Choosing a car for your child

Aside from giving them good advice and ensuring they’ve learnt to drive safely and defensively, ensuring your child is driving a car with a good ANCAP safety rating is perhaps the best thing you can do to give yourself peace of mind that they’re as safe as possible when out on the roads. So what do these safety ratings really mean?

What is ANCAP and why trust their research?

ANCAP is the Australasian New Car Assessment Program and it is their vision to eliminate road trauma through the testing and promotion of safer vehicles. They are a leading independent vehicle safety advocate who provide advice and info on the level of protection offered by different vehicle models to both occupants and pedestrians in the most common kinds crashes, as well as the vehicle’s ability to avoid a crash in the first place.

What’s the best rating?

The more stars a vehicle has, the better it came out in tests. 5 stars is the maximum and it means the vehicle achieved the highest standards in all tests and features advanced safety assist technologies. Naturally, ANCAP recommend nothing less than 5 stars.

What does it mean to have a lower rating?

ANCAP have a handy diagram on their website that shows the parts of the body at risk from injury, and how serious that injury might be depending on the safety rating.

There’s also a video that shows a test crash of 3 different safety ratings; perhaps the most shocking thing is that the speed at which the vehicles were tested is only 64km/h. That doesn’t seem fast when you’re behind the wheel and when you think about it, an easy speed to sneak up to in a 60k zone.

injured girl standing beside car crash

Do used cars and older models have good safety ratings?

Whether you or your child is paying for the car, or maybe you’re splitting the cost, a brand new car (which is likely to have 5 stars) might be too expensive. But that doesn’t mean that older models don’t have good safety ratings too; for example both the Fiat 500 (2007 onwards) and Citroen C5 (2008 onwards) achieved 5 stars.

The AA also has a handy Used Car Safety Ratings guide that is free to download and gives older model cars a safety rating based on reports from millions of actual crashes reported to police in New Zealand and Australia.

The difference between these ratings and ANCAP safety ratings is that ANCAP rate new cars as they enterthe market and are determined by crash testing vehicles in a controlled setting while the used car safety ratings are calculated using data from police reports on actual crashes involving a range of drivers and all types of driving conditions.

We recommend you don’t compare ANCAP crash test results among vehicles with large weight differences, and only ever take any safety rating as an indication of protection a vehicle could offer in the event of a crash. The outcome also depends on how safely the vehicle is being driven.

What safety features should you look out for?

Vehicle safety features that may reduce the risk of death or significant injury include:

  • Front, side, knee and curtain airbags
  • Seatbelts designed to work with airbags
  • Crumple zones
  • Collapsible steering columns
  • High strength materials in the structure (ie; reinforced door frames)


Hopefully you now have a better idea of what you’re looking for in terms of safety when shopping around for a car for your child. If you need a little help, we recommend you go and talk to the good sports at Stadium Cars. They have a great range and know all about cars. Tell them what you need and they‘ll help you find the right thing.

If you want to feel more confident behind the wheel, book in for a driving course today.