How to choose the safest car for you

These days, cars are safer than ever. That’s good news.

But with a proliferation of car safety features available – each with its own jargon – it can be hard to understand exactly what’s what, and what you actually need.

Lane Keep Assist. Anti-lock Braking System. ANCAP star ratings. Electronic Stability Control. Curtain air bags. Active Blind Spot Protection. Autonomous Emergency Braking. Total Confusion.

So here’s your quick guide to car safety: everything you should look for in your new, trusty set of wheels.

Check out car safety ratings

Let’s start with the basics. Your first stop for intel is the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), which independently reviews the safety features offered by every new make and model hitting the showroom floor.

"Anyone in the market for a new vehicle should look for one that holds the maximum five-star safety rating," says ANCAP CEO James Goodwin.

Good news is, most new cars sold these days score the maximum rating – but if you’re looking at a used car, check how many stars it has before you take the plunge.

General car safety principles

In cars, size does matter. Basically, the bigger the vehicle, the better protection you will receive in a crash. So if you’re tossing up between a zippy little hatchback and a meatier compact SUV, that’s something to consider.

Also consider your colour preferences. Black vehicles are more likely to be involved in a daytime crash, studies show. For maximum confidence, white cars carry the lowest risk in all lighting conditions. Tick.

How to choose a safe car

Colour and size are good ways to limit the options, but how do you pick between contenders – especially when so many cars have identical 5-star safety ratings?

Take a closer look at the ANCAP car safety rating. Standards increase every year, so an older 5-star model could be less safe than a more recent one.

You can also drill down into the ANCAP score for each safety category (such as side impact, whiplash protection and pedestrian-friendly design), for more of an insight into exactly how each car performs.

If you’re looking at an older model, check out It holds a wealth of data based on statistics from car crashes across Australian and New Zealand from 1990 to 2013 where someone was killed or seriously injured. It’s sobering reading, sure, but invaluable to know.

Ready to find your new or used car? Take a look at Latitude Car Loans.