Buying a safer vehicle
Making good choices when it comes to your next vehicle can make a big difference to your chances of avoiding a crash, and can greatly improve your chance of survival if you are involved in a crash.
Safety features checklist
To help you avoid a crash and reduce your chance of being killed or seriously injured, always ask the following questions when buying a vehicle:
What is the Safety rating?
- Four or five stars are recommended for both new and used vehicles.
Are airbags fitted for both side and front impacts?
- Frontal (driver and front passenger) airbags.
- Side curtain or side head-protecting airbags.
Does it have electronic stability control (ESC)?
- Also known as Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), in addition to many others.
- What restraints does the vehicle have?
- Three-point (lap-sash) seatbelts for all seats.
- Adjustable head restraints for all seats – look for active head restraints that reduce the distance your head moves during an impact.
- Pre-tensioning seatbelts – actively tighten in a crash.
- Load-limiting seatbelts – minimise the force on the body during a crash.
- Child restraint anchor points – sufficient for the number of child seats required.
- Seatbelt reminder – sound or dashboard light warns when belts are not in use, and/or confirms which belts are fastened.
Other features to consider
Air conditioning – maximises driver comfort and ability to demist windows.
Automatic dimming rearview/side mirrors – reduce glare.
Automatic headlights – switch on when low ambient light is detected.
Cargo barrier – important for wagons, vans and 4WD vehicles to prevent injury if cargo shifts during a crash or sudden stop.
Cruise control – helps reduce driver strain on long trips.
Daytime running lights – increase vehicle visibility during daytime.
Over-speed warning device – alert the driver when the vehicle speed exceeds a speed that is set by the driver.
Rain-sensing windscreen wipers – adjust their speed in rainy conditions.
Reversing sensors/cameras – detect objects or people to the rear while reversing.
Seat and steering wheel adjustment – more adjustment helps ensure a safe driving position.
Tyre pressure monitoring – warns if a tyre loses pressure compared to the other tyres.
The Safety features checklist has been designed for you to print and take with you when buying a vehicle.
Passenger and light commercial vehicles with features for off-road use (commonly referred to as 4WDs) continue to be increasingly popular. If you are considering buying a 4WD off-road vehicle, remember that it is likely to have a higher centre of gravity compared to a car, may handle differently in some situations and is therefore more likely to be involved in rollover crashes. Look for electronic stability control (ESC), head-protecting side airbags, strong roof support pillars and structure, and the highest possible safety rating.
Also consider that your choice of vehicle can have a significant effect on other vehicle drivers, motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians. Statistical analysis of crash data by Monash University shows that large 4WD off-road vehicles are more likely to cause serious injuries to other road users in a crash than most other vehicle types. Also consider carefully if you really require items such as bullbars as these pose additional risks to drivers of lower vehicles, pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists in the event of a crash. Certain accessories must be removed entirely or retracted when not in use. Please read page seven of the Motor vehicle modifications booklet for further information.
For used vehicles
There are a few extra things to consider when buying a used vehicle:
- Do a vehicle search on the Personal Property Securities (PPS) Register website at www.ppsr.gov.au to make sure the vehicle is not under finance, stolen or previously written-off due to crash damage, fire or flood.
- Organise an independent mechanical inspection. Request a diagnostic electrical test to make sure electronic systems are functioning correctly. Safety systems including airbags, electronic stability control, traction control and antilock brakes may malfunction due to aged or faulty parts, or improper repairs following a crash. Diagnostic tests recommended by vehicle manufacturers are essential to ensure that safety features work as intended.
Finally, make sure the vehicle you have chosen meets safety certificate requirements.
Remember that in addition to choosing a safer vehicle, you must always wear your seatbelt, drive at or below the speed limit and obey all road rules.
Note: The pages in this section of the website contain numerous links to www.howsafeisyourcar.com.au*. The data on this website is sourced from the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) and the Used Car Safety Ratings (UCSR) program which are supported by all Australian automobile clubs, the New Zealand auto club, most state government road and transport authorities (including the Department of Transport and Main Roads), and both the Australian and New Zealand federal transport departments.