Only one in three drivers puts safety first, while 53 per cent cite price and a further 43 per cent believe fuel consumption is most important, according to an NRMA Insurance survey.
Despite buyers putting safety third, NRMA Insurance is calling on Australian vehicle importers to include safety features such as electronic stability control.
State manager Brett Robinson said many car importers were not including ESC here, or only including it as an expensive option, even though it was included as standard in their overseas versions.
The US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found ESC, or swerve control, can reduce the risk of single-vehicle crashes by more than 40 per cent.
Swerve control uses sensors to detect when a car is skidding and use brakes and power to stop the slide.
Robinson said NRMA Insurance gave discounts on premiums for people with cars equipped with ESC.
“Australians are missing out on this potentially life-saving technology,” he said.
“Many popular cars, such as the Ford Fiesta, Honda Jazz, Nissan X-Trail and Toyota Corolla and Yaris, are being sold in Australia without ESC, even though this technology is often optional in the same models sold in countries such as Sweden and Germany.”
In May, safety advocate Clive Matthew-Wilson accused importers of stripping out safety features such as ESC and curtain airbags to keep costs down.