How safe is my car?

How safe is my car? What to consider.

As Kiwis, we spend a lot of time in our cars. The daily commute, the last minute getaway, carting the kids around. It’s worth taking the time to choose the right car – boot space is handy, keyless entry makes things easy, and bluetooth is ideal for road trip tunes. But a safe car literally saves lives. So how do we ensure we’ll be safe as houses when driving off in a used car? Here’s what to consider. 

Used Car Safety Rating 

The simplest way to judge safety is checking out the car’s safety rating. The USCR, Used Car Safety Rating, gives a rating out of 5 stars. It is based on real test data on used cars in Australia and New Zealand. Find the latest listings at The ratings really do make a difference – on average, a car with a one-star Used Car Safety Rating is around twice as likely to cause death or injury in a crash compared to a five-star rated car. 

ANCAP Safety Rating

As well as UCSR, the ANCAP Safety Rating also rates car safety. It’s important to note the difference between the two ratings. Used Car Safety Ratings is based on real test data on used cars. ANCAP ratings are based on testing new cars using laboratory data. The discrepancies have faced some recent controversy, so it’s worth checking out both ratings to get an overall idea of safety. 

Year of manufacture

While it’s important to note that newer cars aren’t necessarily safer, there are modern safety features that can help avoid a crash. Safety features to look for include side airbags with head protection, additional occupant airbags, three-point safety belts and ISOFix for any child seats. More modern features include lane keep assist, lane departure warning, autonomous emergency braking and electronic stability control. 

Condition of car 

Regardless of ratings and year, safety of a car can also be compromised if it’s in poor condition. Things to check include: 
– rust (especially structural corrosion) 
– shock absorbers 
– tyres: tread and pressure 
– safety belts 
– brakes 

A car in good condition will also require less maintenance, meaning less ongoing costs. A pre-purchase inspection is always a good idea in general, but will also help check for safety and mechanical reliability. 

Does a current WoF mean a car is safe? 

A Warrant of Fitness is designed to ensure all cars are roadworthy. But a current WoF doesn’t necessarily mean the car is safe, since it’s issued based on the condition at the time it was inspected. A WoF is also only a very basic safety check. 

Is a bigger car safer?

When comparing safety purely on size, it’s true that larger vehicles are safer than smaller ones. This is based on simple physics. A small car crashing into a small car is going to do less than damage than the same small car crashing into a big car. However the age of the cars (and their modern safety features) is important too – a smaller new car with all the features may provide more protection than an old, heavy 4WD. 

 Does colour matter? 

When it comes to safety, colour matters because it’s all about visibility. In research carried out by Monash University which analysed vehicle colours from crash data, white cars came out safest. White cars are 12% less likely to be involved in an accident than black cars – with cream, yellow and beige ranked closely behind.