Guide to Used Car Safety Ratings

Get information on the real-world safety performance of used cars before you buy.

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Safety should be the major consideration when buying a car. While there are standardised ratings for new cars, it can be trickier to know how older cars are faring. However, you can learn the general safety performance of used cars with Used Car Safety Ratings (UCSR).

Always do your due diligence when buying a used car, and consider taking a qualified inspector to check the car over professionally.

What are Used Car Safety Ratings?

UCSRs are based on data from 8.8 million real-world incidents where someone was killed or seriously injured. Statistics were sourced from police across Australia and New Zealand. This information was used to estimate a safety rating based on how well the vehicle protected both drivers.

It is possible that less popular cars and fairly recent models may not be rated. For these vehicles, you should check the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) rating.

How do USCRs compare to ANCAP safety ratings?

ANCAP ratings are for new vehicles and are produced under laboratory conditions. Each vehicle is put through a range of crash tests and a score is generated.

UCSRs are based on the actual safety performance of a car in real-world, public road accidents. UCSRs are also useful for old cars where there is no ANCAP rating. The ANCAP ratings include front and rear passenger test data in their ratings.

How are Used Car Safety Ratings calculated?

UCSRs use an international standard to determine a car's safety score. The rating is calculated based on the car's mass, structural design and safety features. Other factors that affect crash severity and level of injury, such as the driver's age and gender as well as the crash location, are taken into account so that the independent rating is based only on the car's performance.

How else can you judge the safety of a used car?

Modern cars have a range of safety features. Here are some of the common ones:

  • Front airbags. These help protect the driver and front passenger during a head-on collision.
  • Curtain airbags. Curtain airbags protect the head from striking the side door, window or external objects during a side collision.
  • Reverse parking camera. A camera, often with static or dynamic guidelines, that helps the driver see into their blind spot. Some vehicles have front cameras and 360° systems.
  • Parking sensors. Parking sensors, commonly installed on the rear (but also available for the front of the vehicle from certain car brands), act as an extra set of eyes. Using ultrasonic or electromagnetic sensors, the car can detect obstacles. This is often relayed to the driver through a constant audible tone that changes as they near the object, as well as a graphic that shows the approximate location and distance.
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC). This feature helps reduce skidding and loss of control due to oversteering by individually braking the wheels.
  • Lane Departure Warning (LDW). If you start to drift from your lane, without the indicator on, this system will sound an alert.
  • Lane Keep Assist (LKA). Like Lane Departure Warning, LKA aims to help a driver remain in the lane. It does this by physically steering the car back to the centre of the lane, or by applying the brakes on one side to straighten the vehicle out. Also called a Lane Support System.
  • Driver Attention Warning (DAW). DAW can monitor the driver, and their vehicle inputs, for signs of fatigue.
  • Traction control (TC). Traction control slows wheel rotation by optimising road grip, either through braking or the engine.
  • Auto Emergency Braking (AEB). This feature can alert the driver to imminent impacts and apply the brakes independently if the driver doesn't react.
  • Blind Spot Warning/Monitoring (BSW/BSM). Sensors will monitor areas that the driver can't see to provide them with a visual or audio warning if a vehicle or object is detected.
  • Seatbelts. Seatbelts protect passengers and drivers from being thrown out of the vehicle during a collision.
  • Crumple zones. These zones help absorb impacts and reduce the force of collisions.
  • Post-Collision Braking. Once you've had a smash, a car with Post-Collision Braking applies the brakes to mitigate your car rolling and suffering a successive crash.

While price is always a consideration when buying a car, safety should be the priority. There are safer cars available at all price points. Research suggests that a driver of one of the worst-rated cars is 6 times more likely to die or be seriously injured than someone driving the highest-rated vehicle.

Check your Used Car Safety Rating

Used Car Safety Ratings and rust

Steel. It's a versatile material used extensively in modern car construction, but it does have a weakness. When left unprotected, the iron in the metal begins to oxidise forming rust. As the rust starts to take hold, components begin to corrode and lose integrity. Eventually, parts can fail.

In 2018, Swedish insurance company Villaägarnas Riksförbund commissioned ANCAP's European counterpart to crash test older, rusty vehicles. The results were sobering.

Rust causes weakness in used cars

A British crash test laboratory conducted the assessments. The used car models chosen were the first-generation Mazda6 and the Mark 5 VW Golf, both produced from 2003-2008. Engineers selected these cars as they are representative of 2 different vehicle classes, but also commonly suffer from rust issues in crucial areas, as you might expect from second-hand vehicles of this age.

Researchers showed that rust causes metal to lose structural integrity and become weakened. So an older vehicle doesn't perform as it did when initially crash tested. This problem is further compounded when you consider ageing models feature fewer modern safety technologies.

A rusty older car presents 20% higher death risk

A Mazda6 underwent the test.

In a frontal impact collision, the crash test dummy's head made contact with the steering wheel after the airbag bottomed out. The dummy then bounced off the wheel into the door upright. The car's body shell deformed in an unexpected manner and the floor caused lower leg injuries when spot welds failed and separated. Crash engineers noted that a weak floor could allow objects to pierce the vehicle's underside and enter the cabin, with obvious disastrous consequences.

Over the decade since production ceased, Mazda's sedan dropped from a 4 out of 5 to a weaker 3 points. In total, it shed 8 points on NCAP's scoring system.

Researchers concluded that in a heavily corroded vehicle, occupants had a 20% higher likelihood of dying in a crash.

The VW Golf, on the other hand, performed comparatively well, losing just a single point from its original crash score. This underlines a key finding of the study, that each car rusts in a unique and individual way due to use, the conditions it's exposed to and other variables.

Importantly, the laboratory tested both cars to the same standards as when they were new, not to more recent and stringent evaluations.

Identifying rust

Manufacturers apply anti-corrosion paints and surface treatments to crucial components at the factory, but eventually stone chips and wear cause coatings to break down. Drivers living on the coast will suffer accelerated oxidisation, thanks to a high salt content in the air. Vehicles used to launch boats and those driven onto the beach also experience accelerated rusting.

You can identify rust by bubbling, flaky paint and a red/brown pitting. Rust generally starts small but gets worse if left untreated. If you are buying a car, you must look underneath the body and examine the condition of structural metal components. If you see ragged holes and lots of loose corrosion, the car may be too far gone.

It's possible to use a hammer (or another metal tool, like a screwdriver) to gauge the condition of the underlying metal. If you tap the steel and it produces a sharp, defined ring, the metal should be in sound condition. If tapping makes a dull thud, the steel has most likely started corroding.

Preventing rust

Once the rust on a body panel or vehicle component reaches a certain point, it will need replacing (or repairing by a professional welder). You are far better off preventing rust by taking some simple precautions.

  • If you drive in sea water or even on the beach, take time to wash the vehicle off with fresh water. This eliminates salt which is a catalyst for oxidisation. Pay particular attention to the underside of your vehicle too (though watch out for electronics and wiring).
  • If you spot surface rust (light rust) on the underside of the vehicle, wash and dry the area. Then abrade the surface to remove pitting and flakes, and overpaint with a corrosion inhibitor and anti-corrosion primer/topcoat. Look for marine-grade products as these often perform the best.
  • Coating nuts and bolts with a non-metallic lubricant can ward off rust and make removal easier. There are also anti-corrosion sprays available.
  • If you notice a window, door or seal is leaking, get it fixed right away!

Newer cars are safer

Research shows that newer vehicles are statistically safer. You can use our car loan comparison to find a great deal on a modern car.

Drivers will find our article on what happens to your body in a car crash an eye-opening read.

Compare new car loan options below

$
Name Product Interest Rate (p.a.) Comparison Rate (p.a.) Monthly Repayment View Details CTA
IMB New Car Loan
4.88%
(fixed)
5.23%
You'll receive a fixed rate of 4.88% p.a.
A low minimum borrowing amount of $2,000 that you can use to purchase a new car or one that's up to two years old.
You'll receive a fixed rate of 4.88% p.a.
A low minimum borrowing amount of $2,000 that you can use to purchase a new car or one that's up to two years old.
Plenti Car Loan
From
4.89%
(fixed)
5.44%
You'll receive a fixed rate from 4.89% p.a.
Borrow up to $100,000 with a Plenti Car Loan and benefit from no early repayment or exit fees.
You'll receive a fixed rate from 4.89% p.a.
Borrow up to $100,000 with a Plenti Car Loan and benefit from no early repayment or exit fees.
Credit Concierge Car Loan
From
2.99%
(fixed)
4.07%
You'll receive a fixed rate of 2.99% p.a. with a comparison rate of 4.07% p.a.
Get access to over 20 providers to fund a new or used car.
You'll receive a fixed rate of 2.99% p.a. with a comparison rate of 4.07% p.a.
Get access to over 20 providers to fund a new or used car.
loans.com.au - New and Dealer Used Car Loan
3.99%
(fixed)
4.53%
You'll receive a fixed rate of 3.99% p.a. based on your risk profile
Finance a new car and benefit from features such as fast approval, no ongoing fees and an optional balloon payment. Settle the loan before 30 November 2021 and enter the draw to win a $1,000 fuel gift voucher. T&Cs apply.
You'll receive a fixed rate of 3.99% p.a. based on your risk profile
Finance a new car and benefit from features such as fast approval, no ongoing fees and an optional balloon payment. Settle the loan before 30 November 2021 and enter the draw to win a $1,000 fuel gift voucher. T&Cs apply.
Alex Bank Car Loan
From
4.99%
(fixed)
4.99%
You'll receive a fixed rate between 4.99% p.a. and 19.99% p.a.
Borrow up to $30,000 for terms between 6 months and 5 years to finance a car. The one-off $295 establishment fee will be waived for loan applications submitted by 3 November 2021. T&Cs apply.
You'll receive a fixed rate between 4.99% p.a. and 19.99% p.a.
Borrow up to $30,000 for terms between 6 months and 5 years to finance a car. The one-off $295 establishment fee will be waived for loan applications submitted by 3 November 2021. T&Cs apply.
Wisr Secured Car Loan
From
4.74%
(fixed)
5.01%
You'll receive a personalised interest rate from 4.74% p.a. to 16.01% p.a. based on your risk profile
A flexible car loan from $5,000 - $63,000 with personalised rates and rewards for strong credit customers.

⭐Special Offer: Wisr's standard establishment fee $605 will be reduced to $195 for applications submitted through Finder. T&Cs apply.
You'll receive a personalised interest rate from 4.74% p.a. to 16.01% p.a. based on your risk profile
A flexible car loan from $5,000 - $63,000 with personalised rates and rewards for strong credit customers.

⭐Special Offer: Wisr's standard establishment fee $605 will be reduced to $195 for applications submitted through Finder. T&Cs apply.
Stratton Finance New Car Loan
From
3.85%
(fixed)
4.05%
You'll receive a fixed rate from 3.85% p.a. depending on the lender you are approved with
Apply for up to $250,000 and use cash or trade in a vehicle to use as a deposit. Optional balloon payment available.
You'll receive a fixed rate from 3.85% p.a. depending on the lender you are approved with
Apply for up to $250,000 and use cash or trade in a vehicle to use as a deposit. Optional balloon payment available.
NRMA New Car Loan
From
4.99%
(fixed)
5.69%
You'll receive a fixed rate from 4.99% p.a.
Purchase a new or used car up to 3 years old and benefit from a fixed rate and no monthly fees. Pre-approval available within 5 business hours.
You'll receive a fixed rate from 4.99% p.a.
Purchase a new or used car up to 3 years old and benefit from a fixed rate and no monthly fees. Pre-approval available within 5 business hours.
Great Southern Bank Fixed Rate Car Loan
6.79%
(fixed)
7.16%
You'll receive a fixed rate of 6.79% p.a.
A secured loan with a high maximum borrowing amount up to $100,000. Redraw facility and no monthly fees.
You'll receive a fixed rate of 6.79% p.a.
A secured loan with a high maximum borrowing amount up to $100,000. Redraw facility and no monthly fees.
NAB Personal Loan Unsecured Fixed
From
6.99%
(fixed)
7.91%
You'll receive a fixed rate between 6.99% p.a. and 18.99% p.a. ( 7.91% p.a. to 19.83% p.a. comparison rate) based on your risk profile
Borrow from $5,000 to $55,000, with 1 to 7 year loan terms available. This loan comes with no fees for extra repayments and no early exit fees.
You'll receive a fixed rate between 6.99% p.a. and 18.99% p.a. ( 7.91% p.a. to 19.83% p.a. comparison rate) based on your risk profile
Borrow from $5,000 to $55,000, with 1 to 7 year loan terms available. This loan comes with no fees for extra repayments and no early exit fees.
Symple Loans Personal Loan
From
5.75%
(variable)
6.47%
You'll receive a personalised interest rate from 5.75% p.a. to 25.99% p.a. based on your risk profile
Borrow up to $50,000 to pay for what you need.
You'll receive a personalised interest rate from 5.75% p.a. to 25.99% p.a. based on your risk profile
Borrow up to $50,000 to pay for what you need.
SocietyOne Car Loan
From
5.95%
(fixed)
5.95%
You'll receive a fixed rate between 5.95% p.a. and 17.49% p.a. based on your risk profile
A loan from $5,000 to use for a range of purposes. Benefit from no ongoing fees and no early repayment fee.
You'll receive a fixed rate between 5.95% p.a. and 17.49% p.a. based on your risk profile
A loan from $5,000 to use for a range of purposes. Benefit from no ongoing fees and no early repayment fee.
OurMoneyMarket Car Loan
From
5.35%
(fixed)
5.65%
You'll receive a fixed interest rate from 5.35% p.a. to 14.99% p.a. based on your risk profile.
Borrow between $2,001 and $75,000 to finance a new or used car up to 7 years.
You'll receive a fixed interest rate from 5.35% p.a. to 14.99% p.a. based on your risk profile.
Borrow between $2,001 and $75,000 to finance a new or used car up to 7 years.
NRMA Used Car Loan
From
6.24%
(fixed)
6.94%
You'll receive a fixed rate from 6.24% p.a.
Finance a used car with NRMA and benefit from a fixed rate term and no monthly fees. Pre-approval available within 5 business hours.
You'll receive a fixed rate from 6.24% p.a.
Finance a used car with NRMA and benefit from a fixed rate term and no monthly fees. Pre-approval available within 5 business hours.
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Compare the used car loan options below

$
Name Product Interest Rate (p.a.) Comparison Rate (p.a.) Min Loan Amount Loan Term Application Fee Monthly Service Fee Monthly Repayment
loans.com.au - New and Dealer Used Car Loan
3.99% (fixed)
4.53%
$5,000
3 to 5 years
$400
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate of 3.99% p.a. based on your risk profile
Finance a new car and benefit from features such as fast approval, no ongoing fees and an optional balloon payment. Settle the loan before 30 November 2021 and enter the draw to win a $1,000 fuel gift voucher. T&Cs apply.
Plenti Car Loan
From 4.89% (fixed)
5.44%
$10,001
3 to 7 years
from $249 to $799
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate from 4.89% p.a.
Borrow up to $100,000 with a Plenti Car Loan and benefit from no early repayment or exit fees.
Credit Concierge Car Loan
From 2.99% (fixed)
4.07%
$10,000
1 to 7 years
$350
$8.50
You'll receive a fixed rate of 2.99% p.a. with a comparison rate of 4.07% p.a.
Get access to over 20 providers to fund a new or used car.
Alex Bank Car Loan
From 4.99% (fixed)
4.99%
$2,100
6 months to 5 years
Waived $295 establishment fee
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate between 4.99% p.a. and 19.99% p.a.
Borrow up to $30,000 for terms between 6 months and 5 years to finance a car. The one-off $295 establishment fee will be waived for loan applications submitted by 3 November 2021. T&Cs apply.
Wisr Secured Car Loan
From 4.74% (fixed)
5.01%
$5,000
3 to 7 years
$195 for refinance and dealer sale ($245 for private sale)
$0
You'll receive a personalised interest rate from 4.74% p.a. to 16.01% p.a. based on your risk profile
A flexible car loan from $5,000 - $63,000 with personalised rates and rewards for strong credit customers.

⭐Special Offer: Wisr's standard establishment fee $605 will be reduced to $195 for applications submitted through Finder. T&Cs apply.
NRMA Used Car Loan
From 6.24% (fixed)
6.94%
$5,000
1 to 7 years
$499
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate from 6.24% p.a.
Finance a used car with NRMA and benefit from a fixed rate term and no monthly fees. Pre-approval available within 5 business hours.
Great Southern Bank Fixed Rate Car Loan
6.79% (fixed)
7.16%
$5,000
1 to 7 years
$265 ($175 Establishment Fee + $90 Security Administration Fee)
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate of 6.79% p.a.
A secured loan with a high maximum borrowing amount up to $100,000. Redraw facility and no monthly fees.
OurMoneyMarket Car Loan
From 5.35% (fixed)
5.65%
$2,001
1 to 7 years
$250
$0
You'll receive a fixed interest rate from 5.35% p.a. to 14.99% p.a. based on your risk profile.
Borrow between $2,001 and $75,000 to finance a new or used car up to 7 years.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Compare car insurance side-by-side and get quotes

Name Product Roadside Assistance Accidental Damage Storm Choice of Repairer Agreed or Market Value
Budget Direct Comprehensive
Optional
Optional
Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: Awarded the 2021 Finder Award for Car Insurance - Value in QLD, SA, TAS, VIC, WA and Car Insurance - Features in NSW, VIC, WA, this policy offers solid coverage at a low cost. Budget Direct's claims service has received a 4.2/5 based on nearly 5,000 customer reviews.

⭐ Current offer: Get 15% discount on first year's premium when you take out a policy online. T&Cs apply.

Who it might be good for: People who want a comprehensive policy without breaking the bank.
Australia Post Comprehensive
Optional
Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: Australia Post car insurance offers comprehensive cover for things like theft, fire, new for old replacement and emergency accommodation and transport. Cover also extends to anyone who uses your car, not just you.

⭐ Current offer: Get $75 off your first year’s premium when you buy online. T&Cs apply.

Who it might be good for: If multiple people use the one car and you don’t want to worry about listing all drivers.
Bingle Comprehensive
Market
Finder's summary:Bingle consistently comes up as one of the cheaper insurers out there. It only covers the basics. You don't get to choose your own repairer, you're not covered for personal items in the car and unless you add it as an option, you won't get a hire car if your car is stolen. But this keeps its premiums low.

Who it might be good for: Someone who wants a low-cost option that covers them for the basics.
Coles Comprehensive
Optional
Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: With Coles comprehensive car insurance, you could earn double flybuys points at Coles supermarkets and you can get $10 off your Coles grocery bill every time you redeem 2,000 Flybuys points. If your car is damaged, you could benefit from a one-week turnaround on repairs.

⭐ Current offer: Get 10% off your first year's premium when you take out a policy online. T&Cs apply.

Who it might be good for: Coles customers and Flybuys collectors.
Virgin Comprehensive
Optional
Optional
Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: Finalists for the 2021 Finder Awards for Best Car Insurance - Value in VIC, QLD, SA, WA and TAS, Virgin Comprehensive provides a good level of cover for a decent price.

⭐ Current offer: Get 15% off on your first year’s premium when you purchase a new eligible comprehensive car insurance online. T&Cs apply.

Who it might be good for: People who'd like to manage their policy online 24/7.
Huddle Black Comprehensive
Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: Huddle's black comprehensive is its cover with highest limits and exclusive benefits. It includes roadside assistance. You can also get up to $2,000 for emergency travel and accommodation and up to $30 million legal liability cover.

Who it might be good for: Someone who wants a 24/7 claims processing.
Youi Comprehensive
Optional
Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: Youi Comprehensive Car Insurance is one of the few providers to include roadside assistance in its policy. You'll also get access to YouiRewards which gives you discounts on furniture, parking and more. Youi also has a live chat feature on its site to talk through any questions.

Who it might be good for: People over 25 who want comprehensive cover with a focus on customer service.
QBE Comprehensive
Green Company
QBE Comprehensive
Optional
Agreed or Market
Finder's summary: QBE is a sustainable insurance company and also Finder's Green Insurer of the Year 2021 award winner. This policy offers the highest level of protection available from QBE including three-year new car replacement.

⭐ Current offer: Save $75 when you purchase a new comprehensive policy online. T&Cs apply.

Who it might be good for: Those that are looking for a more environmentally friendly insurance choice.
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Picture: Shutterstock

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Car Loan Offers

Important Information*
Logo for IMB New Car Loan
IMB New Car Loan

You'll receive a fixed rate of 4.88% p.a.
A low minimum borrowing amount of $2,000 that you can use to purchase a new car or one up to two years old.

Logo for Beyond Bank Low Rate Car Loan "Special Offer"
Beyond Bank Low Rate Car Loan "Special Offer"

You'll receive a fixed rate of 4.69% p.a.
Take advantage of a competitive rate, pre-approval and no early repayment fees when you finance a car under two years old.

Logo for RACV New Car Loans
RACV New Car Loans

You'll receive a fixed rate from 4.99% p.a.
A larger loan of $5,000 or more to help you buy a new or used car. 5-hour pre approval available and no ongoing fees.

Logo for NRMA New Car Loan
NRMA New Car Loan

You'll receive a fixed rate of 4.99% p.a.
Purchase a new or used car up to 2 years old and benefit from a fixed rate and no monthly fees. Pre-approval available within 5 business hours.

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