New or used vehicle buyers

In the market for a new or used car, truck or motorcycle? Here are some of the key safety features to look out for.

    When you're in the market for a new or used vehicle look for the stars. Vehicles with a five star rating are the safest and most effective at protecting occupants in a crash.

    The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) tests new vehicles in crash labs to assign a star safety rating, while the used car safety ratings are calculated using real world crash data.

    Regional and remote drivers should consult A Consumer Guide to Safer Vehicles to find a vehicle suitable to the environment.

    Cars with higher star ratings do not necessarily cost more. In fact, many reasonably priced makes and models score well in safety ratings.

    Tyre maintenance

    Your tyres are the only contact between the road and your vehicle and it is essential they are maintained appropriately. Follow these tips for safe driving:

    • It is essential that your tyres are appropriately inflated as your vehicle will not steer, stop or respond in an emergency as expected if they are under-inflated.
    • Check the recommended inflation pressure for your tyre size.
    • It is best to check your tyre pressure when the tyres are cold.
    • Consider increasing your tyre pressure before embarking on long highway trips or when carrying or towing increased loads but consult your tyre dealer for the relevant advice.
    • Ensure your tyre tread is more than 1.5mm, if not it is time to replace your tyres as any less tread and the tyres are unsafe.
    • Check your tyres regularly for uneven wear or bald spots. Irregular wear is unsafe and can result in issues with the suspension and steering.
    • Irregular wear can also be expensive as it wastes tyres and increases fuel consumption.

    Safety features

    The average age of registered vehicles in WA is around 11 years, which is older than the national average of around 10 years.

    Older vehicles (pre 2002) make up 20% of registered vehicles but are involved in 36% of fatalities.

    If every vehicle on our roads was replaced with the safest vehicle of the same age, it would be possible to reduce fatal and serious injuries by 40%.

    That represents $2 billion savings to the Australian community every year through reduced trauma costs.

    The key safety features you should be looking for when purchasing a new car, truck or motorcycle include:

    Lane departure warnings

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    Electronic Stability Control

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    Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is an active safety system that reduces the risk of a driver losing control of the vehicle and helps reduce the chances of single vehicle or off-path crashes.

    ESC builds upon features such as Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS) and traction control to stabilise the vehicle when it deviates from the driver’s steered direction.

    International research shows that single vehicle crashes can be reduced by 35% in passenger vehicles and 67% in four wheel drive and sports utility vehicles fitted with ESC.

    ESC is also known by different names by different manufacturers:

    • Holden, Audi, Chrysler, Mercedes, Saab, Volkswagen: Electronic Stability Program (ESP)
    • Ford, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover: Dynamic Stability Control (DSC)
    • Toyota, Lexus: Stability/Swerve Control (VSC)
    • Mitsubishi: Active Stability Control (ASC)
    • Volvo: Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC)
    • Honda: Stability Assist (VSA)
    • Subaru, Nissan: Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC)

    Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS)

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    An Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) is a system which prevents the wheels from locking while braking.

    An ABS allows the driver to maintain steering control under heavy breaking by preventing a skid and allowing the wheel to continue to forward roll and create lateral control, as directed by driver steering inputs.

    Emergency Brake Assist (EBA)

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    Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) is a safety system in motor vehicles designed to ensure maximum braking power is used in an emergency stop situation. By interpreting the speed and force with which the brake pedal is pushed, the system detects if the driver is trying to execute an emergency stop. If the brake pedal is not fully applied, the system overrides and fully applies the brakes until the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) takes over to stop the wheels locking up.

    The system will not reduce the stopping distance of the car, but it will make sure that the car is stopped in the shortest distance that it potentially could by compensating for any hesitancy in applying the brakes hard in an emergency situation.

    Brake Assist is based on the ABS technology of a vehicle and will not be found on a vehicle without ABS. It should not change how drivers respond to an emergency – you should still brake as hard as possible.

    Seatbelt reminder system

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    A seatbelt reminder system is a system alerting the driver by means of sound and visual indications when a seatbelt should be worn. The target is to remind people that they have not fastened their belt. Some seatbelt reminder systems won't allow a vehicle to start until the belt is connected.

    Active head restraints

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    Head restraints limit the backward movement of the head during a rear-impact crash, reducing the chance of neck injury commonly referred to as whiplash. Head restraints meeting specific size and strength requirements are required at front seats, but not in rear seats. The newest type of head restraint is an active head restraint. During a rear-end crash, active head restraints automatically move forward to close the gap between the occupant’s head and the head restraint.

    Side and curtain air bags

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    Side and curtain airbags protect occupants in a side impact crash. Curtain airbags drop down from the top of the side window, creating a cushion between the occupant and the side of the car and typically protect the head and shoulders. Side airbags usually activate from the door panel, protecting the occupant’s torso.


    News story

    2020-2021 Used car safety guide released

    The Road Safety Commission encourages prospective car buyers to consider safety first, with the release of the latest Used Car Safety Ratings Guide (UCSR).
    Page reviewed 22 September 2021