Buying a car

Is your car safe enough? Car safety ratings explained

23 June 2020

When shopping for a new ride, it’s important to understand car safety ratings, and what exactly it takes to achieve the coveted 5-star rating.

Get to know the car safety authority

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) assesses the safety of most car models in Australia and New Zealand. Want to know how well your car ranks? Search for its make or model on ANCAP’s website. If you’re still hunting for that dream car and need some help narrowing down your options, you can sort models by safety rating, fuel type and more.

ANCAP uses a variety of tests, such as simulations of common accident types, to judge how safe a car is. You have twice the chance of surviving an accident (or avoiding serious injury) in a 5-star car than in a 3-star one.

To understand the specifics that go into car safety ratings, you need to understand the four areas vehicles are rated across.

In-car passenger protection


The safety of adult front and second row passengers is assessed under a category ANCAP calls "adult occupant protection". Safety is measured by the car’s ability to protect passengers against whiplash and multi-directional accident impact.


Child safety is at the top of any parent’s mind — that’s why it has its own specific category ("child occupant protection"). What’s measured here is how well the car protects kids seated in rear seat child restraints. The car’s ability to accommodate a range of restraints is also considered.

Safety technologies

This refers to the effectiveness of in-car safety technologies (the official name of this group is ‘’safety assist’’). So, things like your car’s seatbelt reminder and speed assistance.

Remember, choosing a 5-star rated car helps you protect you and your family against the uncertainties of the road — don’t settle for anything less. And don’t stop at personal safety! Think about how you can safeguard your wallet from accidents, too.

Our Comprehensive Car Insurance covers you for accidental loss or damage, whether it’s done to your car or other people’s property. Our cover also includes vandalism or malicious damage, and we’ll provide you with a hire car if yours is stolen. For more info on how your specific car model affects your policy, give us a call.

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Pedestrian safety

ANCAP also takes pedestrian safety into account when rating cars. This category is known as ‘’vulnerable road user protection’’. Cars with 5-star ratings do well when it comes to avoiding or minimising clashes with pedestrians and cyclists. Certain cars are structurally designed to reduce head injury and leg impact for people unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Look beyond the safety ratings

Although ANCAP is a reputable car safety authority, it’s good to also consider other factors that influence car safety.

Be aware of the dates

Safety ratings are constantly changing, which is why it’s worth taking note of the year a car was rated. While ANCAP ratings from 2008 are still safe, 2014 ratings are safer, and 2020 ones are the safest. Safety standards change as tech and testing improve. Eg, in 2018, ANCAP introduced female crash test dummies and started assessing child passenger protection. As a rule, new ratings should get more of your trust.

Consider size

Safety ratings are fairly accurate; however, they may fall short for a particular type of car: light city models. Their low weight gives them a disadvantage in real-world crashes, as larger models may have more inherent protective power. Your best bet is to view safety ratings as a useful guide, rather than gospel.

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Insurance is issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as Suncorp Insurance. Consider the Product Disclosure Statement. The Target Market Determination (TMD) is also available. This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it.

The information is intended to be of general nature only. Subject to any rights you may have under any law, we do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss or damage, including loss of business or profits or any other indirect loss, incurred as a result of reliance upon the information. Please make your own enquiries.