Buyers' Guide: What are Used Car Safety Ratings?
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Earlier this month the latest round of Used Car Safety Ratings was announced. These arm second-hand car buyers with the latest information about a car’s safety on the road.
The AA is one of a number of motoring organisations that endorses the ratings, as they provide those scouring the car yards with valuable data relating to safer vehicles.
Who conducts this study?
Used Car Safety Ratings are calculated by Monash University’s Accident Research Centre using real-world data gathered from police reported crashes in both New Zealand and Australia. The numbers are crunched using an internationally-recognised method.
What’s the market coverage?
The total database used to inform this year’s ratings covered more than 7.5 million crashes and about 1.7 million injured road users between 1987 and 2015.
Vehicles aren’t rated until at least five years after they’re first sold. You can find plenty of safety data for newer vehicles on ancap.co.nz.
Models that have not been involved in at least 100 crashes and resulted in at least 20 injuries are also excluded from the study.
Still, more than 95 per cent of registered passenger and light commercial vehicles manufactured between 1982 and 2015 are covered.
What vehicle factors influence the results?
The ratings are influenced by a vehicle’s mass, its structural design, and the safety features it is fitted with such as airbags and seatbelt types. Unsurprisingly, newer models tend to be safer.
What do the ratings tell me?
While they don’t assess the likelihood of being involved in an accident due to the number of external, influencing factors, the ratings do assign a 1-5 star Driver Protection Rating to each vehicle.
Additional study findings take into account the risk of serious injury that vehicles pose to other road users.
Putting them into practice
The Used Car Safety Ratings are best used as a reference during your research process. There are plenty of other factors that determine whether a car meets your needs, such as its mileage and servicing costs.
We took a look at a few examples of vehicles listed online at the time of writing, and it became clear that a vehicle with a higher used car safety rating doesn’t necessarily have to be more expensive.
Say you’re in the market for a Subaru Impreza and have around $7500 to spend. A three-star rating has been designated to the model range manufactured between 2001 and 2007 and there are plenty of these listed within your price range.
However a four-star rating was assigned to models released between 2007 and 2011 and while the average price may be slightly higher, you can still find some 2009 models online within budget.
Or perhaps you need a second-hand ute, aren’t particularly fussy about the brand or the numbers on the clock, and are willing to spend around $10,000. We found a four-star rated Nissan Navara 2008 within budget online.
For the same price, you could get a 1997 Navara or a 2002 Holden Rodeo but these are three- and two-star rated. Or you could even end up with a one-star 1995 Toyota Hilux.
It becomes clear that whatever your search criteria, there are often vehicles that may meet your needs, and are also safer than others.
AA Motoring always recommends that you buy the safest vehicle you can afford but to understand that, it’s worth putting the time in to doing the research.
The best way to get familiar with Used Car Safety Ratings is to take a look for yourself, and you can find the latest listings online at aa.co.nz/ucsr or rightcar.govt.nz.