star vehicles in the mid-size SUV group. Four-star SUVs include the Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Compass.
- Large SUVs. This is the largest SUV class and includes five-star choices such as the Holden Trailblazer, Toyota Landcruiser, Nissan Pathfinder and Ford Territory. The Fiat Freemont with its four-star rating also falls into this group, as does the Nissan Patrol, which only achieved a three-star safety rating.
Sports cars, people movers and vans
These cars are unique in their own ways, and it’s best to compare their safety features with equivalent types of vehicles. People movers, for example, are designed to carry a lot of passengers, which gives them unique safety and testing requirements.
- Sports cars. Expect five-star ratings as the norm for these valuable cars, and ideally don’t settle for anything less if you intend to drive it regularly.
- People movers. These cars have unique safety requirements on account of being designed to carry a lot of people. Opting for a five-star rated people mover is strongly recommended.
- Utes and vans. Five stars is the norm, but this category has widely varying ratings as some vehicles sacrifice safety for price and utility. This might suit your needs, but remember that ANCAP stars save lives and there are many four- and five-star options available.
What financing options do you have for a safe car in Australia?
A car is an investment, and a safe car is a particularly good investment. It’s important to remember that ANCAP stars are an actual indicator of how likely a car will be involved in an accident, and how likely it is that someone in that car will die if there is an accident. With thousands of accidents on Australian roads every year, this is crucially important. Lives are saved every day by people driving cars with high safety ratings.
Safety should always be a consideration when buying a vehicle, and there are good options in all price ranges and vehicle types. If you’re buying a second-hand car the ANCAP safety ratings still apply. It may be worth holding off on a purchase until you can find a safer car that suits your needs. If that’s not an option, then you may wish to consider financing options. Because there is such an enormous difference between less safe and safer cars, and even between the safer four- and five-star cars, it can be worth paying more for the safer option.
Now that you know how to find a safe car, you can compare your financing options.
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