Why you should put safety first when shopping for a car

Modern technology will help keep you safer on the road.

There are many factors that influence a person’s decision to buy a car.

The vehicle’s cost, suitability for purpose and even its colour can all affect your final choice.

However, the factor that should be given priority is safety.

The number of crashes causing death and serious injury are significantly reduced when vehicles fitted with the latest safety features are involved. And for novice drivers, who statistically have a much higher risk of crashing, the choice of a safe vehicle becomes that much more important.

You can check the safety rating for hundreds of the most popular cars sold in Australia using the Used Car Safety Ratings (UCSR) Buyer’s Guide or the search tool on the Queensland Government’s StreetSmarts website.

The ratings, up to five stars, are calculated using data from crashes in Australia and New Zealand. 

The more stars a vehicle has the lower the risk of death or serious injury in the event of a crash. 

A vehicle needs to be involved in a large number of crashes to be accurately rated, so some less common or newer makes and models will not have a UCSR.

The safety of newer models can be assessed using the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) rating.

This is based on a car’s performance in a range of simulated crashes, fitment of vital safety features and technologies. 

Road safety logo

RACQ’s Principal Technical Researcher Russell Manning said safety features you should look for at a minimum when buying a car include a full set of airbags, anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control (ESC).

“Safety features such as electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes have been standard on virtually all passenger cars built in the last 10 years, however many light commercials, such as utilities didn’t have this important crash-avoidance technology,” Mr Manning said.  

“When deciding between different vehicles, or different models of the same vehicle, always choose the one with more of these features.”

The ratings are about the risk of death or serious injury to the driver and passengers of the vehicle in the event of a crash and are not about the risk of being involved in a crash.

Crash risk is generally determined by a range of factors including driver behaviour, vehicle condition and the road environment. 

“Just because your car is packed with safety features and you can feel a little more secure knowing they are likely to increase your chances of surviving a crash, they do not make you or your passengers indestructible, particularly at high speed or if you are not wearing a seat belt,” Mr Manning said.

Click here for more advice from RACQ on buying a car, including more information on safety.