5-stars, 4-stars, 3-stars, it doesn't seem to matter, the bigger the car, the safer, according to QLD's RACQ. The motoring body yesterday released the Used Car Safety Ratings Guide and urged all motorists to check safety ratings before buying a used car.With over 279 vehicles tested, the RACQ guide noted a significant difference between the best and the worst rating vehicles.
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“the ratings indicate that you are 26 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured in the worst rated car than in the best rated car,” RACQ technical services manager Steve Spalding said

Mr Spalding also noted that motorists need to be aware of different model variants of the same car. The study was helped along by Monash University Accident Research Centre which analysed over 2.8 million car crashes in Australian and New Zealand.

So here is the big news, the study shows what many big car owners have been saying for years, despite all the airbags and technological gadgetry, size still matters. Mr Spalding said 86 vehicle models rated better than average, with 35 of those much better than average.

Heavier vehicles generally performed better, showing the role vehicle mass has in protecting people in crashes, most four-wheel drives were average or better for occupant protection. However, large four-wheel drives have high aggressivity to other road users and are much worse than average on this criterion." he said.

The data shows the majority of other cars rating above average for occupant protection were either medium or large. These included Australia's own Falcon and Commodore.

It's not all bad news for medium car owners, the study found many recent models in the above average rating, with the Toyota Corolla and Holden Astra taking the prize.

European mid-size vehicles also received above average ratings. The study believes European cars are leading the way in safety design. Unfortunately though, it really is bad news for small-car owners. Find ourself in a Toyota Echo or Holden's miserable Barina, and chances of having a serious injury increase significantly.

The RACQ also warned buyers to think twice about buying a pre-1990 model car.

The cars which were safe all around (both occupant protection and protection for other road users) included:

  • VW Golf/Bora 99-04
  • Holden Astra 98-05
  • Toyota Corolla 98-01
  • Honda Accord 91-93
  • Mercedes C Class 95-00
  • Peugeot 405 89-97
  • Subaru Liberty 89-93
  • Toyota Cressida 89-93
  • Subaru Forester 97-02.

The worse 5:

  • Mitsubishi Cordia 83-87
  • Ford Falcon 82-88
  • Mitsubishi Starwagon/L300 83-86 and 87-93
  • Toyota Tarago 83-89
  • Toyota Hiace/Liteace 82-86, 87-89, 90-95.

RACQ are still stuck in the dark ages and have so far not issued a copy of the Used Car Safety Ratings Guide online. However you can buy the guide in all RACQ branches. Alternatively, this table will give you similar data.