You are here:

One in three used cars is below par for safety…. but it’s not all bad news


Sam with crashed used cars

Victoria's leading road safety advocates say it's disappointing that almost one-third of vehicles tested in the 2015 Used Car Safety Ratings; scored a Poor or Very Poor rating for occupant crash safety protection.

The ratings are based on work by the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) in conjunction with the RACV, TAC and VicRoads.

Of the 217 vehicles looked at 71 models were in the Poor or Very Poor category and RACV Manager Vehicle Engineering, Michael Case said these results were disappointing.

"There will always be vehicles that rate poorly in these types of studies, but to see almost a third with a poor or very poor rating is discouraging.   We would recommend anyone looking for a safe used car to give these models a wide berth."

Less than 10 per cent of the vehicles tested earned the coveted Safe Pick rating.  In addition to protecting their occupants, vehicles achieving the Safe Pick rating provide good protection for other road users including occupants of other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists in the event of a crash.

But Mr Case said it was not all bad news.

"In the Light Car category the Ford Fiesta manufactured from 2009-2013 did very well, scoring a five star Excellent rating. In fact many of the top rating used vehicles can be bought for less than $10,000 so in other words; safety doesn't have to be compromised by price," he said.

"For instance, a Safe Pick FG Falcon (2008-2013) can be had for under $8,000."

Other lower-priced top rating Safe Pick models include: Honda Civic (2006-11), Subaru Impreza (2007-11), Holden Captiva (2006-13) and Toyota Aurion (2006-12).

Mr Case said it was also pleasing to see evidence of manufacturers lifting their game on their newer vehicles.

"Vehicles like the Holden Statesman and its Commodore and Monaro stable-mates have shown quite a marked difference between older and newer. For example the WK Statesman achieved a Safe Pick rating while its closely related predecessor the WH Statesman only achieved a three star 'Marginal' rating. Even over this short period manufacturers like Holden added much more safety gear like ESC and side airbags, into these vehicles."

MUARC Senior Research Fellow Dr Stuart Newstead said the Used Car Safety Ratings are an excellent resource for motorists looking to purchase a safe, second-hand vehicle because they measure the performance of these cars in real crashes.

"A driver of the worst vehicle rated is more than six times as likely to be killed or seriously injured in a crash, compared with having the same type of crash while driving in the best vehicle.

"It is particularly important that young drivers are behind the wheel of one of the top rated vehicles, given that they have a higher than average crash rate."

TAC Manager Road Safety, Samantha Cockfield said while all motorists want to drive a car that keeps the occupants safe in a crash, it was important to consider the impact that vehicle would have on other road users, in the event of a crash.

"These ratings will help all motorists to choose vehicles that can achieve both these objectives," Ms Cockfield said.

VicRoads Manager Vehicle and Motorcycling Policy Don Leone encouraged everyone considering purchasing a used car to consult the 2015 Used Car Safety Ratings guide first.

"Driving a safe car is a crucial component in reducing the road toll. If every Victorian chose the safest car in their price range, road trauma could reduce by one third – that is up to 100 fewer people killed on our roads each year."

Unfortunately the Commercial categories are a concern. Whilst a number of commercial utilities and vans reached the Excellent rating category none of these were awarded Best Pick.  Disappointingly, small SUV's and Light and Small vehicle classes had the highest proportion of poor (30) and very poor (41) performing vehicles. At the larger end of the spectrum it was pleasing to note there were three Safe Pick vehicles in the Large SUV category, a segment that has been associated in the past with being risk to other road users.

The ratings are based on reports from more than seven million actual crashes from 1987-2013 reported to police in Australia and New Zealand. They cover more than 90 per cent of popular passenger and light commercial vehicles in the Australian market, manufactured between 1982 and 2013.

The Vehicle Safety Research Group which commissioned the research is comprised of the major motoring clubs and state motoring authorities in Australia and New Zealand and is a collaborative effort to drive down the road toll.

The UCSR ratings are searchable online using the find my car feature on this site  

Go Back to News

Other pages in this section