The type of used car you buy could mean the difference between life and death, an Australian study says.
The study found, for example, that drivers and passengers are 26 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured in a Daihatsu Hi-Jet microvan (made between 1982-1990), than a VW Golf hatch (1999-2004), the 2007 Used Car Safety Ratings report says.
And the Transport Accident Commission believes the report's release could potentially slash the road toll by a third.
Released in Melbourne yesterday, the study examined more than 2.8 million cars of 279 different types involved in crashes from 1987-2005 in Australia and New Zealand.
Researchers rated vehicles on how much protection was offered to drivers and how much the vehicle was likely to harm other road users in an accident.
Small cars and other vehicles built before 1990 performed worst for safety, with the Daihatsu Hi-Jet, Daewoo Kalos (2003-2004) and Ford Falcon XE/XF (1982-1988) poor examples.
About two-thirds of cars in the worst performing category were light cars, including the Daewoo Kalos (now badged as Holden Barina) and the Hyundai Getz.
Cars rated the highest for protection were the VW Golf and Bora models (built between 1999 and 2004) and the Holden Astra TS (1998-2005).
Most four-wheel drives scored average or better results for occupant protection, but were more likely to harm or kill other road users.
The report was conducted by the Monash University Accident Research Centre with support from Royal Automobile Club of Victoria, TAC, VicRoads and state and federal road authorities.
VicRoads vehicle safety chief Ross McArthur said selecting a vehicle that met minimum safety standards was not enough.
“You can get good performing cars that are cheaper and you can get cars that are more expensive that don't perform as well,” Mr McArthur said.
“As a rule, the newer the car is, the better performance it has, but that's not always the case so you need to be informed.”
The cost of a vehicle also did not necessarily mean it was safer, said RACV chief vehicle engineer Michael Case.
Consumers needed to consider the safety ratings when buying a car to ensure its safety.
Mr Case said structural design and safety equipment such as airbags played an important role.
“Among small cars, the Toyota Corolla, the Holden Astra and the VW Golf have performed well and these vehicles are very affordable for used-car buyers,” he said.
Vehicles scoring better than average in crashes:
VW Golf/Bora (1999-2004)
Holden Astra TS (1998-2005)
Toyota Corolla (1998-2001)
Honda Accord (1991-1993)
Mercedes C Class (1995-2000)
Peugeot 405 (1989-1997)
Subaru Liberty/Legacy (1989-1993)
Toyota Cressida/Mark II (1989-1993)
Subaru Forester (1997-2002)
Models that scored worse than average:
Mitsubishi Cordia (1983-1987)
Ford Falcon XE/XF (1982-1988)
Mitsubishi Starwagon/Delica/L300 (1983-1986 and 1987-1993)
Toyota Tarago (1983-1989)
Toyota Hiace/Liteace (1982-1986 and 1987-1989 and 1990-1995).
Source: 2007 Used Car Safety Ratings report