Almost half of all used cars are unsafe, study finds


The controversial research – which skews results based on the number of cars sold – says “64 per cent of fatalities occur in vehicles aged 10 years or older.”


More than 40 per cent of used cars are a danger on our roads, according to data released by motoring clubs such as the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland (RACQ) and the NRMA.

In conjunction with researchers at Monash University, the organisations examined 8.8 million real-world crashes to compile a safety guide for prospective used-car buyers.

However, the testing methods have proven controversial, and several high-profile organisations have previously distanced themselves from the annual results.

The study gives weight to the overall prevalence of injuries that occur in a specific vehicle – therefore, popular cars which sold in huge numbers generally rate as ‘more dangerous’ than cars which sold in low numbers.

The flawed data means it is possible an older, generally safe car could be deemed more dangerous by the study when compared to a vehicle with fewer safety features – and which performed worse in crash tests at the time – simply because it sold in greater numbers and therefore is involved in more crashes.


Further, the testing does not take into account features which mitigate the risk of being involved in a crash in the first place, meaning the inclusion of anti-lock braking and traction control don’t improve the score of a vehicle.

With this in mind, 121 vehicle models from 290 were rated as either ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ (earning two stars or fewer).


“[The list] includes many popular family sedans and SUVs, as well small vehicles, which are often the car of choice for many novice drivers,” a spokesperson for the RACQ said.

“The data reveals those behind the wheel of the most dangerous used-cars are at least eight times more likely to be killed or seriously injured in a crash than those in a five-star car … Cars with the lowest star rating were found to pose a danger to drivers, passengers and other road users like cyclists and pedestrians due to their lack of protection and safety technology.”

Meanwhile, just 54 of 290 models received ‘five stars’, equating to approximately 18 per cent. Of these, 30 vehicles (or 10 per cent) were given the further accolade of “recommended safer pick.”

Used car sales have skyrocketed over the past 18 months, driven primarily by the coronavirus pandemic – which has reduced the appeal of crowded public transport services, and and increased the prevalence of localised travel – as well as an ongoing semiconductor shortage, which has dramatically reduced automotive manufacturing capacity.

William Davis has written for Drive since July 2020, covering news and current affairs in the automotive industry. He has maintained a primary focus on industry trends, autonomous technology, electric vehicle regulations, and local environmental policy. As the newest addition to the Drive team, William was brought onboard for his attention to detail, writing skills, and strong work ethic. Despite writing for a diverse range of outlets – including the Australian Financial Review, Robb Report, and Property Observer – since completing his media degree at Macquarie University, William has always had a passion for cars.

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