How To Compare Safety Features When Buying A New Car

If you're in the market for a new car, you may have seen the term "ANCAP safety rating" floating around. This is a regulatory system that rates the likelihood of a serious injury occurring in the event of an accident. The following guide explains how ANCAP ratings are determined and why you shouldn't solely rely on them when comparing different car models. We've also thrown in some general road safety tips that every motorist should follow.

Photo: ANCAP

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) appraisal is the leading independent vehicle safety rating awarded to cars released in Australasia. On a five-point scale, The ANCAP rating measures the likelihood of serious injuries sustained by occupants of a car involved in an accident. Low ratings mean the driver and passengers have a higher chance of being injured in a crash.

ANCAP recommends consumers accept no less than a five-star rating, especially when researching cheap new cars. Vehicles are also awarded points if they are fitted with standard safety features, such as Electronic Stability Control, Anti-lock Braking Systems, Blind Spot Monitoring Systems and Driver Fatigue detection.

To be awarded an ANCAP five-star rating, a vehicle must achieve the highest internationally recognised standards in all test categories, including a front on collision at 64km/h. Although the rating system is highly reliable, ANCAP explains that it is not appropriate to compare the ratings between vehicle categories, particularly when models vary significantly in weight and height.

This is because larger, higher cars can often have an advantage in car-to-car crashes, meaning a lower ANCAP rating may not result in the vehicle being any less safe than a smaller model with more stars.

That being said, it should go without saying that a 5-star rating on your car is not the only step you can take to ensure your safety. We share the roads with thousands of other road users and it stands to reason that accidents can happen. Below are some tips to ensure you remain safe in your new car.

Wear a seatbelt

It might seem like an obvious piece of advice in 2014, however you should wear a seatbelt even if you’re only travelling a very short distance. An accident can occur anytime and anywhere. Wearing a seatbelt almost doubles your chances of survival in an accident. There is a reason that an unaccompanied driver will lose 3 demerit points and be fined $298 for not wearing a seatbelt.

Don’t allow yourself to get tired

According to the Centre for Accident Research and Safety, driver fatigue contributes to 40%-50% of all crash types. Driver fatigue is particularly dangerous because it affects your judgement and therefore your driving ability.

Although there are now driver fatigue alert systems that can detect when a driver is becoming drowsy, it is important to take a break every two hours. Even when you don’t feel tired, it is important to rest.

    If you are setting out on a long journey, please make sure to:

  • Get enough rest the night before.
  • Avoid driving at high risk times if possible (during the night).
  • Take frequent breaks. Stop the car, get out and stretch your legs for five minutes. It can make all the difference.
  • Drive at, or below, the speed limit

    The speed limit is not an arbitrary number. It is the maximum allowable speed and has been enforced for a reason. The faster you drive, the harder the impact if you hit something. If you are travelling in a 60 km/h zone, your chances of being involved in a crash double with every 5 km/h increase in speed. Travelling at 65 km/h in a 60 km/h zone, you are twice as likely to be involved in a crash.

    Make sure to engage in safe driving behaviours that don’t put yourself, your passengers or other road users at unnecessary risk.

    Get your car serviced regularly

    Making sure your car is serviced regularly will ensure that it is as safe as it can be. Getting a regular service is also a lot cheaper in the long run as your mechanic can prevent small problems becoming big problems at a later date.

    Making sure your brakes and tires are in good condition will give you the best possible chance to avoid or seriously reduce the chance of being involved in a crash. Regular servicing will also save you money, as your car will run more smoothly, and safe fuel over long distances.

    Shiju Thomas is the general manager for online car sourcing website Autogenie.


    " If you are travelling in a 60 km/h zone, your chances of being involved in a crash double with every 5 km/h increase in speed. Travelling at 65 km/h in a 60 km/h zone, you are twice as likely to be involved in a crash."

    Source? That statistic seems to require a bit more interpretation. Is that every 5k increase over the speed limit? And if so, is that a function of the speed or the attitude of the type of driver who is exceeding the speed limit?

      According to the NSW Centre for Road Safety
      5km over = double the risk,
      10km over = 4 times,
      15km over = 11 times and
      20km over = 32 times the risk (big jump here!)

    How to compare safety features when buying a new car summarised:

    - Look at the ANCAP rating
    - Compare size and weight of cars (larger cars with lower rating doesnt mean its less safe than sedan with 5 stars)

    Are these really the only two ways to compare safety features when buying a new car? I feel kinda disappointed after reading this article for almost stating the obvious.

      I was just going to comment "Compare the ancap rating". I haven't read the article, but I doubt it says anything more informative than that.

      Also it kind of meanders into how to be safe. All the sub headings are for after you have bought a car.

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