Do car safety ratings affect insurance?

A silver car is parked in front of a brightly painted wall.
Photo by Nima Sarram on Unsplash.

The safety rating of your vehicle will most certainly have some bearing on the insurance premium you pay. Some insurance companies may even refuse to provide cover for cars with a low rating. That said, to truly understand the significance of car safety ratings, we have to first look at what these ratings are and how vehicle safety is tested. Let's get into it.

What is ANCAP?

ANCAP which stands for the Australasian New Car Assessment Program is the independent authority responsible for testing the safety of new vehicles. ANCAP was founded in 1993 when concern over car safety was gaining momentum in a number of countries. To date ANCAP has tested thousands of new vehicles sold in Australia and New Zealand.

How does ANCAP test vehicle safety?

Currently ANCAP tests the safety of new vehicles in four areas: adult occupant protection, child occupant protection, vulnerable road user protection and safety assist. Physical tests that ANCAP carry out on new vehicles include:

  • A frontal offset test
  • A full-width frontal test
  • A side impact test
  • Far side impact test
  • Pedestrian protection tests
  • An oblique pole test (simulates a car colliding with a fixed object, e.g. a tree or a pole)
  • A whiplash test

What about used cars?

Of course ANCAP is only responsible for testing the safety of cars newly introduced to the Australian and New Zealand market, which begs the question - who is assessing the safety of old cars? Well that would be the Vehicle Safety Research Group, which is part of Monash University.

The VSRG gives old cars a 'Used Car Safety Rating.' As these ratings are given in retrospect, the way they are determined is different to the way ANCAP assesses new vehicles. To determine the safety of used cars, VSRG looks at police reports from Australia and New Zealand on car crashes and vehicle types. It also takes into account the vehicle's 'size, weight, design and safety features.'

Crash test dummy criticisms

In recent years, cars and crash test dummies have received criticism for being designed with the average male weight and height in mind, more than any other body type. Most notably in her 2020 book Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias In A World Designed For Men, author Caroline Criado-Perez cites statistics from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showing that women are 17% more likely to die in a car crash than men, 47% more likely to be seriously injured and 71% more likely to be moderately injured.

The original crash test dummy was invented in the 1950s and was based on the 50th percentile male. So as Criado-Perez says, this dummy is around 1.77m tall and weighs around 76kg. A female version of this, the 5th percentile female crash test dummy, was not created until the late 1980s. This dummy weighs around 50kg and is about 152cm tall.

On its website ANCAP stipulates that it uses two 5th percentile Hybrid III female crash test dummies. The Humanetics Group describes this particular crash test dummy as a 'scaled down' version of the 50th percentile male crash test dummy. Criado-Perez sees this as a problem as, as she says, "women are not scaled-down men. We have different muscle mass distribution. We have lower bone density."

These statistics may be surprising as men are more often involved in car crashes than women. For this reason car insurance is often a bit cheaper for women, despite the apparently higher fatality risk.

Car safety ratings and insurance

One thing all of this highlights is just how complicated determining car insurance premiums can be. Yes, insurance providers will take into account the safety rating of the vehicle you drive, but they will also look at a number of other factors. These include:

  • Gender (as mentioned premiums can be higher for men)
  • Age
  • Where you live
  • Where you park your car at night
  • Your driving history
  • How long you have been driving
  • The market or agreed value of your car

All of these factors are taken into account when determining the price an individual should pay for car insurance. Although the car safety rating is still very important in terms of insurance, as some insurance companies may refuse to provide cover for a car with a low rating. For instance, RAC will not insure a vehicle manufactured after 2012 with an ANCAP rating below four or five stars.

If you're looking to buy a new car, you can check its safety rating via the ANCAP website. Or, if you're after insurance for your current wheels below is a list of comprehensive car insurance policies on offer right now.

Compare comprehensive car insurance - rates updated daily

Search promoted car insurance below. Advertiser disclosure. Important information on terms, conditions and sub-limits.
  • Gold Comprehensive Car Insurance

    Monthly premiums
    Calendar icon
    Yes Costs Extra
    Choice of repairer
    tools icon
    Optional Extra
    Choice of excess
    coins icon
    $500 - $1,850
    Agreed or market value
    Car coin icon
    Agreed Or Market

    Available discounts

    • Online Discount Up To 15%
    Go to site
    Details
  • Comprehensive Car Insurance

    Monthly premiums
    Calendar icon
    Yes Costs Extra
    Choice of repairer
    tools icon
    Optional Extra
    Choice of excess
    coins icon
    $300 - $2,550
    Agreed or market value
    Car coin icon
    Agreed Or Market

    Available discounts

    • Online Discount $75
    Go to site
    Details
  • Comprehensive Car Insurance

    Monthly premiums
    Calendar icon
    Yes
    Choice of repairer
    tools icon
    No
    Choice of excess
    coins icon
    $500 - $5,000
    Agreed or market value
    Car coin icon
    Agreed Or Market

    Available discounts

    • Pay As You Drive Cover With Pricing Tiers Available For Limited Kms.
    Go to site
    Details
  • Comprehensive Car Insurance

    Monthly premiums
    Calendar icon
    Yes Costs Extra
    Choice of repairer
    tools icon
    Optional Extra
    Choice of excess
    coins icon
    $400 - $1,850 (varies By State)
    Agreed or market value
    Car coin icon
    Agreed Or Market

    Available discounts

    • No Claim Discount
    Go to site
    Details
  • Comprehensive Car Insurance

    Monthly premiums
    Calendar icon
    Yes Costs Extra
    Choice of repairer
    tools icon
    No
    Choice of excess
    coins icon
    $800 - $2,000
    Agreed or market value
    Car coin icon
    Agreed

    Available discounts

    • No Claim Discount
    Go to site
    Details

*Terms, conditions, exclusions, limits and sub-limits may apply to any of the insurance products shown on the Mozo website. These terms, conditions, exclusions, limits and sub-limits could affect the level of benefits and cover available under any of the insurance products shown on the Mozo website. Please refer to the relevant Product Disclosure Statement on the provider's website for further information before making any decisions about an insurance product.

Any information provided on this page should be considered a summary and general advice only. All information should be verified before purchase via the relevant Product Disclosure Statement (PDS).

^See information about the Mozo Experts Choice Car Insurance Awards

Mozo provides general product information. We don't consider your personal objectives, financial situation or needs and we aren't recommending any specific product to you. You should make your own decision after reading the PDS or offer documentation, or seeking independent advice.

While we pride ourselves on covering a wide range of products, we don't cover every product in the market. If you decide to apply for a product through our website, you will be dealing directly with the provider of that product and not with Mozo.